Personal Impact of WTS on Chapter Leaders and Members

WTS International provides a strong and supportive network within the transportation community where women and men attract, sustain, connect and advance the industry together. With 65 chapters across North America, the WTS connection goes well beyond the International headquarters. This month, we want to celebrate the impact of WTS Chapters on our leaders and members by spotlighting personal experiences on how valuable this community has proven to be, and why you should become or remain a part of it.

Rebecca Williamson, WTS International (WTSI) Board Member, WTS Boston Chapter Member, and Vice President, New England Highway Bridge Market Sector Lead, Jacobs, summarizes the power of the WTS Network:

“Strong, mighty and significant.  Being involved in WTS opens up a network of women across the organization to help and support you no matter what you need.”

While WTS International focuses on advancing women and advancing transportation, the diversity of the WTS network is inspiring for emerging leaders as Odessa Phillip, WTS Foundation (WTSF) Board Member, WTS Baltimore Chapter Member, and President & CEO, Assedo Consulting, LLC, highlights,

“WTS has a very powerful network. I remember meeting Bev Scott and Helen McSwain at my first national conference. They were both so impressive to me as Black women in leadership positions and were open and welcoming. Over the years, these women were among those whom I saw that looked like me, getting recognized nationally for their contributions to the profession. They made me believe I could be a contributor beyond my local network if I worked within the organization. Now, here I am, sitting on the Foundation Board which really feeds my personal desire to give back to the profession.”

If you are new to WTS, Barbara Arens, WTSF Board Member, WTS Michigan Chapter Member, and Managing Principal, Cincar Consulting Group, LLC, shares her insight on how to get involved with your local chapter:

“There are wonderful opportunities to join many of the committees at the chapter level. I would encourage members to reach out and volunteer in areas that interest them.  Active committee members show their energy, commitment, enthusiasm, and accountability for additional leadership opportunities. I am sure you will be welcomed, and from there, based on your participation, further opportunities to get involved will present themselves.”

Ms. Arens also pointed out a few of the positions that are available within each Chapter,

“It helped develop my leadership, knowledge, and organizational skills holding different Chapter leader roles from communications, membership, programs, scholarship, secretary, treasurer, vice president, president and past-president.”

Once you become involved in a Chapter, you will find that there are benefits beyond just having a welcoming network. Traceé Strum-Gilliam, WTSF Board Member, WTS Baltimore Chapter Member, and  Director, East Coast Business Development, Transportation Sector Lead, PRR shares more about her experience,

“My experience has been phenomenal. I first joined WTS in 1999 as a member of the Atlanta Chapter.  Within a year I was planning events, leading chapter initiatives, and building toward board service. Those leadership skills were directly transferable to my career at my firm. I moved with confidence, took on assignments and jumped into business development leveraging the connections I made in WTS.”

Odessa Phillip adds to this by sharing how being involved at the WTS Chapter Level directly impacted her career advancement,

“When I started my own firm in 2012, the leadership of the Chapter was 100% behind me – encouraging PMs to give my new firm a try, developing partnerships with me, and being willing to support my growth and development. My first 2 actual clients came from my WTS local connections, and they continue to be strong to this day!”

Karen Good, WTSF Board Member, WTS Colorado Chapter Member  and  Transportation Project Manager, City & County of Denver, tells us how experience as a Chapter Leader has impacted her professionally and personally,

My involvement in WTS came when I was transitioning from working in transit-oriented development planning to focusing more on actual transportation planning. WTS Colorado and WTS International provided me and my career with a boost by providing a wide array of amazing connections in the transportation field ready to provide insight, mentorship and support. Over time I have been able to pay that debt forward by providing the same for young professionals and students who inspire me with their energy and passion to continue to innovate and work to make our world a better place.”

Everyone is trying to balance work and life. As a woman, this can be particularly challenging and forces many women to choose between the two. Traceé Strum-Gilliam shares a personal story on how being involved at the WTS Chapter Level helped her through her transition to motherhood without having to sacrifice her career,

“After the birth of my last child I considered leaving the industry. I felt trapped waiting for the next promotion or opportunity versus being the best mom I could be.  In that moment, my WTS circle held me up. Encouraged me to think through what I could do to stay plugged in and manage motherhood. During that time, I finished my masters, took on leading a national practice and advanced in WTS leadership at the chapter level. That meant that my sons attended meetings at times, or I had to call into meetings from games, but my commitment never waived, and I felt completely supported.”

To sum it up, we asked our Board leaders to describe a WTS Chapter Leader in a few words,

“Supporters of Change,” Barbara Arens, WTS Michigan Chapter

“Passionate, accomplished, groundbreaking,” Traceé Strum-Gilliam, WTS Baltimore Chapter

“Thought leaders contributing to the transportation profession,” Odessa Phillip, WTS Baltimore Chapter

Powerful women driven to advancing in their careers and helping others advance,” Rebecca Williamson, WTS Boston Chapter     

“WTS Chapter Leaders are Dynamic Superstars – They learn how to push through glass ceilings and remember to reach down and teach others how to make it to the top as well,” Karen Good, WTS Colorado Chapter

The organization is striving towards a unified, “One-WTS: Advancement through Collaboration,” where WTS International, the WTS Foundation, and WTS Chapters shape the future transportation workforce together. Expand your involvement with a WTS Chapter today to join the movement and see how you can flourish personally and professionally within the transportation community!