Building education

As senior project engineer at C&S Companies, Kirsten Cerro, MBA ’05, creates the infrastructure to support the future of education.

Her role demands expertise from an array of business disciplines. On a typical day, Cerro could be called on to manage one of many projects in the higher education civil infrastructure market, coordinate the engineers and designers working on the projects, communicate with the client and internal team members, maintain the project schedule and budget, and assure the quality of the overall design.

If that isn’t enough, she also helps with marketing and business development activities to promote the firm and secure new projects.

Cerro says that earning her MBA from the UB School of Management helped her to see the bigger picture so she could meet the demands of these many roles.

“To me, that is where professionals can set themselves apart—understanding the greater parts and pieces to your individual business goals,” says Cerro. “Experience is still the greatest teacher, but combining the educational foundation with experiences over the years has helped me grow my career.”

Cerro has been with C&S Companies since earning a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Clarkson University in 2000, and has served in several different engineering groups designing and managing projects at airports, municipalities, schools, and development sites for major telecommunication companies.

“I have been fortunate to work with an employer that recognized my desire to try different markets out before settling into one area,” says Cerro. “I have developed many great working relationships with colleagues across the firm, which I may not have otherwise if I hadn’t chosen to move around and try different things.”

John D. Trimble, president and chief operating officer at C&S Companies, saw a change in Cerro after she earned her MBA.

“Kirsten has always performed her role as a civil engineer extremely well, but we saw something change in her approach after getting her MBA from UB,” says Trimble. “She became more business minded and entrepreneurial which, when combined with her strong technical skills, has resulted in her becoming one of our most capable practice builders.”

A project Cerro managed recently received top honors from the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York (ACECNY). The project was a campus-wide site utility assessment that provided SUNY Cobleskill with valuable information to use in day-to-day operations and for short and long-term capital planning. It earned a diamond award at the 2014 ACECNY Engineering Excellence Awards gala—the highest award given at the event.

Cerro resides in Baldwinsville, N.Y., with her husband, Nick, and three daughters, Kayla, Isabella and Alyssa. In her spare time, she enjoys travel, sports and spending time with family.

She says that whether you are on the job or at home, it’s important to be present in the moment.

“I don’t want my children to remember me as the mom who was always on her phone or laptop,” says Cerro. “On the flipside, I don’t want co-workers to see that I am distracted by things outside of work. It is important to be flexible, but great leaders are those who have the ability to compartmentalize.”

Written by Kevin Manne