As a civil engineer in our Critical Infrastructure segment, Marissa Lampart’s career is all about making connections, and she’s found that some of the most important ones don’t necessarily involve highways, bridges, or transit networks. Instead, forming human connections and building personal networks can make all the difference. Marissa was fortunate enough to find mentors early on who helped guide her career, provide support, and hone her skills. The first of five kids to attend college in her family of seven, one of her most important influences was one of her college professors, Dr. McCarthy, a female professional who transitioned from working with the DOT to teaching college. Marissa aced all of Dr. McCarthy’s transportation classes, and because of the professor’s encouragement and attention, felt empowered to choose transportation engineering as her concentration.
At twenty-one, Marissa, who skipped two grades in school and worked to put herself through college, needed a break, so she took a job as a nanny to two little girls. The break didn’t last long, however. The grandfather of the children she cared for owned an industrial engineering firm, and Marissa began assisting him with research on the nuances in renewable energy. After a few months at that company, the mother of the children she nannied insisted she use her degree to the fullest at a civil engineering firm.
Marissa then began working for Rule 4 Building as a contracted employee for three months before taking a job with EMG, where she performed property condition assessments and phase one and two environmental investigations for residential, commercial, and industrial properties all over the US. Due to all the short-notice travel, Marissa decided it was time to take her talents to the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) in Baltimore, linking her own path back to the professor’s career she first admired.
Working in Maryland for those eight years proved invaluable. During her time at MDOT, Marissa became an expert in process improvement, always finding ways to work smarter, not harder. And she shared what she learned with her colleagues, offering to help and do favors, which earned her introductions to more senior professionals.
You’d be amazed at the power of networking—the awesome people you can meet and the opportunities you’ll get.”
As an example, Marissa shares that she once offered to draw standards in CAD for an older colleague who only knew how to draw by hand. Because she helped him, he later shared with her a standard on stairs, and she was able to assist with a major project she wouldn’t have been able to help with otherwise.
Another important acquaintance Marissa made was Erica Rigby, an impressive force in the industry who started out, like Marissa, as a senior engineer and who now is a district engineer, in a senior management position, at MDOT. Erica, a Black woman herself, encouraged Marissa to take the FE and PE exams—which she passed on the first try. Having bosses like Erica has taught Marissa indispensable lessons regarding her approach to professional life, which she’s found essential to her success.
Just two years ago, Marissa landed at Parsons. A big draw for her was her experience during the interview process, where she was able to be herself and talk openly with other people of color. Marissa works among a diverse group of Parsons employees in DC, where she’s now part of a team of mostly female engineers who provide support to one another as they continue breaking the mold. She’s also found that being a member of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, as well as our BELONG employee resource group, provides support and offers great networking opportunities for Black Parsons employees. Marissa says, “DC is a melting pot, and not only is there a lot of diversity, but there’s a lot of Black professionals, specifically, who gave me something to aspire to and provided a community.”
Marissa’s advice to Black professionals pursuing a career in civil engineering is to “Always remember who you met, where, and how they can be of value to you in the future.” As someone who has given back herself by running two successful student outreach programs to educate middle and high schoolers about careers in civil engineering and highway construction, as well as by being the youngest member of the Maryland Quality Initiative board, which facilitates communication and coordination with partners and awards transportation projects of the highest quality.
There are still steps we can take to be more inclusive and provide a strong network for Black employees. We need to connect young Black hires with more senior Black professionals, and we need to offer shadowing opportunities that link Black colleagues with more senior colleagues.
Marissa knows that to succeed in corporate America, sometimes who you know gives you a chance to display what you know.