I know I could never have achieved as much in my transportation field without the help of professors, employers, friends, and coworkers who held the door open for me and gave me a hand-up. If you are one of these people, a great big thank you. I know this acutely as the person who prayed my mother would not fill-in the free-lunch forms that would have dealt me the humiliation of using the free lunch card to get my lunches at school. I know this as the person who paid for all her college education through loans, work-study, and grants – back when this was possible. I’m forever grateful for the special high-school engineering programs for kids like me and grateful to work one summer as a camp counselor in that same program. Insecurity, fear, and gratitude to those who helped me have inspired me to help others in the same way. Early on in my career, I petitioned my public works employer to maintain our training program and volunteered on the WTS job board when it was a modem, dial-up bulletin board. Now, I try to make time to help people with job connections and resume reviews. It is rare that I say no when people ask for career help.
More than any other time in recent history, the transportation industry is facing a substantial experience gap. Many professionals are retiring, while STEM-focused students are siphoned off to other tech sector jobs. I recently supported the local COMTO chapter in an event to shine light on this gap. I also have a soft spot for young people and have enjoyed working with high school job shadows. Josh, a young man very interested in transit planning, approached me looking to shadow somebody in the field as part of his culminating work with the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences. Together we chose to look at ways to apply decision making in transit planning using tools like Streetmix. Josh Steiner from Metro explained how he is using Remix, and Thomas Whittman from Nelson Nygaard asked hard questions about how to justify the investment in transit by defining our users with data fused from StreetLight.
A real treat for both of us was spending time with an icon in the industry, Ted Day from Metro.
For those that came before me and helped me (you know who you are), I am investing in the future by mentoring the next gen of transit planners.