Archive for January, 2018

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Why you should have a mentor

Previously, I wrote posts on finding a mentor and cultivating a relationship with a mentor. I promised a follow up post on why it is important to have a mentor. In this post, I give my 5 reasons to have a mentor. There are many more reasons, but I mentioned in a previous post that I like numbers divisible by five.

  1. Mentors provide experience: Situations like deciding whether to take the new job, apply for a higher position, move across the country, or work with a difficult boss are not new. Your mentor has likely experienced these same challenges and he or she can provide insight on how to navigate whatever challenge you are facing.
  2. Mentors have networks: People who have been in a profession for several years usually have large networks of contacts within the industry. If your mentor is unable to provide the correct guidance to you for a particular challenge or opportunity, they have access to someone in their network that can help you. A quick introduction from your mentor will grant you access to another mentor.
  3. Mentors can talk you out of a funk: There have been times in my career, especially now as a leader, when I face moments of self-doubt: I don’t know which way to go and/or I feel like I failed. During those times, I speak with my mentors who listened with a non-judgmental ear, asked the right questions, and usually end the conversation by telling me to what I needed to hear to get back on track.
  4. Mentors can help you grow as a person: Mentors are an unbiased third party that can with a unique perspective that can reveal your weaknesses and opportunities for growth. All my mentors have identified weaknesses in my skillset or leadership style and worked with me to strengthen those skills. My mentors challenge me, hold me accountable for my actions, and provide me just the right amount of encouragement to keep me moving forward. I would not be where I am today without my mentors putting me through this process several times.
  5. Mentors can be champions: There’s an old adage in networking, “It’s all about who you know”. There’s an update version that counters that by saying. “It’s not about who you know. It’s about who knows you”. If you cultivate a relationship with your mentor, he or she will be an effective champion for you and provide you with access to opportunities that you may or may not know about. For some of my mentees, I’ve sent their resumes with a glowing recommendation. I know the same has been done for me.

As we are still in the first month of the new year, I hope you make it your goal to find a mentor or two this year.

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.





My First Year at TransportationCamp

The Transportation Research Board Conference is one of my favorite times of the year. For me it’s like a big reunion where I get to see everyone who has moved away from DC (we’re so transient) or who I met through various transportation events throughout the years. This year, however, is the first year I attended TransportationCamp (yes, it’s all one word). I had no idea what to expect from this “un-conference”, but as I did expect, I had a great time and was introduced to ideas I had never considered.

One aspect of Transportation Camp that is very different from other conferences I’ve attended is that, after someone from the host organization, Mobility Lab, gave an introductory speech, they went around the room and almost every single one of the 400 attendees said who they were, where they worked, and three words that described why they were at the conference. I was pleasantly surprised that there were attendees of all ages (‘camp’ made me think ‘young’), in all different stages in their career, and from a wide variety of countries and backgrounds. And TransportationCamp had sessions to please all groups, including the planners, engineers, data crunchers, GIS specialists, and more.

TrnspCmpThe first session I attended was my coworker’s Christine Mayeur. I may be biased but it was one of my favorites of the day. Each of the five or so tables were given a Google Map printout and description of a particular area in DC, trace paper, and colored markers. She began by giving a brief presentation about how the widespread switch to autonomous vehicles will open up street space for other uses by reducing the need for parking and allowing for narrower lanes. Each group was then asked to redesign their area for how it could look once this change happened. The ideas were interesting and I can definitely see them happening if there’s enough will for them. For example, blocking off car access on H St NW in between 5th St NW and 7th St NW. Removing car travel lanes and parking would create room for a cycle track, bus lanes, and wider sidewalks, since the area is always crammed with tourists and residents. See the drawing below for all of the ideas for the area!

I also really enjoyed a session that focused on transit videos, not just because I got to watch some wonderful, horrible, bizarre, and hilarious YouTube clips, but because it made me really think about the best way for transit agencies to advertise themselves and provide public service announcements. One video that really stood out for me was an LA Metro PSA about a superhero called “Super Kind”. It would definitely fall under the bizarre category. I can’t really even explain it well – you’ll just have to watch it yourself – but I will say there’s a big furry monster eating Skittles on the train and a superhero girl trying to get him to stop. The first time I saw it I was turned off because of just how weird it is, but after the panel started discussing it I realized I was approaching it wrong. The whole point of the video was to remind people that they can’t eat on the train, and it sure imprinted that on your mind. One of the panelists shared how she showed it to her 4-year-old and ever since then he is adamant about not eating on the train and is upset with other people he sees doing it. I guess it has its audience. Was the production cost worth it, though? Not sure. What do you all think?

The video that was rated the highest, though, and my personal favorite, is from our own WMATA to advertise the opening of the Silver Line. It’s probably because I’m a transportation nerd, but every time I see it I get excited about the work we’re all doing to improve transportation around the country (okay, so it’s definitely because I’m a transportation nerd). But here’s the thing I love about Transportation Camp, TRB, and all of the other conferences I get to go to – we’re all transportation nerds who love getting together to bask in our nerd-iness and our shared passion for creating better transportation systems. I can’t wait for the next one!


Reflecting on the Past, Ready for the Future!


The new year is a time to reflect on the past and set goals for the future. The past year brought us satisfaction and challenges that allowed us to grow as individuals and as a team. We hope 2018 comes with opportunities to help communities become more sustainable.  

Over the past year, we have continued to grow in the region leading projects such as Vision Zero in Alexandria, VA, providing technical research on innovative beneficial reuse of dredged materials in Maryland while expanding our reach to our not-so-distant neighbor Philadelphia, PA to lead the University City District Just Spaces project.

At home in DC, we are continuing our work on projects such as the Southeast Boulevard and Barney Circle Environmental Assessment as well as the GreenWrench Automotive Pollution Prevention Program.

While these projects represent a snippet of the contributions we are making in the planning and environmental realm, we anticipate continued growth in this new year. Our main goal for 2018 is to continue developing and implementing creative solutions that will help communities achieve their social, cultural, economic, and environmental goals. As such, we look forward to working with new and existing clients; meeting other communities and leaders; and learning and implementing other methods and practices into our projects, such as public art.

We pride ourselves on being forward-thinkers; therefore, we believe that creative solutions are the most effective way to tackle the challenges facing communities today. Later this month, we will tell you a little bit more about our “refresh” for 2018. We look forward to an exciting and fulfilling 2018.

On behalf of the entire Nspiregreen team, we wish you a Happy New Year!




We would love to help you with your sustainability goals.