On International Women’s Day 2020, we’re recognizing women who drive the transportation profession forward. Here are the stories and experiences of nine of our own staff who are leaders in their communities and in the profession, and who have inspiring words for the next generation of women in transportation engineering and planning.
What do you do, how have you gotten where you are today, and what have been your keys to success?
“As a planner with Kittelson, I have the honor of working with both the public and private sector as my client to help with unique and everyday transportation needs. Some of my planning work spreads across various cities and states, but the work I do at home in Baltimore is very near and dear to my heart. I enjoy helping make an impact in how citizens can safely and creatively move about the city to accomplish their daily activities.
“We work in an industry where there are more women than there were 20 or 30 years ago, but we are still often fighting for a seat at the table. As a black woman, transportation planner there have definitely been some unique situations I’ve encountered while working in the industry as many are surprised that this is my chosen field. My key to success is perseverance. Never quitting, never allowing someone or something to dictate your future, success, capabilities, and always advocating for yourself and others whose voice might have been stifled.” – Veronica P. McBeth, Associate Planner, Baltimore
My key to success is perseverance. Never quitting, never allowing someone or something to dictate your future, success, capabilities, and always advocating for yourself and others whose voice might have been stifled.- Veronica P. McBeth, Baltimore
“I partner with our clients to improve how people move within and through urbanized areas. While my technical focus is traffic operations, I like to view the work I do as contributing to the safe, efficient, and equitable movement of all modes through high conflict areas. This can look like treatments for transit, bikes, or people walking as well as cars and trucks. I’m most rewarded by feeling like I contribute to the betterment of peoples lives and to something I believe in.
“Since I entered the professional workforce, I often found myself to be one of the only women in meetings and on teams. This was similarly the case in college as one of few women engineering students in my graduating class. While that’s changing, and it is exciting to see, it also posed personal challenges early in my career in figuring out how to engage and sort through the interpersonal dynamic. Over the years, I’ve found my successes to lay in strong communication and perspective-sharing to overcome obstacles. It’s really helped me to listen to others and to be in tune with both verbal and non-verbal communication. It’s also been really beneficial to have the confidence and comfort level to speak up and share perspectives, even as the minority perspective in the room. I recognize that it’s a privilege to have a sufficient level of comfort to be able to do this, and I’m thankful for it. It’s a privilege that can be leveraged to make space for others and lead to more productive, collaborative dialogues.” – Bailey Lozner, Senior Engineer, Washington, D.C.
It’s been really beneficial to have the confidence and comfort level to speak up and share perspectives, even as the minority perspective in the room. It’s a privilege that can be leveraged to make space for others and lead to more productive, collaborative dialogues.- Bailey Lozner, Washington, D.C.
“I grew up in La Paz, Bolivia where a large share of the community uses public transportation as their main transportation mode. Once in the US, I was shocked with the lack of transportation alternatives and how frustrating it was to be limited to a single occupancy vehicle lifestyle. This led me to a career in transportation engineering. If I had to summarize what I do to a sentence: I solve traffic operations and transportation safety concerns by applying engineering skills. I consider myself making a difference in the transportation profession by working with our clients to build and maintain efficient transportation systems with safety as a priority.
“Another challenge I experienced was realizing the underrepresentation of women in the engineering field and work environment in the transportation industry. Starting in my freshman year in college, continuing into the professional world: women continue to be underrepresented. To change this, I got involved with the local chapter of WTS, an international organization dedicated to the professional advancement of women in transportation. Through my involvement at WTS I have been able to connect, support, learn, mentor, encourage and work alongside colleagues in the industry (men and women) towards a common goal: advancement of women in transportation. A key lesson learned from my involvement starting as a student through now being the elected president: do not underestimate the impact an experience may have on you or others.” – Benazir Portal, Engineer, Miami
A key lesson learned from my involvement starting as a student through now being the elected president: do not underestimate the impact an experience may have on you or others.- Benazir Portal, Miami
“Most of my work consists of engineering design and analysis. I’m working alongside national experts reviewing and designing roundabouts in the northeast region and beyond. Additionally, I manage small development projects and am involved in hiring and university outreach activities. The program is becoming increasingly competitive, and we have our largest class of summer interns yet!
