Innovative mentoring programs offer a holistic approach to successful business outcomes for all parties. It recognizes diverse educational or experiential needs, specialized talent and differing professional and geographical perspectives. It works toward a collaborative initiative to meet the unique goals and objectives in every business case. The case studies below are examples of a more meaningful and deeper level of mentorship that engages and encourages success so that both the mentors and mentees achieve maximum value and benefit.


At HNTB, inclusion, diversity and mentoring are not just goals; they are inherent in our culture. We value the benefits a talented and diverse workforce brings to our firm, our clients and partners. Since the firm’s founding over a century ago, we are proud that our diversity, mentoring and industry initiatives have not only made HNTB successful, but have helped propel our partners to business success.

Regular engagement in a variety of formal and informal educational and mentorship programs helps to continuously develop and engage women, minority enterprises and small businesses. Tangible benefits can be seen in employee satisfaction, enhanced productivity and increased profits. Building long lasting, mutually beneficial business relationships directly contributes to the success of both our firms, and ultimately benefits our clients.

Across the country and in Southern California, HNTB provides a variety of innovative coaching and mentorship programs.


Lisa Padilla, AIA, LEED AP, is founder and principal of Cityworks Design in Pasadena, California. Her firm specializes in urban design and architecture with a special focus on public realm and transportation projects. As a small business, she is sought out for her specialized expertise by larger firms who serve as prime contractors on major complex transportation projects.

Padilla said she gained perspective as well as valuable insight on how HNTB’s inclusion and coaching program helps develop and mentor the next generation workforce and elevate the opportunities for small business partners.

“HNTB, at a very basic level, recognizes the value of teaming with small, minority businesses. I feel absolutely at their core, they see the value and benefits that smaller, more specialized firms can bring, which I believe is a key foundation for a strong partnership,” said Padilla.

“Another wonderful thing HNTB does is highlight our firm’s unique strengths and expertise and showcase how we can be an asset to the core team,” she added. “For some large transportation projects, our firm provides specialty services that we are known for, including community-based design, urban design and active transportation. This really heightens our value on a team and demonstrates to clients that they are getting the best team for the project.”

It is not always the larger firm taking the lead as Padilla learned in her firm’s experience. Partnerships between firms can do a much better job of customizing and focusing the services that can add value for clients.

“A big firm might not know of all the expertise and specialty services we can provide. Sometimes, primes learn about specialized skills that we can bring, in addition to our core capabilities. These partnerships make the entire team stronger. With our firms working together, clients can see a perfect combination and get the best of both worlds,” added Padilla. “We may be small in size but can be big in presence and really powerful in impact and service to the client.”


Vicus Planning is another one of HNTB’s small business partners. Vicus specializes in planning, design, and environmental consulting services under the leadership of Monica Villalobos, principal and owner. With over 15 years of experience in the planning and transportation field, her passion and commitment are evidenced by her firm’s dedication to client service, delivery of high-quality products, and innovative solutions.

“Working with HNTB provides opportunities for us to work as part of a collaborative team, each of us bringing our own expertise, experience and perspective to large infrastructure projects,” said Villalobos. “Together, we can strategize on how to best meet the client’s requirements and prepare for conversations and strategies, especially when HNTB has had a previous history with the client. I appreciate that there is mutual respect for each of our roles in the project delivery process.”

Villalobos also shared that building trust in your teams is an essential element of any productive coaching or mentoring relationship. She added, “HNTB kept us informed and involved – always proactively reaching out, having us be an active and engaged part of the team as we worked together to develop integrated and innovative ideas and recommendations. I feel our relationship was very inclusive and productive, truly a team effort that resulted in delivering excellent results for our clients.”


Founded in late 2018, Suenram & Associates, Inc. is a Los Angeles-based small business civil engineering design and consulting services firm working with public agencies and private developers. As President and CEO, Kate Suenram operates her firm under the principles of integrity, follow-through, and hard work. She has earned the position as one of L.A.’s newest, woman-owned businesses with an opportunity to connect communities by delivering quality engineering services. Her firm is currently involved in a more formal mentoring initiative with HNTB and L.A. Metro.

“As a relatively new firm, we are excited for the opportunity to partner with HNTB in LA. Metro’s mentor-protegee program. In this fastpaced industry with ever-evolving technologic, economic and political landscapes, it is proven that change is constant,” said Suenram. “The opportunity to learn from, observe and be mentored by a firm that has more than a hundred years of experience and success, is exciting. HNTB’s ability to withstand an evolving industry and maintain corporate sustainability contributes towards our confidence to build a strong foundation with solid core values and position Suenram & Associates for long-term success.”


The successful outcomes from these partners is an inspiration to other firms to seek out and embrace opportunities to develop their own innovative mentoring relationships. HNTB is committed to highlighting the positive impacts as well as the transformative power small or minority business enterprises can achieve when collaborating for the greater benefit of all parties.

Information for this article was submitted by HNTB Corporation, an employee-owned infrastructure solutions firm serving public and private owners and contractors. Celebrating 106 years of service in the United States and California, HNTB continues to grow in size and service offerings to clients with eight California offices that employ approximately 320 full-time California professionals.

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