Written by: Elyse Conti
This article was originally featured in the December 2022 issue of TPD’s internal newsletter. It was printed in a regular column managed by TPD’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Committee.
"A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you." — Bob Proctor
The future of our industry is in your hands! Your “job” is not done at the end of the day when you close out of Teams and lock your screen(s) or sign off on the plans your team has been working diligently on for months… maybe even years, or after you make the trip back home from a very long, perhaps stressful, site visit. As professionals in the transportation engineering field, we all recognize the importance and weight our industry holds for our society and its future. It is also our responsibility as members of an ever-changing world to ensure the younger generations also realize the impacts engineering can have on everyday life – as well as on the health of our planet.
It is easy to feel disconnected with young minds when we don’t hold active teaching roles. However, there are opportunities all around for us to invest in future generations’ curiosity and propensity for S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning. Here are a few ways you can take an active role in fostering the next, more diverse generation of transportation engineers:
- Inspire the dreamers. Be open with your children and/or your friend’s children about your career path, and how you feel you impact your surroundings, people, and the planet.
- Welcome students into your workplace. I know I personally didn’t envision myself working in the civil engineering industry as a Drexel University student working toward a marketing degree, however I landed at Traffic Planning and Design, Inc. (TPD) for my third and final co-op experience. My eyes were opened to a new world, full of opportunities to let my strong suits shine. We never know how opening a new door will end up beginning a new path in life. Another way we do this at TPD is by holding a formal “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” program. Start them young – you never know when the passion will stick!
- Be a mentor. A little encouragement and a confidence boost are often all students need to feel empowered to take on new challenges. Think about the teachers and adults you remember from your early life – aren’t they the people who you made you feel unconditionally supported by and believed in?
- Become involved in professional societies. Professional societies like Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS), whose mission is to advance both the transportation industry and the professional women who lead it, and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), the leading national advocate for employment diversity, inclusion, and contracting opportunities in the transportation industry, are great examples of societies that welcome involvement from new members and volunteers. There is an abundance of opportunities to participate in scholarship programs, host or volunteer at outreach events, and more. You could be the person that ignites passion for S.T.E.M. learning for a student.
- Research opportunities at local high schools. Don’t be shy to reach out to an administrator or your child’s teacher to ask if there are career day events or science fairs, scholarship funds for donation, or other volunteering options that exist for this purpose. People running programs like these are normally thrilled to get enthusiastic volunteers versus needing to reach out themselves.
- Be a participant in your community. Rotary clubs, chambers of commerce, civic clubs, local planning commissions… even recreational sports league coaching. Most of these organizations include opportunities to network with students and/or to serve as a role model or mentor.
Remember: Kids think that as the adults, we have all the answers. Compared to them, we kind of do (imagine that!) Don’t be afraid to share your perspective or experiences with young, inquiring minds. We have had so many more years on this earth than they have. We may end up boring them, but it’s worth a shot on the off chance they think we just might know what we’re talking about.
Elyse Conti (she/her) is the Marketing Manager at TPD, in addition to serving as a founding member of TPD's DEI Committee. Elyse has 13 years of experience in the Marketing field - TPD happened to be her third co-op employer as a former Drexel University student... and the rest is history! She is active with the WTS Philadelphia chapter (MarCom Director) and serves as a volunteer with her local Rotary Club. Her favorite way to spend time is adventuring with her 4-year-old "wild child", husband and/or friends, cooking and going to the gym!.
Contact: EConti@TrafficPD.com | 1.877.873.9739