Author Archive

networking

5 Survival Tips to Remember When Networking

When I moved to DC from Pittsburgh, I thought I knew how to network and the importance of it. Networking in DC is required to survive – yes, I said survive. It is a vital part of how successful you are in the professional environment anywhere. It’s how you meet people, build your personal and professional brands and/or land career opportunities. It took me some time to get the lay of the land, but I’m acclimated to it now. I have leveraged networking to land my current position as a Community Outreach Specialist at Nspiregreen.

In 2016, I met Veronica O. Davis, my current boss, at a networking event. When I met Veronica, I was familiar with her company, Nspiregreen, and how they approached Transportation Planning and Environmental Engineering different. Shortly after our introduction, Veronica asked me “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” I was stumped. I prepared for all of the typical questions, but I wasn’t ready for that. We talked about other mind-boggling topics and went our separate ways after the event. I knew that the connection with Veronica was one to foster. Fast forward to 2018. I was scrolling LinkedIn and saw a job posting that Nspiregreen was hiring. Without question, I applied. Unfortunately, I did not get the job I was interviewing for, BUT I was offered a career opportunity that fit my skill set. I am now a Community Outreach Specialist at Nspiregreen. Understanding the five survival skills listed below has contributed to my experience to landing employment at Nspiregreen and building relationships in the world in general.

Networking isn’t one size fits all – Networking is a term that’s thrown around as a solution when you want to meet people, grow your business or do both. It was presented to me as the end all be all solution to me when I was new to DC. I want to make it known that networking isn’t always that simple. Sometimes you know what to expect with certain events, other times you don’t – like when I met Veronica. Approach the networking event with an open-mind but have a plan for why you are attending. It may be to get five email addresses or to engage one person. Make sure you have a plan and try your best to accomplish the goal that you set for the event. Don’t be so hard on yourself either. It takes time to find your pace.

Your career is your responsibility – Network with intent. Going to networking events to build your network is your choice and your responsibility. Be prepared by doing your research and figuring out why this event aligns with what your overall goal is. I would also suggest to research who will be at the event. Do a google search or a quick LinkedIn scan. Figure out how this event or the people at the event can benefit you and/or your career. For events that don’t list who is there, do a quick internet search at the event once you find out who is there.

My personal experience with taking control of my career began when I was new to the Transportation industry. I was previously in the Healthcare industry. I took the initiative to join WTS to get a better understanding of the ins and outs of what the Transportation industry had to offer. At events, I would ask people questions google couldn’t answer for me and I absorbed it all. My manager didn’t require me to join a network and attend events. I decided to do what I felt was best for my career. Learning the outside information served it’s purpose when I was responsible to write project descriptions and approaches for proposals.

It takes time and dedication to develop your network – The other individuals that you are networking with or intend to engage have their own agenda, too. You might not be a part of their agenda. That’s okay. Everyone isn’t meant for your journey and you’re not meant to be a part of everyone’s journey. To develop my professional network, I would ask people to have coffee or lunch with me. Before I met with them I would research them, listen to their interviews to get a better understanding of their work. It helped me ask good questions and not waste their time. During my time with them, I would use every opportunity to pick their brain about things I couldn’t find online. In my experience, the follow-up has been important because it’s a stepping stone of building that relationship with that person. For the real busy people, it gave them a chance to remember who I was and more of who I am. The follow-ups are not a one-sided interview.  After meeting Veronica, I met her for coffee near her office. In hindsight, it was vital for me to do that because if I didn’t I wouldn’t have been successful in landing my job. Another point I want to stress about the follow-up is that it has the ability to change the narrative of when that person speaks of you from “I’ve met (your name) at an event” to “I know (your name)”. When people know you in an environment, that holds weight. Keep networking and remember to follow up!

Feel the fear and do it anyways – Understand that working a room by talking about yourself or pitching your skill set and/or company isn’t easy. You have to start somewhere though. The only way to master it is to keep practicing and realizing what strengths you have and what weaknesses you need to improve. When you understand your value, it shines through your communication.

Make it fun – Networking shouldn’t be a daunting task. It should be something you want to engage in. Make it work for you. Go to fun events, bring fun people with you or bring the fun with you. You might meet someone at a concert. Think outside the box. Be creative. Travel outside of your zone. That’s where the growth is.

I hope that my survival story has shifted, confirmed or improved your viewpoint of how you network. Remember to be great on purpose! I’d love to hear your survival stories. Comment below.

Christina Glancy is a Pittsburgh Native who serves as our Community Outreach Specialist. She has built a unique perspective which blends project management, marketing, community involvement and data analysis. She has a successful track record of engaging diverse groups of stakeholders throughout the Transportation, Health Care and Cybersecurity Industries. She believes in changing the world one conversation at a time.

 

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Should the Experiment City Be Revived?

I find it fascinating how the writings and sketches of visionaries like Le Corbusier, Ebenezer Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Clarence Perry, to name a few, have influenced the development of cities around the world. I think that is the reason I was drawn to planning and engineering: I love how visions and ideas become tangible.

In late February, I had the opportunity to watch Chad Freidrich’s documentary “The Experimental City.” The film is about the Minnesota Experimental City (MXC): a planned domed futuristic city for 250,000 residents to be placed in the isolated woods of Swatara, Minnesota. Envisioned by Athelstan Spilhaus, a scientist and futurist comic strip writer, the purpose of this experimental project was to tackle the problems affecting urban centers in the 1960s (and today): pollution, segregation, sprawl, and aging infrastructure. The city was supposed to pilot the latest technologies in communications, transit, pollution control, and energy supply, learn from the mistakes, and ultimately, provide solutions to create more livable cities for the 21st Century.

