Transportation & infrastructure: accelerating the mission
Regardless of the mode, transportation and its infrastructure are changing fast. Tech pros who can work across disciplines are needed to pick up the pace
“Aviation is undergoing a transformation that means promising career opportunities for a long time in academia, government and private industry.”
– Pamela Whitley, FAA
By Arthur Schurr
Transportation infrastructure and technology are changing at a rapid pace. As a result, transportation professionals must move quickly to stay at the forefront of this dynamic industry.
“It’s clear that infrastructure and technology are no longer separate,” explains Scott F. Belcher, president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (itsa.org). “Those who build roads now use intelligent transportation systems to measure and improve infrastructure performance and make investment decisions about road upgrades and replacements. These project decisions leverage available open-source data, allowing us to develop first-class transportation solutions.”
The extraordinary pace at which technology has accelerated is making demands on transportation professionals that are intense and wide-ranging. Expertise in a single area is no longer sufficient.
Two transportation veterans who have seen this evolution firsthand agree.
“The transportation and aviation business we see today is not the same as the one I entered forty-seven years ago,” says William Fife, principal of the Fife Group (New York, NY) and former general manager of aviation planning and technical services for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“Just in the last few years, world events like terrorism have brought major changes to the use of technology in the transportation industry. In aviation, security used to be mostly about where to put the metal detector. But today, any new terminal construction needs to consider security from the initial design phase.”
Technology is being used throughout the construction process, Fife notes. “A colleague of mine who runs the Delta billion-dollar-plus program at JFK International Airport explained that BIM (building information modeling) systems are essential now.”
BIM systems allow integration of the computer models used at all stages of structural and civil construction projects. A BIM system increases collaboration among architects, engineers and construction professionals. BIM, proponents say, can improve accuracy and reduce errors.
“BIM is a perfect example of a game-changing technology. And it’s crossing all disciplines,” adds Caroline Weiss, an associate principal at Weidlinger Associates (New York, NY), a structural engineering and applied mechanics consultancy. “It’s a design tool, a management tool, and a project delivery tool. It’s much more than what folks thought it was years ago. BIM is so far-reaching, it’s changing the way engineers need to prepare for transportation careers.”
She believes that everyone on today’s construction projects needs to have cross-disciplinary knowledge. “The old siloed process where structural engineers only do engineering is gone. To use tools like BIM and interactive design and modeling, everyone on a project must understand all disciplines and how they fit together. Managers must understand this too, as discussions include scheduling and higher functions.”
Tips for new pros
Fife believes in a time-honored solution for succeeding in an environment of rapid change: continuing education. “I do a lot of mentoring, and I encourage every young person I chat with to get a job that will pay for you to go to school. I went to graduate school at night for almost twenty years! I earned three masters degrees and didn’t have to pay for one of them. But on Saturdays when the kids went to bed, it wasn’t date night for me. It was let’s-hit-the-books night again.”
Weiss also tells her mentees, “What you really want is to be as t-shaped as possible. Have a strong, firm center of knowledge, but have those t-shaped arms out, and look at where other team members are and what they’re doing. Know what’s happening in other parts of the industry so you can respond to them.”
Here are some talented and technologically minded transportation and transportation infrastructure industry professionals who have demonstrated the skills that experts deem essential to success.
Dena Anderson manages an overhaul team at Airbus Helicopters
Dena Anderson is a dynamic component repair and overhaul manager at Airbus Helicopters (Grand Prairie, TX). She manages a shop of twenty-five technicians who perform helicopter transmission repair and overhaul. She’s responsible for workload management, customer interaction, budgeting, planning, pricing and overall business management.
“I enjoy the variety in my job. We support so many models, industries and customers that there is always more to learn. I also really enjoy working with our talented team of individuals. We have forty employees in the shop, and it is truly a family here.”
Anderson joined Airbus Helicopters seven years ago, when it was American Eurocopter, as an industrial engineer. She earned her BS in mechanical engineering with a math minor in 2003 from Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX). She also got Lean Six Sigma black belt certification in 2009.
Anderson expects her work will continue to change. “We will certainly see new aircraft being released, and hopefully we’ll be expanding our capabilities in this shop to accommodate the new models. The company is always looking to make aircraft that fly faster and more efficiently, and carry an even greater load.”
Anderson juggles her workload with a busy home life: She has an eight-year-old son and a new baby boy.
Kristin Milam is an Airbus Helicopters flight test engineer
Associate flight test analysis engineer Kristin Milam works in the experimental flight test department of Airbus Helicopters. She analyzes test data associated with rotorcraft development certification.