“A growth mindset is something I come back to time and time again. Through technical skills, communication, and time management, I continue to learn how I can improve. Even though I learned about growth mindset in college, I feel like Kittelson fosters a growth mindset. We embrace challenges, seek constructive feedback, and desire life-long learning.” – Kylie Caviness, Engineering Associate, Reston
A growth mindset is something I come back to time and time again.- Kylie Caviness, Reston
“I work with communities, agencies, and developers to plan, design, and implement solutions where streets, sidewalks, trails, and transit systems support communities instead of burdening them. I find it most rewarding when I work with a team (within Kittelson or outside) to solve complex problems that turns a challenge to an opportunity. I especially find it rewarding when a client takes ownership and are recognized for the results of such projects.
“As an immigrant and a female, it was quite a transition to join the transportation industry in the US. I remember one of my first assignments where my project manager asked me to present at a meeting with NJDOT where I was the lone female, minority, non-engineer in the room. It was daunting—but looking back now, I think I appreciate it more that I was given the opportunity that not everyone could have had.
“Reflecting on the last two decades, I actually remember the times when I felt I was given an opportunity I may not have deserved more than the times I had to struggle to be heard as a woman. The latter still happens, but I chose to focus on and look for the helpers in the crowd—the giants on whose shoulders I was able to stand on to get to where I am. Many of these giants inspire me to take advantage of the good fortune I was afforded and to pay this forward by supporting the next generation of great women and men in transportation.” – Jane Lim-Yap, Senior Planner, Orlando
I chose to focus on and look for the helpers in the crowd—the giants on whose shoulders I was able to stand on to get to where I am.- Jane Lim-Yap, Orlando
“I help clients realize their goals and help teammates reach their potential. My job has what Malcolm Gladwell identifies as the three key ingredients of satisfying and meaningful work – autonomy, challenge, and a connection between effort and reward. For me, it is the challenge of my job that makes it the most rewarding. I learn every day and get to share what I learn with others, because of that, I find the projects I work on engaging and exciting.
“The biggest challenge I have overcome is the feeling of being stuck and stagnant in prior positions. I was not reaching my full potential, and I was not being challenged. I realized that I had gotten too comfortable and needed a change. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and explored a career move, and that’s when I found Kittelson! Time for self-reflection, trust in myself, and the confidence to take a risk, were the keys to my success.” – Amanda Leahy, Senior Planner, Oakland
Time for self-reflection, trust in myself, and the confidence to take a risk, were the keys to my success.- Amanda Leahy, Oakland
“My work at Kittelson revolves around making our communities places where pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users are thoughtfully considered in the design of roadways with the same level of care and importance as drivers. For the profession, this sort of work highlights the continuing need to plan and design around people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds to, in my opinion, foster economic, social, cultural, and ecological sustainability.
“Like so many others have experienced, there are a host of challenges that come with being a woman, first-generation American and a first-generation college graduate. Feelings of not measuring up compared to others or finding challenges harder to overcome for yourself than for your peers, and the microaggressions experienced have a lasting impact and work to mold a perspective about yourself that is not really your own but forced on you by others. As a Latina, I’ve felt these forces throughout my life but when I reflect on where I’ve come from, I recognize a strength about myself that overshadows those things. As ‘first gens’, we recognize the sacrifice our parents made to create opportunities for their children’s advancement. This same sacrifice is the driving force that has always made me seek opportunities to continually grow personally and professionally.
“The challenges I’ve faced in the past and those I work through now, along with all my experiences, continue to shape my perspective on what it means to be successful. I’ve felt successful throughout various stages of my adult life: graduating high school, going to college, my first internship, the start of my career with Kittelson, the first project I completed at work alongside others. Without the support of others, I’m not certain these opportunities and accomplishments would have been possible. So now, success for me is evolving to mean something bigger than myself, to uplift others as I continue to grow.
