Career Fridays, Career Paths, Environment

At AECOM, employees are encouraged and supported to pursue career paths that best fit their unique capabilities, interests, and aspirations. Our Career Path Spotlight series takes you through the rewarding career journeys of our employees who have stepped out of their comfort zone and taken on new challenges to chart their own successful careers and growth.

This time, we connected with Lindsey Cavallaro, department manager, environmental planning and permitting, to discover how she chose the path she’s on today.   

Hi Lindsey. What do you do for AECOM? 

I oversee a team of nearly 170 Cultural and natural resources specialists and environmental planners. I am also the client account manager for California’s second largest utility, Southern California Edison. I sit in the San Diego office and am currently raising my kids in the same house I grew up in!

Tell us about your journey and how you got here. 

My transformative career journey with AECOM began over 25 years ago when I was a college intern at KEA Environmental, an AECOM legacy firm in San Diego. This experience ignited my passion for environmental consulting and prompted me to switch my major from pre-med to environmental science.

After graduating from UC Santa Barbara with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, I worked at a few small environmental firms and then as a planning intern for the City of Ventura while I attended graduate school. Throughout this time, I maintained connections with the team at KEA Environmental, which had since been acquired by EDAW.

After graduating in 2005, with a master’s degree in environmental science and management, with an emphasis on conservation planning, I took an entry-level environmental analyst position at EDAW, which was acquired by AECOM six months later. From day one, I put my generalist background to use, diving into a diverse array of projects. By saying “yes” to new challenges and collaborating with individuals from various technical backgrounds, I expanded my expertise and was exposed to many different clients and teams. I soaked up as much knowledge as I could, participating in AECOM-offered trainings, shadowing technical experts in the field, and learning under mentors and supervisors with diverse backgrounds and skillsets.

I progressed quickly from a technical analyst, to a deputy project manager, to a project manager, eventually leading multi-million-dollar, multi-disciplinary projects for key clients throughout Southern California. This period coincided with me starting a family and raising two young children. I am incredibly fortunate to have had supportive managers who recognized my potential and allowed me to chart my path in a way that enabled me to thrive in my career as well as my other full-time job as a mom!

Through managing projects and working with talented and diverse teams, I also discovered my passion for leadership. I became a people manager in 2012 and by 2018, I advanced to become the group manager overseeing a team of around 60 natural resources specialists. In that same year, I was offered the position of client account manager (CAM) for Southern California Edison – a role I hold in addition to my current position. I was initially uncertain about this role because I did not have any official CAM training, but I accepted and jumped in with both feet. I realized quickly that the skills I had acquired as a project manager and group manager equipped me well for the CAM role.

In 2022, I moved into my current position as environmental planning and permitting department manager for Southern California and Hawaii. Despite my initial reservations about being totally ready, I embraced the opportunity. Every step in my journey has prepared me to take on this new challenge. Today, I find immense fulfilment in my role and believe that I’m precisely where I should be. Yet, I’m also eagerly anticipating the next chapter in my journey!

What is the best part of your job?

Definitely the people! I work with an incredibly talented and diverse group of individuals and teams, as well as some fantastic clients. I love seeing my team thrive and grow in their own career journeys, and I relish in forming lasting, positive relationships with our clients. If I’ve learned anything after being in this industry for over 20 years, it’s that relationships are the cornerstone of success.

What advice do you have for people in AECOM who want to chart their career path within the organization? 

One benefit about a large organization like AECOM is the boundless opportunities to chart your own career path. You can quite literally transform your career over and over again without ever leaving AECOM. Whether you stay focused on a single career trajectory or move between multiple paths, there is no limit to what you can achieve if you are motivated and open to new opportunities.

If not this path, what would have been your career plan B? 

Environmental Science was my Plan B! My Plan A was medical school – dermatology, specifically. But after a few years as a pre-med student, I realized it was not the path for me and I fell in love with Environmental Science. The rest is history.

Originally published Dec 15, 2023

Author: Lindsey Cavallaro