At ABES Engineering, we’re proud of our diverse team and the unique perspectives and experiences that each person brings to the company.
While our founder/CEO Emmanuel Tuombe hails from Rwanda, Africa, we also have team members who are originally from Hong Kong, Sudan and Ethiopia. Other team members work remotely from Missoula, Montana; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Kansas City, Kansas. And of course, we have our team in Memphis, Tennessee.
“At a small firm like ours, we have more diversity than many large firms,” says Tuombe. “This is part of who we are. I speak six languages because I have lived and experienced culture in more than six countries. It’s amazing what a diverse team, working well together as a cohesive team, can do.”
Multiple studies and research have shown that diversity in the workplace is more than merely optics. It’s good for employees, and it’s great for business.
Diverse teams draw from a broader range of experiences, insights and resources. This tends to make them better decision makers and more likely to consider new and innovative approaches to problem solving.
It’s also good for the bottom line.
According to a McKinsey & Company report on diversity in the workplace, in the case of ethnically and culturally diverse companies, “in 2019, top-quartile companies outperformed those in the fourth one by 36% in profitability, slightly up from 33% in 2017 and 35% in 2014.”
Nick Wong, PE, works as a senior civil engineer for ABES remotely from the Seattle, Washington, area. Originally from Hong Kong, Wong says the diversity of the ABES team makes for an open-minded work environment. A diversity of ideas and solutions allows staff to think outside the box when it comes to solving complex engineering problems.
“Sometimes when you have more options you can save time or maybe save money,” he says. “Another way could be more efficient.”
Mike Clay, PE, joined ABES as a Project Manager in spring 2023. He has seen firsthand how the team’s diversity lends itself to innovation and benefits the work. “Different cultures have unique challenges, and each culture often has unique solutions. Recently, we had a new sanitary sewer alignment we were trying to lay out amongst all the many utilities that are buried within a Memphis street and right of way. It seemed like quite a challenge in my mind. For Nick, who practiced engineering for years in the busy streets of Hong Kong, our U.S. rights of way offered ample room. His international perspective made our challenge seem a lot less challenging. Diverse teams will naturally be innovative,” Clay said.
Clay says a lack of diversity almost guarantees a lack of resiliency as well. “Without diversity our solutions would be one-sided and over accommodate one goal while completely ignoring, or even sacrificing, other goals. A diverse team breeds a ‘complementary’ approach, seeking paths to accomplish ‘goal A’ AND ‘goal B’ as opposed to ‘goal A’ OR ‘goal B,’ “ says Clay.
Richard Kwizara, a construction and engineering inspector, joined ABES about four years ago. Originally from Rwanda, he’s found the work environment at ABES welcoming and productive. “We might have different views and ideas, but it helps us in our work … and we all have the main goal, and that is the success of the work we do.”
Loleta Bryant works remotely from Kansas City. A civil designer/drafter, she’s been with ABES for the past two years.
In previous work environments, Bryant experienced her fair share of racism. At ABES, all are treated with respect and all are heard, she says. It makes for a work environment that’s creative, innovative and productive. “I love working with the ABES team,” she says. “In my experience it’s rare to find people who care about doing a good job … that’s what makes Emmanuel’s team stand out. They are all working together to do the best job possible.”
Tuombe says he’s purposely built a diverse and inclusive team, both to give opportunities to those who sought it and to leverage the diversity for the good of the company. More diversity, more ideas and perspectives will be a benefit to business and create a work environment that’s rich with ideas.
“When you can see other people's differences as an asset and keep an open mind about what they are bringing to the table, you will be amazed,” says Tuombe. “When you can look beyond someone's accent, color and life struggles and instead try to understand and learn from him or her, your life gets enriched a million times”
Adds Clay, “I like working with people who have lived and worked in different parts of the U.S. and the world. I’ve met people at ABES who have been involved in projects in at least eight different countries – that brings a very diverse perspective to each problem we face. We have diversity in where we were born, what languages we know, where we studied. To have all this on a relatively small team is an asset for almost everything.”
Tuombe agrees. The inclusive and diverse nature of ABES’s team is a positive for the company and employees.
“When we are in a room sharing ideas and everyone feels welcome and understood, it is a beautiful thing,” says Tuombe. “To build a diverse team, you have to remove skepticism about others, work on your judgment and begin by giving others the benefit of the doubt. We want to create ABES as a platform where people who want to challenge themselves and stretch can flourish by creating meaningful relationships with their colleagues and have meaningful opportunities to make an impact in the community.”
Having a diverse team and building a platform where they can perform to their best is my goal for the organization.”