“I define test requirements and perform technical analysis on flight characteristics and mechanics, loads, vibrations and aircraft performance. My work is fast-paced, challenging and interesting, and I continue to learn and grow my skills while contributing as an individual on a very talented team.”
Milam joined Airbus Helicopters as an intern in 2012 and became a fulltime employee in 2013. She’s a 2013 graduate of the University of Texas-Arlington with a BS in aerospace engineering.
Milam is energized about her work at Airbus Helicopters and sees a good career ahead of her there. “The next generation of helicopters will benefit from hybrid propulsion and power-plant technology to expand its airspeed envelope and range. I see the aircraft testing area expanding over time, incorporating newer, faster and more accurate methods for data collection and measurement for more improved processes.”
She enjoys the personal and professional development opportunities she’s been given at Airbus. “I got to work overseas at the flight test department at Airbus Helicopters Deutschland, a dream I had for many years. Over the past year I’ve started to learn German and I plan to learn conversational French.”
Pamela Whitley leads implementation of the FAA’s NextGen air traffic control system
NextGen deputy assistant administrator Pamela Whitley is a senior leader at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA, Washington, DC). She works on the implementation of the FAA’s new satellite-based air-traffic control system. Along with digital technologies and new procedures, this system will “make air travel more convenient, predictable and environmentally friendly,” she declares.
Whitley’s many responsibilities include providing leadership and executive oversight for a $2.2 billion budget and a portfolio of more than twenty federal contracts.
“I am the senior executive leader responsible for the integration of goals, strategies and budgets in the office of the assistant administrator for NextGen. I provide technical leadership and alignment of resources required to define future aviation systems and capabilities.”
Whitley has been with the FAA for twenty-three years, starting in a mid-level engineering position in the FAA’s office of airports. She attended Southern University A&M; College (Baton Rouge, LA) and earned a BS in electrical engineering in 1987. In 2008 she completed the Leadership for a Democratic Society program at the Federal Executive Institute, an executive and management development and training center for government leaders.
Tech advances mean opportunities
Whitley has participated in many projects during her tenure at the FAA. But NextGen promises to be the most important yet.
“Aviation is undergoing a major transformation in the U.S. and across the globe. The U.S. is investing in major programs to improve aviation infrastructure. A key component of the modernization effort is building a stable aviation information environment to enable two-way exchange of information between the FAA and the aviation user community. This major modernization effort will generate promising career opportunities for a long time in academia, government and private industry.”
Diversity at the FAA
Mamie W. Mallory, FAA office of civil rights assistant administrator, agrees that technological advancements will create opportunity for diverse professionals at the FAA.
“The FAA views diversity as a business necessity. As we transform our national aerospace system, we need to tap the talent and resources from all segments of society. We operate and maintain the safest and most efficient aerospace system in the world. It is in the best interest of our government and the American people to ensure that the FAA’s workforce reflects the nation and world it serves. FAA senior leadership is committed to creating a workplace of choice marked by integrity, fairness, diversity, accountability, safety and innovation.”
Maria Bruen is an engineer for Honda’s engine research division
Engineer Maria Bruen performs technical functions on evaporative emissions and fuel systems at the Raymond, OH location of Honda R&D; Americas, Inc (Torrance, CA). Recently she also took on the role of managing and compiling engine control unit data for upcoming vehicle development.
“My technical specialty is evaporative emissions and fuel systems, but what I enjoy most about my work is the endless opportunity to challenge myself and grow more as an engineer, expanding into new roles and responsibilities beyond my technical specialty.”
Bruen found Honda at a career fair at the Rochester Institute of Technology (NY), where she received her BS in mechanical engineering technology in 2007. She sees Honda as a place where she can expand her knowledge and “help invent the next generation of engine technology.
“The future of engine development centers on maximizing engine efficiency, increasing fuel economy, decreasing our impact on the environment, and delivering a great and fun product to our customers. For evaporative emissions of the fuel system, designing innovative solutions to meet stricter emission regulations is always our goal.”
Diversity leads to ideas at Honda
Diversity program lead and principal administrator Carol Apel-Tufts also credits Honda for innovation. Behind that innovation, she says, is diversity. “Honda views diversity as part of our philosophy and culture. We have a fundamental belief in respect for the individual, meaning that ideas, creativity and results are not judged by title, background or individual differences. In fact, differences bring a diversity of ideas and creativity.
“We are always seeking the most effective way to resolve a problem or promote a concept. And Honda supports equitable and consistent treatment among all associates, ensuring that all associates have equal opportunity for growth, development and advancement.”
