Thriving Through Interconnectedness: IEA’s Approach to Creating a Healthy Workplace of Recognition and Support for Employees


The blend of professional and personal social wellness can balance success and fulfillment. But how is this achieved? 


A key part of workplace well-being is prioritizing a healthy balance between rest and work.

“Engineering and AEC are creative jobs, when you work a creative job, you need time to let your brain rest,” said Jennifer Nelson-Smith, IEA Director of Marketing.“If you pause your work and come back to it, your brain sees new paths and brings new innovative ideas to your projects. People need time to take away from what they’re doing and recharge.

For many in the AEC industry, a healthy work-life balance can prove difficult to achieve. With deadlines on project submittals and proposal responses looming— taking a break may not seem possible. Being able to balance the workload and maintain a healthy well-being can increase your productivity in the workplace.

According to the CDC, well-being can be defined as the potential ability of individuals to address normal stresses, work productively, and realize one’s highest potential. Their research shows employees with a high level of well-being not only have a lower risk of developing disease, illness, and injury, but frequently demonstrate higher productivity and are more likely to make active contributions to their community.

By promoting mental and physical activities, IEA creates a work environment where our employees can feel refreshed, energized, and ready to tackle challenges with clarity and focus. Having activities can contribute to employee satisfaction and IEA’s culture of Positive Partnership.

“We are all humans; we have deadlines, and we have stress because we have to deliver the work in a timely manner,” said Shakeel Ahmed, PE, IEA Principal and CEO.

IEA recognizes how taking care of our staff members’ well-being contributes to a more productive, healthy, and engaged workplace.

“It’s important for us to find ways to make our employees happy and healthy. When our employees are happy, it reflects on their productivity at work,” said Ahmed.

IEA has retention or “fun” committees in each office. These committees allow employees to have a role in creating activities for each office, such as holiday events and after-hour social events to bring people together and treat our employees for their hard work.

“I enjoy planning out events that will make our employees happy and distracted for a while. Being able to see everyone socialize and unwind without worrying about work is truly rewarding,” said Brenda Chavez, EIT, IEA Fort Worth Drainage Engineer.

IEA Dallas’ committee recently sponsored staff to participate in local softball and volleyball leagues. Intramural sports leagues like these offer a fun and active outlet for employees to enhance physical activity, relieve stress, and build relationships outside of the workplace. This is another way we prioritize the physical and social well-being of our employees while establishing a workplace culture where everyone can contribute to areas of their choice.

“I have been participating in the weekly volleyball and softball matches held near the office. We get the chance to interact with employees from different departments at IEA,” said Daylan Toldeo, EIT, IEA Dallas Drainage Engineer. “It is nice playing friendly competitions with the purpose of everyone having fun together.”

Recognition and Appreciation

Shakeel Ahmed founded the company with a vision of fostering an environment where employees feel a sense of ownership and belonging, contributing to a healthy, supportive work environment. One of the ways we strive to accomplish this is by showing recognition and appreciation to our employees for their hard work and dedication.

The growth of IEA team members has embraced camaraderie and motivation within the workplace. Consistency and effort have been shown by individuals like Lene Lee, who began as a Marketing Assistant and was promoted in 2023 to a Marketing Coordinator position.

“I highly appreciate the positive partnership within my team, which embodies the core values of IEA’s company culture. We actively strive to support each other, ensuring tasks are completed efficiently, especially during challenging business periods.” said Lena Lee, Marketing Coordinator, IEA Austin Office. 

IEA’s support strengthens relationships within the team promoting a culture of continuous learning and growth. Our staff exhibits positive partnerships through their collaborative efforts across all departments and celebrates the teams’ successes. 

Gestures such as team celebrations or outings, personalized appreciation emails, and restaurant gift cards for employees’ families are ways we embrace the appreciation to our staff.  

“We would give out gift cards for staff to enjoy with their families. It’s not just employees engaging in activities, but it’s extended for their families to enjoy as well. I give back to employees and their families so that they can have a good time. We like to do what our people like to do, when I see people enjoy these things, I want to provide more of these gestures.” said Ahmed. 

Fostering Personal Connections

A key component to positive partnership at IEA is cultivating personal connections in the workplace. By developing strong relationships with our colleagues, we’ve learned from one another, gained new perspectives, and developed the skills needed to lead effectively.

“I admire Jennifer [Smith] for her hard work and involvement in operational meetings and office activities,” said Ahmed, referencing how big of a role Jennifer has played in the company’s first series of pursuits, the creation of its marketing department, and helping our leadership maintain employee retention. “She is somebody who has gone above and beyond in the call of duty and the success of IEA. When she goes outside of her marketing department, she reaches out to the engineers to genuinely get to know their personal life.” 

Emphasizing the importance of personal connections in the workplace, we have developed a culture of continuous learning and mentoring, where our employees can grow both personally and professionally.

We’ve recently encouraged employees to seek a peer or mentor that allows them to mutually learn and develop skills from one another to not only gain personal connections, but also to grow in their professional career.

“My supervisor, Kylie Moynihan [IEA Dallas Director], has such amazing leadership skills that you would think his tactics are something from an inspirational movie,” said Toledo. “He creates an environment for us where we continue to learn, grow, and contribute to the success of the drainage team at IEA. He is always open to discuss projects and cares individually about our success.”

It is leaders like those who cultivate an environment where our staff’s learning and contributions to public safety and transportation can co-exist. Openness and encouragement of everyone’s individuality are keys to IEA’s ongoing firmwide growth.