Denise Claire Calungsod: My Connection with my ACE GNY Mentors

July 15, 2021

My very first experience with the ACE Mentor Program of Greater NY was 9 years ago in 2012, sitting in AECOM’s old Wall Street office, convinced that I would never pursue a career in architecture, construction, or engineering. The office was filled with predominantly younger professionals, giving presentations about their work to a rag tag team of high school students from across New York City. The mentors, to me, had looked like the fanciest adults I had ever met, and it felt like a privilege to see their word for two hours every other week. At the time, I could have never imagined the relationships I would build with my mentors and how they would all shape me as a professional.

As a soon to be 23-year-old, looking back at my career and where I am now, it is easy to see where my mentors fit in that puzzle. Roxana Kariyanis, Nicole Nagao, and Tara Saber-Kiabani reaffirmed that there is a space in this industry for women to thrive. I admired how much knowledge they shared while never failing to be relatable and kind. Tara and Nicole were reassurances that being a young professional didn’t have to mean having it all figured out but making sure you did your work to the best of your abilities. Roxana later became the one to give me my first opportunity, hiring me as an intern and eventually as a regular part time employee at AECOM despite the pandemic. She also gave me the guidance to transition into full time employment in a completely new project with constant support along the way. Brian Gee and Brian McGannon were the firm glue that kept our ACE GNY meetings running back in our CIRT competition days. Both opened my eyes to the possibility of pursuing engineering. Michael Paterno and John Daza were the charismatic mentors that taught me the true importance of networking. In college, they became guest speakers and panelists for events we organized with our college’s ASCE chapter.

               It is difficult to itemize all the things I learned from my mentors in my years as an ACE GNY mentee. From basic soft skills like sending a professional email to larger things like understanding industry jargon and having the confidence to take charge in what I want in my career. The lessons I‘ve learned weren’t earth shattering turning points in life, but rather a culmination of small interactions with amazing people willing to teach. Our mentors are a wealth of knowledge and they continue to inspire me, even to this day.


Denise Claire Calungsod is a Construction Engineer I at AECOM. Denise Claire is graduate of New York City College of Technology with an Associates Degree in Construction Management and a Bachelor of Technology in Construction Engineering Technology. Denise Claire is an ACE GNY Alumni. 




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Founded in 1994 by a group of leading architects, contractors and engineers in New York City, the program has served more than 77,000 students nationwide and over 14,000 students in New York alone. Today, more than 13,000 students and 4,100 mentors participate in ACE each year in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

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