Williams is actively involved in her community on initiatives like local boards and city politics. She’s also chair of APTA’s Business Member Small Business Committee.
A strong background in business and computers is what makes Eve Williams, CEO/president of civil engineering firm Dikita Enterprises, an irreplaceable part of her team.
Williams, who holds an MBA in accounting and information systems, brought the first computer to Dikita. She computerized its financials in 1986 and went on to spearhead a ridership data collection initiative, which has become one of the company’s most marketable service offerings.
When it comes to engineering, planning and project management, Dikita promotes itself on a local level, working with notable transit authorities including Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). However, the company’s ridership data collection has grown as a national service.
“It’s sort of like a census,” Williams says. “If a municipality receives federal funds, they have to know certain information about their ridership. We collect that data, analyze it and pass it along. Transit agencies are then able to see how well they are serving their community. You can measure compliance, redesign routes or increase transit.”
Williams came up with the idea and software application in the early ‘80s when her father, Dikita’s founder Lucious Williams, was busy monitoring engineering projects. At the time, she was still in college and known as the “queen” of computer programming.
“Back then, we used a handheld computer the size of a cigarette carton — I was instrumental in programming it and influencing DART to use it,” she says. “Of course, the handheld devices are now cell phones, PDAs and tablets.”
When she saw passenger counting becoming automated, Dikita started incorporating origin-destination passenger interviews into their data collection offerings. The company collects real-time geographical information without the use of the Internet. This personalized component is now a key selling point.
Within the company, Williams has moved from VP, finance to chief financial officer to CEO.
“It’s a good thing I studied business,” Williams says. “When I see people managing an engineering company with only technical skills, I know they struggle. I absorbed management, marketing and accounting, and that’s helped me keep an edge for understanding what makes money and what doesn’t…and my computer skills help me use technology to analyze that quicker than everybody else.”
The company started in Milwaukee in 1979, but moved to Texas in 1983 to get involved with light rail systems. In 1991, Dikita became a prime consultant for DART, helping design roughly two miles of its first 20 miles of rail.
Dikita then went on to do program management, quality control, safety, systems integrations and railcar vehicle inspection for DART as a sub-consultant.
However, Dikita’s now designing and managing the construction of DART’s last two-and-a-half miles of rail, from the tracks to the stations, as a prime.
“DART has approximately 90 miles of rail since its start in 1991,” Williams says. “We started the first mile as a prime consultant, and now, we’re ending the last mile as a joint-ventured prime. Being a fairly small company with 48 employees, people are always amazed at what we can deliver.”
Despite her success, Williams says being a woman in transportation is often the most challenging part of her job.
“Aside from being a non-engineer in the engineering business, I’m also an African American female in a male-dominated industry,” Williams says. “My intellect and confidence is often tested, so as females, I believe we have to think smarter and have moxie.”
Williams is actively involved in her community on initiatives like local boards, city politics and the Chamber of Commerce. She’s also chair of APTA’s Business Member Small Business Committee.
“That might be one of the most gratifying things I do,” Williams says. “I help mentor other small businesses. I’m not afraid of creating competitors; I figure I’m fostering future partners.”
Outside of work Williams is an avid supporter of the arts for today’s youth. She contributes regularly to organizations like Dallas/Fort Worth’s The Black Academy of Arts and Letters as well as school foundations.