Few children really know what career path they want to pursue prior to entering high school. When asked, many will say they want to become a firefighter, doctor, nurse or professional athlete.
For two-time Clarkson University graduate Victoria Ballestero ’14, MBA’18, civil engineering was always part of her career plan.
“I tell people that I am a freak of nature because I knew from the time that I was 12 that I wanted to be a civil engineer,” Ballestero says.
A native of Ballston Spa, New York, Ballestero’s meteoric rise in the civil engineering and design industry was cemented when she was recognized as one of five recipients of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) National Young Professional of the Year Award. She was also recognized as the ACEC’s 2021 Metropolitan-Washington Young Professional of the Year. Ballestero received earlier recognition as the Maryland Building Industry Association Rising Star Award in 2019 and was named the Outstanding Young Engineer of the Year in Maryland in 2018.
The national ACEC award recognizes professionals under the age of 35 who have contributed to the engineering industry and made an impact on society.
“I was a little emotional,” Ballestero admits of her response to getting the phone call informing her of the award. “It is truly such an honor to be recognized. The work that land development engineers do is really understated, so to receive acknowledgment on a national stage for my efforts is deeply rewarding.
“To be a young woman and getting this recognition is also very important. Much of this industry doesn’t yet represent the diverse population right now, so that’s something that I have been cognizant of as I have been building my team. We have a diverse group, and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Ballestero credits being around her family’s business, a site civil construction company in Saratoga Springs, New York, with being influential in her early desire to become a civil engineer. She describes her father, Antonio Ballestero, as an industrious, entrepreneurial, self-taught, second-generation construction superintendent who would bring home site plans and mark them up with a red Sharpie. “He instilled in me the importance of constructability of design. That influenced my desire to design projects that are practical and make sense off paper.”
Upon earning her bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Clarkson, Ballestero joined D.S. Thaler & Assoc. in Baltimore as a design engineer, where she learned the fundamentals of land development engineering, zoning, land use and entitlements. She later accepted a position as a project engineer at AECOM in 2016. Ballestero was hired by ATCS, PLC in Largo, Maryland, in 2018 to launch the firm’s Prince George’s County, Maryland, office, where she leads a team of professional engineers, planners and land surveyors in delivering innovative solutions for the residential, commercial, mixed-use, institutional and industrial sectors. She is a mentor to junior staff across the organization and a corporate champion for continuing education, professional development, women in leadership, and diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
Ballestero’s site civil engineering experience in the D.C. metropolitan area includes the pioneering of curbless street design in The Yards West, near Nationals Park, a host of residential subdivisions, a veterans’ housing project and an array of mixed-use developments, among others.
“Clarkson prepared me exceptionally well for starting a career in civil engineering,” Ballestero says. “But in this industry, there are some things that just cannot be learned in a classroom. You can’t fathom some of the challenges you will face until you’ve actually experienced them. There is a lot of on-the-job training.”
In addition to her professional accomplishments, Ballestero serves as president of the Maryland Society of Professional Engineers and vice president of associates on the executive committee for the Maryland Building Industry Association. She is a board member for the Foundation for Applied Construction Technology for Students and a member of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Advisory Council at Clarkson.
Passion is a word Ballestero uses frequently but does not take lightly. She founded a scholarship at her high school alma mater for students who are enthusiastic about volunteerism, something in which she has immersed herself throughout her life. “I’m a firm believer in making frequent deposits in the cosmic karma bank. It is important to give back without expectations of getting anything in return,” Ballestero says. Of her time volunteering with Clarkson, Ballestero said, “It is imperative for those who have been given the opportunity to reach back with a helping hand to support the communities that empowered them to flourish.”
Outside of her professional commitments, Ballestero is married and has run nine marathons, including the Boston Marathon. She is a triathlete, a rock and ice climber, a backpacker and an avid traveler.
With so many recognized accomplishments under her belt, Ballestero’s focus remains on site civil engineering projects that will impact the underserved. “Though ATCS is a multidisciplinary engineering consulting firm, my greatest interests are in solving complex land development problems to improve the community,” Ballestero says. “Shaping the landscape of my community and mentoring the next generation of engineers is what gets me out of bed every morning.”