Forty-five years ago, current CEO and President Jeff Lighthiser walked into the old Draper Aden Associates Office in Blacksburg, Virginia to start his career as a drafter. Lighthiser recalled with a laugh that in 1975, drafters were still completing their drawings with pens and pencils, and computers at the office level didn’t exist.
Over the course of 45 years, he has held many titles at Draper Aden, including project engineer, project manager, office manager, and director of strategic growth. His longevity has also given him the chance to build relationships with clients that last decades, such as the University of Richmond. “We’ve worked with the University of Richmond for almost 30 years,” Lighthiser said, “it has been so great to be a part of their growth.”
Although he’s been on the management side of the firm for many years, he still loves the excitement of engineering. “Engineering is the fun stuff – doing the design and seeing your ideas come to life is incredible,” he said.
One of his proudest accomplishments came in 1985: establishing the Richmond office, which is now Draper Aden’s corporate headquarters. “We went from a staff of one to over 200,” said Lighthiser.
In 2010, Lighthiser became the second CEO of Draper Aden Associates. His hope for the future is for Draper Aden to continue to grow and to create a lasting, positive impact. “It has been a lot of fun to watch the company grow and to take on new skillsets and services and to learn to new engineering skills,” Lighthiser said. Even after four and half decades of service, his advice is grounded in Draper Aden’s core values of collaboration and continuous improvement – first, take the time to help up and coming professionals on their journey, and second, to never stop learning.