“The key to my success and the common thread weaving everything that has led to where I am today is people who, throughout my life, believed in me and encouraged me to believe in myself.” – Sigal Carmenate, Transportation Analyst, Orlando
Success for me is evolving to mean something bigger than myself, to uplift others as I continue to grow.- Sigal Carmenate, Orlando
“Most of my work at Kittelson involves investigating new approaches to challenges and then transferring what I’ve learned to engineers across the country through guidebooks, tools, and training. When you start a research project you don’t know the answer to the question or sometimes even how to find the answer. Developing and executing a methodology and then taking the results and creating something other engineers can use is the most rewarding feeling.
“My key to success has been finding people to serve as sounding boards (whether for a project or for my career) and then unabashedly running ideas past them and asking for help.” – Shannon Warchol, Senior Engineer, Wilmington
My key to success has been finding people to serve as sounding boards (whether for a project or for my career) and then unabashedly running ideas past them and asking for help.- Shannon Warchol, Wilmington
“I have worked on various urban planning and design projects in the Greater Boston area, Florida, Singapore, Indonesia, Belgium and the Netherlands, most with a focus on bicycle planning and integration into the urban space and existing transportation system, but always with an urban planning component in the project matter. I am passionate about transportation, urban planning and design. I want to make going somewhere easy and safe and I want it to be integrated into the city and surroundings. Moving around and going out into the world are things that touch everyone’s daily life and I have the opportunity to improve it doing my job.
“I have moved a fair amount by now, having lived and worked on three continents with all three very different cultures in general and in particular regarding roadway design, transit development and geographical characteristics. Being adaptable and willing to learn have been traits in me that enabled me to find my place in these different settings. I found having a sense of humor is key to allow yourself to just go with things and trust that it will all make sense. And it does. Humor also was a great gateway for me to relate to others who I had to build new relationships with and ultimately, discover that we do not differ that much around the world in what we want and how we live.” – Tess Stribos, Urban Planner, Boston
Moving around and going out into the world are things that touch everyone’s daily life and I have the opportunity to improve it doing my job.- Tess Stribos, Boston
What would you say to other women considering a career in the profession?
“Do it! This is one of the industries where you get to encounter the good work that you do and how it can positively affect people on a daily basis. There are definitely challenges, but the return on investment is such an amazing thing.” – Veronica McBeth
“If you’re looking for a profession that’s challenging, dynamic, cross-cutting, multi-faceted, and meaningful to many, transportation could very well be the path for you. Transportation is a great field and could benefit from more phenomenal professionals with diverse backgrounds and walks of life in it. Connect with a few transportation professionals to learn more, and encourage others to do the same.” – Bailey Lozner
“I would say ‘Go for it!’ and ‘How can I help?’ We need more women in this profession.” – Amanda Leahy
“There are many places in the workforce where you can make a difference and if you have patience and perseverance transportation is going to be a very rewarding one for you, because you get to see your ideas built and used by people for their daily errands. Your work is going to be part of people’s lives.” – Tess Stribos
“You will not regret it! I could not imagine a more exciting time to be in the transportation industry. We are setting the foundation for industry standards; we are defining the stepping stones for research in many fields including safety, technology implementation, and many more (which I did not imagine when I started my career).” – Benazir Portal
“Women possess a spectrum of perspectives which are unique to our lived-in experiences, and without this injection of creative ideas, any effort to advance the profession falls short of achieving holistic solutions. To any woman that doubts her ability to succeed in her own way within the transportation profession or her ability to make a positive impact, I would say that her ideas and talent are needed for the profession to evolve.” – Sigal Carmenate
“You will not regret it! There are so many giants who will prop you up and let you stand on their shoulders. Come and nerd out with us while helping build better communities!” – Jane Lim-Yap
“You have so many women here to support you in your journey!” – Kylie Caviness