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WTS-Boston 2016 Emerging Professionals Program Wraps Up Another Successful Year of Mentorships

By Leslie Stahl, U.S. DOT/Volpe Center

Participating in the 2016 WTS Boston Emerging Professionals (EP) Program has been a gratifying, interesting, and fun experience for me. When Rachael Sack, my acting division chief at Volpe, encouraged me to apply, I didn’t know much about the organization, its members, or its benefits. I knew that many of my colleagues at Volpe had participated in WTS luncheons and events in the past, but the EP program was a unique and compelling opportunity. I’m relatively new to the transportation field. I spent the first three years after college working at a public relations firm and then decided to change my career, completing my master’s in regional and public policy in 2015. What I do know about the transportation sector, I’ve learned largely from my three years at Volpe, and the EP program offered an opportunity to gain a new perspective and learn from a broader group of organizations and individuals.

The biggest benefits of the EP program for me were being paired with a mentor and getting involved with a committee. My mentor, Heather Hume, provided me with a lot of invaluable insight on her career and on how the MBTA operates. I learned a lot about her current work and her trajectory and accomplishments within the T, as well as the decisions she made throughout her career that led to her current role as Director of Service Planning. Heather told me about the successes she has achieved and the challenges she has overcome as an employee and now as a manager. Heather also advised me on some of the questions I have about my career path and options and offered suggested solutions for challenges I face in my current role.

Joining the Outreach Committee is another rewarding aspect of the EP program. I was told by numerous WTS members that the Outreach Committee is a particularly active committee because it involves planning and staffing so many different events and activities in the greater Boston region. The first activity I was involved with was actually hosted at Volpe. The Outreach Committee organized a day of speed mentoring and human factors simulator tours for a group of high school students from Newton Country Day, an all-girls school outside of Boston. I served as a mentor during the speed mentoring rounds and spoke to the students about my untraditional path to transportation and how that has actually benefited me in my current work. I then volunteered at the Worcester Polytechnic Touch Tomorrow event, staffing the WTS booth where we taught elementary and middle school students about basic engineering concepts using a “Build Your Own Boat” activity. We talked to the students about testing various materials and designs to figure out how to build the strongest and most buoyant boat.

I recently helped coordinate another speed mentoring and simulators tour for Newton Country Day at Volpe in December. The EP program led me to get involved in a committee and gave me the confidence and encouragement to volunteer to be a co-chair for the coming year. I was recently selected to be the incoming Outreach Committee co-chair, and I’m looking forward to continuing past activities and bringing some new ideas to the role.

Overall, I highly recommend the EP program to other young professionals in the field. I recently spoke to one of the incoming EPs, who is also a Volpe employee, and I told her what those before me told me. The EP program is what you make of it. It’s important to be active in a committee, to attend every luncheon (not only because they’re free and are amazing education and networking opportunities), and meet frequently with your mentor. The EP program has been a good stepping stone for me in WTS and in my career. It’s been a fun year, and I look forward to being more involved in the EP program and WTS in the coming year!

Leslie_STEMevent

 

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