Debra Moch-Mooney helps Mitre advance the National Airspace System
At the Mitre Corporation (McLean, VA), Debra Moch-Mooney is the associate department head for performance and economic modeling and analysis in the company’s Center for Advanced Aviation Systems Development (CAASD).
Nonprofit Mitre operates federally funded R&D; centers and provides solutions in defense and intelligence, aviation, civil systems, homeland security, the judiciary and healthcare.
“We work closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to help them provide the world’s safest, most efficient aerospace system. The work I do is largely associated with the operational assessment of changes in the National Airspace System. I enjoy working collaboratively with great analysts and doing work that’s relevant and important.”
Informing decisions for the future
Moch-Mooney joined Mitre in 1996 “for the opportunity to apply my skills in different domains.” She earned a 1987 BS in mathematics from Spelman College (Atlanta, GA). In 1990, she received an MS in systems engineering with a concentration in operations research from the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). Moch-Mooney sees her work as part of the critical effort to advance national aviation.
“I’m leading a team whose objective is to identify and propose mitigation strategies for operational issues associated with the growing population of specialized aircraft and space vehicles. Many have performance characteristics that are significantly different from traditional aircraft. Our analysis will help develop airspace design and policies to facilitate their integration.”
Moch-Mooney also works to encourage and prepare underrepresented students to pursue STEM careers, with support from her company.
“Mitre views diversity and inclusion as a business imperative as well as a critical component for U.S. and global prosperity,” says senior vice president, general manager and director for CAASD Lillian Ryals. “From a business perspective, diversity of thought, skills, cultural backgrounds, gender, generation and the like have proven to increase innovation, and to improve financial and strategic success measures.
“Workforce development and engagement are two other key factors of diversity and inclusion that Mitre considers. To meet the challenges of rapid technology change, global connectivity and societal transformations, we must take full advantage of all the workforce has to offer, particularly in STEM. And we strive to give employees a voice in the direction the organization is heading.”
Cortney Guzlas of Navistar: reducing greenhouse gases
Cortney Guzlas is chief engineer and greenhouse gas regulation lead at Navistar (Lisle, IL), a holding company that owns the manufacturer of International brand commercial trucks. Guzlas is directing efforts to address phase one greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations requiring truck manufacturers to meet certain emissions and fuel efficiency standards.
“This is the first round of several GHG regulations affecting the heavy-duty truck sector. I make sure our products incorporate the technologies that make our entire portfolio compliant. That includes ensuring our IT systems can handle the administration and tracking of these new requirements. I’m also assisting with plans for implementing phase two GHG requirements.”
Guzlas started at Navistar in 1996 as an entry-level mechanical engineer after completing a 1995 BS in mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also earned an MBA from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne in 2000.
A startup mentality
Guzlas says Navistar has given her an opportunity to fill a variety of roles.
“I enjoy starting something from scratch. I always seem to be on a team starting a new project, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I also like the diversity of the things I’ve been involved in here. I work with sales, IT, product engineering, purchasing, all areas of this company. It’s as if I’m always supporting a startup company.”
Employee and supplier diversity
“Navistar’s commitment to diversity and inclusion gives us a competitive advantage through people,” says HR and administration senior VP Greg Elliot. “Our efforts are ongoing, and today we provide a variety of programming to support our employees as well as our suppliers.”
Recent examples include the first community networking event organized by the company’s International Community of African Americans at Navistar (ICAAN).
“ICAAN and other Navistar affinity groups give employees ways to build internal networks, bolster an inclusive company culture, and use employees’ diverse backgrounds and perspectives to help strengthen the company.”
Toyota’s Roslyn Barker helps lead new model launches
Body weld pilot assistant manager Roslyn R. Barker provides leadership for Camry, Avalon and Venza new model launches for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (Georgetown, KY). Her group of sixty professionals sees to it that capable processes are delivered to the production group. Barker manages each project to specific scheduling milestones. She’s been at Toyota since 2006, and she loves it.
“My work is challenging and exciting. It’s very structured, fulfilling and team oriented. And I enjoy working with people and motivating them to reach their potential,” she says. “Toyota is a great place to work. It’s a company that really cares about its people and its customers.”
Curiosity keeps her ahead of the curve
Barker earned a 2000 BS in mechanical engineering at the Ohio State University (Columbus), where she played basketball for the Lady Buckeyes. She also got her Six Sigma certification in 2004.
