Q: Tell us about your current position:
A: I’m a transportation analyst focused on transit. My work on system-wide transit planning begins with public outreach and data collection and includes operational analyses, transit visioning, and moving the project toward implementation. I spend a lot of time working with the public, learning what communities want to see and what their mobility needs are. (I recently passed my AICP exam—American Institute of Certified Planners—which helps me bridge the gap between “engineer-speak” and everyone else!) And, I combine what a community wants with an analysis of factors like population density, employment trends, demographics, and land use demands to identify local mobility solutions.
Q: What has been the highlight of your career to date?
A: I’ve had two professional experiences that were particularly rewarding. When I first started working in Atlanta, the city’s transit authority (MARTA) only provided service in two counties, but there was a third county that had some of the greatest transit needs. I worked on a feasibility study to show the need, and help design new MARTA routes for that area. This involved public outreach to address the system’s impact on the community and to get their support. I then worked with MARTA to implement routes and ultimately put it on the ground. Adding a new transit system is usually a long, multi-year process, but MARTA was able to roll out the new service two years from our original study.
I particularly enjoyed the experience because I saw the project through to completion versus handing it off to someone else to implement.
A second more recent experience involved winning my first contract for which I’ll serve as the deputy project manager. As I’ve taken on more responsibility with the company, I’ve become involved with winning new projects, instead of just doing the work. I am looking forward to learning more leadership and management skills to help grow our Atlanta office.
Q: How did your Villanova education contribute to your success?
A: First, the opportunity to do undergraduate research really gave me an advantage. I was there when Associate Professor Leslie McCarthy, PhD, was first hired. I went to her and told her I was interested in transportation engineering. She taught me not only how to conduct research, but also how to draft research proposals. Thanks to Dr. McCarthy I had the opportunity present at a Transportation Research Board conference as a junior, something that very few undergraduates get to do. I recommend students seek out these opportunities; they give you a huge leg up.
I was also lucky to have professors who helped me to look beyond graduation. During senior year, I was torn between starting a job (I already had an offer) and going to graduate school. My professors recognized what I needed and encouraged me to apply to MIT or Georgia Tech where I could find support for the research I was interested in. They had my best interests at heart.
Q: What do you know now that you wish you knew then (as a college student or new graduate)?
A: I wished I’d learned money management before graduating. As an engineer I work with numbers; and I’m smart, I didn’t think it would be so challenging to make decisions regarding personal finances. I had to figure that out myself. Even managing project budgets and schedules was something I had to learn on the job.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to the next generation of female engineers?
A: Speak up! We have good instincts and judgment. If you have insight, an idea, or suggestion, say something. Trust yourself. We often have different feedback to offer than men; our brains work differently. We have more compassionate instincts that are especially important as civil engineers, given that the work we do affects people’s everyday lives. Not only is our work about efficiency, but it’s about enhancing communities and meeting people’s needs. Finally, work hard, don’t focus on your gender, just focus on being the best engineer you can be.