ORIGIN: Starting the Conversation

Meet Darren Burns, Our New CEO

06.06.24 by Kyle Haskett
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Wallace Design Collective is proud to announce Darren Burns as President and Chief Executive Officer, effective May 6, 2024. He’s Wallace’s third CEO, following Tom Wallace, our founder, and Tom Hendrick in the role.

Darren joined our firm as a civil engineering intern in July 1994 and was named a principal in 2007. He’s a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, National Fire Protection Association, American Water Works Association and Leadership Tulsa. In his spare time, Darren volunteers and has held roles on several boards including Tulsa Regional Chamber, Tulsa YMCA and Union Schools Education Foundation.

Darren is not only a great leader and engineer; he genuinely cares about our employees. He’s always reaching out to our staff, reminding them of the essential part they play at Wallace. I’ve never worked directly for Darren, but I don’t think I have had a single birthday since I started that Darren has not wished me a “Happy Birthday.”

I asked Tom Hendrick for his thoughts on Darren as our new CEO. Tom replied, “I am happy and excited that Darren will be our next CEO. He’s been instrumental in Wallace’s success. Over the past year, we’ve been meeting regularly to make sure this will be a smooth transition, and I have no doubt Darren will serve the company well in this important role.”

Read on to learn more about our new CEO…

What brought you to Wallace?

I was a senior at Oklahoma State University, recently married and expecting our first child, so I needed employment. I knew (Wallace principal) Gene Phillips because I grew up with his brother-in-law and I knew Gene was a civil engineer, so I reached out to him to see if there were any opportunities for me. Fortunately, Gene took a chance in hiring me.

Why have you stayed at Wallace?

I love it here. I’m a Wallacite for life. I’ve had other opportunities along the way, but looking at the big picture, I’ve always come back to the same conclusion: Wallace is my place. We provide opportunities, we have a strong culture and we do work that matters. You have fun here. You have support here. And you get to work with the best people at Wallace.

Why did you want to be CEO?

I want to continue the work Wallace does to make lives better – for our employees, our clients, our communities and our professions. I love working for a great company with fantastic people, cool projects and a fun culture making positive contributions to society.

What do you hope to bring to Wallace as CEO?

I hope to bring the same success my predecessors brought to Wallace. I want to thank Tom and Tom for all they did for Wallace. It is because of their leadership that we’ve had success and are where we are today.

I also hope to bring my energy to the CEO role and a new perspective which I hope will translate into improvements across the company, giving us more opportunities to make lives better.

What are your aspirations for Wallace for your tenure?

We now have seven offices, but not all offer our full menu of services. I’d like to see all our service offerings in each of our geographic markets. I want Wallace to continue looking for potential growth opportunities, whether that be additional service lines or additional office locations. The more we grow, the more lives we can impact.

Are there any specific changes you want to make as CEO?

I don’t plan on coming in and making wholesale changes because we’ve been so successful. I have ideas I’d like to implement but I won’t do that carte blanche. Just as we do quality control reviews on projects, my ideas will be vetted by others to make sure we’re doing things for the betterment of our firm, employees and clients. We don’t want to end up with unintended consequences that are not in the best interest of the company. Some changes will be subtle and may not be noticeable to everyone, yet I hope the result will be better for the firm overall.

Where do you see Wallace in 5-10 years?

As mentioned previously, I want to see most, if not all, of our services provided in our current seven offices and potential future offices. I want Wallace to be the place of choice for employment and for our clients when selecting consultants. I see us continually bettering lives in all that we do.

What are Wallace’s greatest opportunities?

Our greatest opportunity is to build on what we have established. We need to always look forward to how we can expand and better what we’ve already created. If we aren’t forward-focused and adapting to the current environment, we’re losing ground.

What are you most excited to take on as CEO?

I’m excited to have more opportunities to work closely with my partners and get to know the employees better throughout the company. As a principal, I’ve been more involved in what my team is doing directly, and haven’t always had the opportunity to meet everyone and work with other principals side-by-side. As CEO, that’s one of the many tasks to be performed and I’m looking forward to it.

What are the most important issues for Wallace? How do you plan to tackle them?

We have several important matters we need to address in order to remain successful while keeping our sights on what we want to achieve:

  1. We need to make sure we provide support to all of our offices so they continue to be successful.
  2. We need to make sure we’re 100% integrated across the board so we are all #OneWallace.
  3. We need to stay committed to the training of our employees and building lifelong advocates.

I could go on, as we should always strive to get better in everything we do. We should always look for opportunities to become our best selves and improve our work across the board.

What are the greatest challenges facing Wallace now? 

There are a few. The recruitment and retention of the current pool of available talent is front and center right now. Another is staying diversified in our market sectors in the face of uncertainty in the economy and how it will respond once existing federal funding expires. Keeping up with the latest technology, including AI, is always a heavy lift. Those are a few of the challenges we’re facing.

To sum up my interview with Darren, I am excited about the future here at Wallace. I see big things coming up in our future. If you want to join us at Wallace, find our open positions here.


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Kyle Haskett, PE


Kyle received both his Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering and Master of Science in Civil Engineering-Structural Emphasis from the University of Oklahoma. He is…

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