She believes that two qualities have helped her succeed at Toyota: being a good communicator and being detail-oriented. She also cites her unflagging curiosity. Barker believes her desire to continue learning helps her stay ahead of the curve in the automotive industry.
“This industry is always evolving. We find more efficient and safer ways to manufacture vehicles and improve the environment. Personally, I’m driven to always improve and be more efficient. Self assessments are critical to continuous improvement, which is one of Toyota’s key values.”
AFCS’s JT Simmons is an IT problem solver at USTRANSCOM
IT specialist Jamie Tremaine (JT) Simmons is a member of the Air Force Civilian Service (AFCS, Randolph AFB, TX). As CIO and compliance
officer, he explains that he’s basically a problem solver.
Simmons is assigned to the Command, Control, Communications and Cyber Systems directorate of the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) at Scott Air Force Base, IL. USTRANSCOM is a global combatant command responsible for all aspects of transportation in the DoD.
Simmons handles a wide range of IT tasks to help keep USTRANSCOM advancing. “I can assess a problem and create a course of action to solve it. This skill has led me to program, project and contract management, where I thrive and can make the biggest impact on my team.”
Varied education, multiple talents
Simmons received a 2006 BS in computer information systems with an emphasis in management from Grambling State University (LA). He went on to a 2008 MS in information technology management at Webster University (Webster Groves, MO).
Simmons has also completed numerous Air Force training courses, “mixed with professional military education through the career program.” Simmons joined USTRANSCOM nearly four years ago after being recruited into the Palace Acquire AFCS career training program.
“I’m a hybrid sort of individual who has performed and managed technical assignments. I speak both technical and customer-focused languages very well, which I think makes me valuable to my employer.”
Moji Jimoh helps upgrade to paperless processes for WMATA
Engineer Moji Jimoh works in the office of the chief engineer of infrastructure services for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, Washington, DC).
She works in a group that maintains standards and criteria for the design and configuration of WMATA’s infrastructure. This includes Metrorail stations, tunnels, tracks, traction power facilities and maintenance and storage facilities for bus and rail vehicles.
“I work with senior engineers to implement technological upgrades to maintain and distribute departmental standards and procedures. My specialty is updating paper-based processes into digital data that can interact with the numerous electronic systems at WMATA.”
Jimoh joined the authority two years ago as a post-college intern after she graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, Cambridge) with a 2012 BS in mechanical engineering. She obtained her engineer-in-training certification in 2013. Jimoh sees WMATA as an ideal place for her to be right now.
“I’m working with project management teams to support the transition to an electronic system for managing data on construction project management for WMATA’s infrastructure rehabilitation. I enjoy learning about different systems for managing and storing data and working with senior staff to learn about the unique nature of WMATA’s infrastructure systems.”
Diversity welcomed at WMATA
WMATA diversity and compliance manager Deborah Coram reports, “We interpret diversity in its broadest sense: the ways people differ from each other. WMATA staff members display a wide variety of personal and professional characteristics. Culturally, we vary in gender, age, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, language facility and more. Functionally, we vary in the way we think, process information, learn, respond to authority, and so forth.
“We believe valuing diversity makes good business sense and encourages a healthy exchange of ideas and viewpoints. We regard diversity as the cornerstone of institutional greatness and as something that must be developed and cultivated.”
DIVERSITY-MINDED TRANSPORTATION ORGANIZATIONS
Visit websites for information.
|Company and location
|Airbus Helicopters (Grand Prairie, TX)
|Global helicopter manufacturing and support
|Federal Aviation Administration
|Oversight of U.S. aviation
|General Motors Corp (Detroit, MI)
|Gulfstream Aerospace Corp (Savannah, GA)
|Designs, manufactures and services advanced
|HNTB Corp (Kansas City, MO)
|Infrastructure solutions for public and private
owners and construction contractors
|Honda R&D; Americas (Torrance, CA)
|Automobile, motorcycle, power equipment and
all-terrain vehicle development
|Lear Corporation (Southfield, MI)
|Automotive seating and electrical distribution
systems for major automakers
|The Mitre Corp (McLean, VA)
|Nonprofit; operates federally funded research and development centers
|Navistar (Lisle, IL)
|Commercial trucks, buses, defense vehicles and engines
|Toyota (Erlanger, KY)
|U.S. Air Force Civilian Service
(Randolph AFB, TX)
|Civilian support for the U.S. Air Force
|Virginia Department of Transportation
(Richmond, VA) www.virginiadot.org
|Builds and maintains roads, bridges and tunnels in Virginia
|Washington Metropolitan Area
(Washington, DC) www.wmata.com
Back to Top