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WTS-Boston Participates in the MassDOT Innovation & Tech Transfer Exchange Conference


Written by Leslie Stahl, U.S. DOT/Volpe Center

WTS-Boston hosted an exhibit booth at MassDOT’s Innovation & Tech Transfer Exchange Conference on March 7th and 8th at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. The chapter also held a well-attended roundtable discussion on our Mentoring Program.  WTS-Boston’s mentoring program elevates our region’s rising stars.  Mentoring Massachusetts women in transportation has been an important focus of the WTS-Boston chapter since it was founded in 1980. Over the past three decades, the chapter has supported and bolstered the careers of countless women in engineering, planning, policy, and related disciplines in the transportation field. On March 7th-8th, 2017, the chapter continued to honor its commitment to mentoring women in transportation at the conference.

Throughout both days, WTS-Boston members staffed the exhibit booth, answering questions, providing membership brochures and applications, and sharing information about the chapter. On the afternoon of March 7th, eight women in varying stages of their careers described how mentoring others and being mentored has helped shape and guide their careers. Panelists included Allison Sweeney from the MBTA, Chief Patty Leavenworth, Francisca Heming and Mary-Joe Perry from MassDOT, Michelle Muhlanger from Federal Railroad Administration, Rebecca Williamson from GPI, Susan Nichols from VHB and Leslie Stahl from U.S. DOT/Volpe Center.  The event was moderated by Jessica Kenny from MassDOT.  The panelists provided many anecdotes about what it is like to have a good mentor and to strive to be a good mentor. Here are several suggestions from the panelists on how to be an effective mentor:

  • Assess Your Mentee’s Needs. Recognize that mentoring requires give and take. If you are a mentor, you will likely have to guide your mentee through the process, asking them what they hope to gain from the relationship, offering suggestions on how they could improve in their current role or agency, and sharing anecdotes about your own experiences.
  • Agree on a Communication Method. Formal mentoring programs usually specify how and how often mentors and mentees should meet or communicate. In less formal situations, it is important to establish a method and schedule for talking and meeting. This can help keep the conversation going, and it helps the mentee feel better about reaching out to the mentor.
  • Remember You May Seem Intimidating. Mentors sometimes forget that the higher the office or more impressive the title, the less approachable they may seem. It’s important to be proactive about assessing your mentee’s needs and establishing a schedule to relieve some of the burden from the mentee.
  • Realize the Level of Commitment Varies. Being a mentor can be incredibly rewarding, regardless of how long the mentor-mentee relationships lasts. Some mentors know their mentees for years, supporting them through career decisions and sometimes personal/life choices. Other mentors know their mentee for a few months or a year, offering short-term advice at a critical juncture for the mentee or providing a sense of comradery for a new employee.
  • Learn from Your Mentee. Oftentimes the prevailing sentiment in mentoring programs is that mentors give advice and mentees take it. This is certainly true, but mentees can provide important information to mentors too. Mentees often have a good idea of what the mood is among junior level staff as well as what needs exist. Mentees also often know more about the latest technological trends and new methods that could benefit a mentor, or beyond them an entire company.

The Boston chapter’s Mentoring Committee organized the panel and is responsible for coordinating other mentoring activities throughout the year. For example, the committee hosts TED Talk events where attendees watch a brief, topical talk and then discuss the content. The committee also manages the annual Emerging Professionals (EP) program which provides two awards to “Emerging Professionals” for paid WTS membership, paid attendance at key WTS events and advisor support from the WTS-Boston Board of Directors.    This year the Chapter is also supporting the Emerging Professionals attendance at the WTS International Conference being held in Brooklyn, NY in May. The committee recently launched an Ambassador Program, in coordination with the Membership Committee, that matches new members with experienced members.

If you are interested in joining WTS-Boston’s Mentoring Committee, please reach out to the co-chairs – Teryne Alexander (talexander@massport.com) and Allison Sweeney (ASweeney@MBTA.com). 



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