Sonja Thompson is a deputy program manager in Gresham Smith’s Transportation market. Before coming to Gresham Smith, Sonja had a 30-year career at the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). During her tenure at GDOT, Sonja held multiple roles that included providing leadership, construction management and project management, giving her the opportunity to take on tough projects. This experience exposed her to risk identification and management, which further enhanced her ability to plan projects and develop lump-sum budgets.

Gresham Smith fosters a close relationship with GDOT and has served as a strategic partner for 20-plus years, supporting a number of significant projects throughout the state. As a result, Sonja found herself working closely with the Gresham Smith transportation team, developing close relationships and a reputation for her strong work ethic.

When Sonja retired from GDOT in 2016, Jeremy Busby, Gresham Smith’s Georgia program management department leader, hired her to help expand the firm’s program management team. The team is dedicated to serving GDOT’s Traffic Operations and Safety Program—a $50 million contract resulting in an FY 2024 $150 million construction budget for safety and operations that Gresham Smith has led since 2015.

In her new role, Sonja applied her unique blend of construction experience, civil engineering and project management experience along with her institutional knowledge and know-how to assess project impacts and enable successful delivery. program management team, and her desire to share career-long perspectives on being a woman in a predominantly male industry, as well as her technical knowledge and commitment to professional growth, was invaluable. Sonja had found a new niche helping train junior staff to manage projects with discipline and responsiveness.

“Sonja is a living embodiment of our Core Values and puts them into a practical expression every single day,” says Jeremy. “Through mentorship, she is giving back to the industry that got her to where she is today. That’s what makes her such a powerful team member and leader.”

“Up until this point in my career, I never considered mentorship as something I was passionate about,” says Sonja. “That mindset evolved in me when I joined Gresham Smith.”

Sonja is a living embodiment of our Core Values and puts them into a practical expression every single day. Jeremy Busby Consultancy Services Practice Leader, Gresham Smith

When GDOT requested that Gresham Smith provide “embeds” (Gresham Smith employees who serve as a management extension of GDOT) to support their largest, most complex capital project for the state, Sonja was the top pick to manage it. Her performance proved to GDOT that Gresham Smith could provide a qualified project manager for its capital program.

Alissa Gilbert, a project manager assistant and GDOT embed in the firm’s Transportation market, was paired up with Sonja as her senior project manager. “From the very first project I was assigned to at Gresham Smith, Sonja has taken the time to support me step by step and ensure that I have all of the resources I need to succeed,” says Alissa Gilbert. “I would not be where I am today without Sonja’s guidance.”

Sonja ensures Alissa Gilbert, a project manager assistant with Gresham Smith, has all the resources she needs to be successful.

It’s also not uncommon for Gresham Smith employees outside of the project management team to reach out to Sonja for her guidance. Her vast understanding of clients has enhanced the firm’s roadway design team’s capabilities on projects both in and outside of the state. She also supports Gresham Smith’s internal efforts to enhance and build out its Utility and Construction Engineering and Inspection (CEI) practices.

Sonja’s award-winning focus on quality helps deliver exceptional projects such as the Bryan County Interchange.
Sonja’s award-winning focus on quality helps deliver exceptional projects such as the Bryan County Interchange.

In 2022, Sonja was honored at the Georgia Partnership for Transportation Quality (GPTQ) award ceremony, a longstanding partnership between the American Council of Engineering Companies Georgia and GDOT, as the project manager for GDOT’s Bryan County Interchange project, an award winner in the rural interstate projects category. The awards highlight projects and people that demonstrate exceptional quality and expertise, a testament to her skills and reputation.

“At Gresham Smith, I’ve been able to do things that I never knew I would have the opportunity to do, and that’s a fulfilling feeling,” says Sonja.

At Gresham Smith, I’ve been able to do things that I never knew I would have the opportunity to do, and that’s a fulfilling feeling. Sonja Thompson Senior Project Manager, Gresham Smith

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