Age 36 | Director of development, Knapp Properties Inc.

It’s always nice when you can develop a career out of an afterthought. At least it’s been nice for Aimee Staudt, director of development at Knapp Properties Inc.

Staudt was a junior in high school when she attended a career day at Iowa State University. She needed to fill a gap in her schedule, so why not while away some time in a session on construction engineering.

So began Staudt’s career, one that has seen her in the thick of projects for Principal Financial Group Inc., a 140-acre development at Alice’s and Hickman roads in Waukee and the changing face of the once dowdy northwest corner of First Street and Grand Avenue in West Des Moines.

Staudt has worked for prominent Greater Des Moines companies since receiving a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering from Iowa State and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Iowa – a case of split college identities that causes a little tension at home. Her husband, Ryan Staudt, also is an Iowa State engineering graduate.

“My husband just goes crazy when we get literature from the University of Iowa,” she said. “I try to tell the kids that we can like them both.”

Out of college, Staudt worked as a project manager for Ryan Companies US Inc., then went to work for Principal as an asset manager. She decided that traveling around the country to check the company’s properties wouldn’t fit well with raising a family. She was recommended for the position at Knapp Properties by a former boss at Principal.

Her work brings high praise from the man who founded the company, William Knapp.

“Her expertise and skills were important to assisting our firm through a significant downturn in the real estate market,” Knapp said in a letter.

In addition to a range of community activities, Staudt also finds time to coach basketball for the YMCA of Greater Des Moines, where her 6-year-old son is entering his third year of sports activity and 4-year-old daughter is just getting started. When the Staudt family has some down time, it enjoys hiking, with their 2-year-old son enjoying the trip from a backpack, and traveling to a family cabin in northern Wisconsin.

Five reasons she’s a 40:

• Oversees all of Knapp Properties Inc.’s real estate development and construction activity, including a portfolio of more than 5,000 acres of development ground; involved in the development of more than $11 million in infrastructure, $20 million in new construction and $16 million in tenant improvements.

• Served on the Ankeny Plan and Zoning Commission.

• Has been president and vice president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines’ developers’ council.

• Court-appointed special advocate for children in need of assistance.

• Board member of the ACE Mentor Program, which exposes students to careers in architecture, construction and engineering.

Mentor: Gerard Neugent, president and chief operating officer, Knapp Properties Inc.

Fun fact: Staudt is a knitter, when she can find the time.