As RS&H’s 2023 Young Professional of the Year, Allie Joiner Estell is a transportation engineer and project manager who specializes in public involvement, concept development, environmental studies and final design for transportation infrastructure.
Hear what Allie has to say about her role at RS&H, the impact she’s making at RS&H and in the industry, and win winning this year’s award.
What was the first thing that came to mind when you heard you were selected for this year’s Young Professional of the Year?
I was just humbled to be nominated, much less selected. I work with a lot of incredibly talented and motivated professionals so it was definitely a surprise – a very appreciated surprise.
Why do you like working with RS&H?
I love the people. I’ve worked at other places and have never seen a place with people as willing to share their knowledge and help each other than here at RS&H. I’m someone who loves to learn – that’s what motivates me – so I ask a lot of questions. The people here are so talented and passionate about what they do. If you have questions, they love to talk to you. We have the absolute best people in the industry.
What is your biggest accomplishment while at RS&H?
Projects aside, I’m most proud of being part of the founding group for Ignite, RS&H’s first employee resource group aimed to support women professionals in our firm. I can remember when Lisa Robert, RS&H COO, called me personally on “GALentines Day” [which she didn’t know was a thing but it was very exciting to me] about an idea to bring together a diverse group of women to create something truly unique and special for the firm. RS&H gave this team the space to try new things, fail – and we sometimes did, then get up a try again. We received so much support from all levels of the firm and it has been great to watch how Ignite has evolved from when it first started. It made me appreciate RS&H so much.
What do you attribute to your success in your role?
It’s 100% my TEAM! The people that I work with are so incredibly talented. They make it easy to work with and delegate to because you can always count on them. Even as I’ve taken maternity leave, I don’t have to worry about my projects when I’m gone because I can trust that they are taking care of our clients. That trust and accountability, having a team that works really hard, knowing they have my back and I have theirs – that’s what has made me and the team successful. They make work fun and enjoyable, and that’s the best you can ask for.
Do you have a mentor? What is one piece of advice they’ve shared that you think others would also benefit from?
I’ve had so many mentors and couldn’t just pick one piece of advice so I’ll share four from two of my favorite mentors, Nick Arnio and Don Glenn.
Balance managerial growth with technical development. As my supervisor, Nick Arnio does such a great job of supporting the career growth of associates and takes it very seriously. If I say I want to learn a new skill or try something different, he’ll make it his mission to find me that opportunity – assigning me to projects I’ve never done before, helping me find the resources to learn, etc. It has helped me grow into my managerial role while still developing my technical skills, which are needed to be a great manager.
Know when to say, “No.” Nick has also taught me the importance of balancing work and personal life. Our work ebbs and flows. Sometimes you have to push through the busy times, but you can’t be busy all the time or both your work and home life will suffer. Having a supervisor who understands that I have responsibilities at home and is flexible so that I can do both has really helped me continue to grow, professionally and personally.
Always ask, “What’s the worst that can happen?” As an engineer and Type A personality, I always want to do everything right… all the way to the smallest details. However, another RS&H leader, Don Glenn is great at reminding me to step back and ask what’s the worst that can happen. Do I need to answer that email right away, or can it wait until tomorrow? It helps keep things in perspective.
And finally, always ask the question. Because the worst someone can say is, “No.” That’s another piece of advice from Don, which is something I take to heart – and I love asking questions. It never hurts to ask, so don’t shy away from asking those questions.
What do you hope to achieve in the future of your career?
I was drawn to transportation because it is so pivotal in how we live our lives and is changing rapidly as the world changes. There are so many exciting projects coming up that will explore different modes of transportation, possibly leading to big changes in the future. I’m excited for the opportunity to be a part of those planning studies, as well as learn along the way and be able to make a huge impact on the world.
What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on at RS&H?
My favorite project so far is being able to serve as Deputy Project Manager for the I-14 new interstate alignment. The entire project runs from Georgia to Texas and is funded through the Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act (IIJA). RS&H is working on the Texas portion from Roger (Bell County) to Huntsville (Walker County), including Loop 214 around the cities of Bryan and College Station. The project includes a corridor feasibility and route study with public involvement.
Most of the nation’s interstate network was put in place decades ago before we knew everything we do today the equity and environmental components of building a new interstate, let alone the technology we now have available. Most of these interstates were designed when drafting wasn’t even on a computer. And while interstate reconstructions or widenings are fairly common, designing and building a completely new interstate feels like a once-in-a-lifetime type opportunity. I’m excited to be part of the studies and public involvement efforts that will help us determine the best outcome for all stakeholders.
What does RS&H’s drive to care brand essence mean to you?
To me, I think of the pride we take in our work and how it contributes to the communities we serve. At RS&H, our people really appreciate the weight of what we do and the potential it has to positively, or negatively, impact the surrounding area. Part of that care is thinking holistically about our projects and paying attention to the quality of our work and what it means for us and the future of our communities.
What is a go-to break you take during the day to re-energize?
Our work is so technical that it’s really easy to get so focused and not want to get up or go anywhere. So I try to move throughout the day. If I’m in the office, I go for short walks (having Target across the street is dangerous for my pocketbook). And when I’m at home, I’ll stop to stretch, get on the rowing machine, or even sometimes just do a quick load of laundry. Moving helps to get my blood flowing and be more creative and focused when I start work again.
Do you have any hobbies?
When I have time, I love to read and knit. I also love being outside, going for nature walks with the family and our two rescue dogs. And while I haven’t been able to volunteer as much this year, when I do have the time, I love visiting and volunteering at nursing homes. If I wasn’t an engineer, I would love to teach aerobics at nursing homes full time. I have such an appreciation for people who’ve seen it all and have so much wisdom to share.
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