“No one had to give up their seat at the table for me. CED gave me my own seat.”
In honor of Black History Month ending and Women’s History Month about to kick off, Colliers Engineering & Design (CED) is sharing the stories of two Black women that mark firsts for the firm and paving the way for the future.
O’Tika Cherry is a Geographic Discipline Leader of Land Services based out of North Carolina. She joined the firm in 2018 as a project manager for a utility project and has since become the first Black woman of the firm to achieve many milestones. These include being promoted to Program Manager in 2019 and becoming an Associate of the firm through the Pathway to Ownership program. Just recently, Cherry was promoted to Geographic Discipline Leader, marking another historic milestone for the firm’s history.
According to Cherry, she never imagined herself working at an engineering firm at the start of her career, especially as someone who does not have an engineering degree. She began her work in Land Services working in tax collections and forming connections with North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) where she worked in land acquisition.
“When I was starting with NCDOT, I was so scared, because I did not fully understand what Right-of-Way was,” Cherry said. “It took some time to get comfortable in my career and I am so grateful to have gone through this journey with amazing people by my side.”
Since she joined CED, Cherry helped pioneer the growth of Land services at the firm. Despite the praise by leadership around her, she doubted herself for much of her journey.
“At first, I was filled with self-doubt, thinking I wasn’t deserving of where I am. I questioned whether or not I was given these opportunities for my abilities as a leader or because I was a woman of color,” Cherry said, adding, “nobody had to give up a seat at the table for my inclusion. CED provided me my own place. I hope the table continues to expand to reflect all walks of life – race, gender, religious background, and educational background. Everyone deserves representation.”
Another woman making firm history is Staff Attorney Tiffany Roberson (Holmdel, NJ), who is the first Black female attorney for the firm. She worked with Cherry previously as a temporary administrative assistant with NCDOT.
Roberson joined Colliers Engineering & Design in 2018 as a Senior Land Representative in Land Services and was promoted to Associate on the Pathway to Ownership in 2022. According to Roberson, she led a multi-million-dollar project and worked alongside colleagues from the Georgia and North Carolina offices.
Roberson said that she had gone to law school prior to her career in Land Services. During the early stages of the pandemic in 2020, Roberson reflects that her life began to evolve, as she found out her score results from the North Carolina Bar Exam.
“While working from a hotel lobby table in Georgia beside our program manager at the time, O’Tika Cherry, I opened the email that read I had passed the NC Bar exam,” Roberson said. “After the tears, excitement, and celebrations, the thought of starting a legal career still was not something I was ready to do.”
Looking to improve professionally, in 2022 Roberson enrolled in CED’s mentorship program, where she was paired with Brian Curtis, General Counsel of the firm. When she was asked about what her goals were, she began her legal career journey. In May of 2022, she received the opportunity to join the legal team at Corporate Headquarters in New Jersey and took the opportunity.
“I have learned many lessons and gained true friendships from my time in Land Services that I will carry with me for the rest of my life as I embark on my new nontraditional legal career journey. I embrace being the first Black female attorney in this organization,” Roberson said. “I received a seat at the table that is surrounded by individuals who welcome, respect, and give me a voice. CED has provided an opportunity for growth and a path forward to achieve my goal of becoming Corporate Counsel. Now, it is up to me to take that opportunity and make of it what I desire.”
Colliers Engineering & Design seeks to cultivate a culture of belonging for all employees. As Black History Month is coming to an end, it is important to raise awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion, and the impact it has on all of us. As these women mark firsts in the firm’s history, they will not be the last, and their experiences are helping to pave the way for hardworking individuals to see anything is possible.