“Our New Age” Comic (1966) by Athelstan Spilhaus. Climate change was identified as a future problem by  Athelstan Spilhaus' "Our New Age" comic. Source: Archdaily

“Our New Age” Comic (1966) by Athelstan Spilhaus. Climate change was identified as a future problem by Athelstan Spilhaus’ “Our New Age” comic.
Source: Archdaily

Things did not quite go as planned despite the support from public and private stakeholders (spoiler alert!). To Spilhaus and his backers’ surprise, the community of Swatara and many environmental groups, like the Izaak Walton League, rallied against the project. MXC was seen as a source of pollution; not a way to tackle it. As such, Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency did not grant a permit and the project ran out of funding. MXC became a thing of the past.

However, after watching the movie, I wonder: should MXC be revived? Personally, I do not like the idea of having a domed, segregated city placed in a pristine environment. I do believe that these unspoiled areas should be conserved for the public’s enjoyment. However, I like the idea of establishing pilot cities in previously impacted areas, such as brownfield sites, to evaluate the effects of new technologies at a faster rate.  This will not be an easy task. It will require strong public-private partnership and community support as well as regulatory oversight.

We are faced with many challenges, such as the effects of climate change and aging infrastructure, which require the development of new technologies such as autonomous vehicles. Pilot cities may promote the proper advancement of technologies and its consequences at a faster pace. There is always a risk in experimentation. However, trial-and-error is how humankind has advanced over the years.

Jimena Larson is an environmental engineer and urban planner from Bogota, Colombia interested in water, infrastructure, and urban design challenges

Katy freeway (I-10) in Houston, Tx

Discussion of Telework Continues

Last week, I discussed the April 11th Kojo Nnambi Show from WAMU, where he explored telework and further delved into some of the issues pertinent to telework. How important is telework, not only to the federal workforce, but to local and state agencies as well as the private sector?

According to a study conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), 68 percent of the employees who telework have indicated they would stay with their job versus 62 percent of those who do not telework. Employees in the federal work-force are getting older, so having someone who wants to stick with their job in the long-term is a benefit in itself.

The first question employers will ask is, “does telework make a work force more productive?” Research from the Global Workplace Analytics indicate the following

  • Over two-thirds of employers report of increased productivity among their telecommuters.
  • Best Buy, British Telecom, Dow Chemical, and many others show that teleworkers are 35-40 percent more productive.
  • Businesses lose $600 billion a year in workplace distractions.
  • AT&T workers work five more hours at home than their office workers.
  • JD Edwards teleworkers are 20-25 percent more productive than their office counterparts.
  • American Express workers produced 43 percent more than their office-based counterparts.
  • Compaq increased productivity 15-45 percent.

I am especially interested in whether telework will reduce employee attrition and how traffic congestion plays a role in an employees’ considering another job. Research showed the following results:

  • Losing a valued employee can cost an employer $10,000 to $30,000.
  • 46 percent of companies that allow telework say it has reduced attrition.
  • 14 percent of Americans have changed jobs to shorten the commute.
  • Almost half of employees feel their commute is getting worse; 70 percent of them feel their employers should take the lead in helping them solve the problem.
  • 92 percent of employees are concerned with the high cost of fuel and 80 percent of them specifically cite the cost of commuting to work.
  • 73 percent feel their employers should take the lead in helping them reduce their commuting costs.
  • Two-thirds of employees would take another job to ease the commute.

Other benefits sited through the Analytic research included:

  • Improves employee satisfaction – Two-thirds of people want to work from home.
  • Reduces unscheduled absences – Organizations that implemented a telework program, realized a 63 percent reduction in unscheduled absences.
  • Saves employers money – Nearly six out of ten employers identify cost savings as a significant benefit to telecommuting.
  • Increases collaboration – Once the technologies are in place
  • Equalizes personalities and reduces potential for discrimination
  • Cuts down on wasted meetings – Web-based meetings are better-planned and more apt to stay on message.

The one thing from Kojo’s Show that really hit me was the revelation that if you have bad telework experiences, it is generally an example of bad management. It is a sign of not really thinking out the complexities of the modern work force and how to fairly treat all employees, whether they telecommute or not. If there are problems with telecommuting, there are probably problems with the overall workplace.

Working-from-homeWe know that some jobs just are not appropriate for telework. More collaborative and problem solving can best be achieved with all employees at one location for proper discussion and dialogue. But that is why we have conference calling and webinar capabilities that allow people to share computer screens.  Again, a clear telework policy is necessary. It’s not easy, but nothing worth achieving, is ever easy.

It is important to encourage telework where appropriate, for that matter all Transportation Demand Management (TDM) options, to reduce solo driving. TDM options include carpooling, vanpooling, Guaranteed Ride Home, employer shuttles, flex workdays/ workweeks, etc. Financial incentives are very important to encourage potential employers to incorporate TDM (including telework) into their regular business operations. There are many such program that are available, and it is always easier to use a carrot rather than a stick to initiate a positive action. More information on telework and financial incentives, in this region and across the country, is available below.

  1. !VA
  2. Telework.gov
  3. Telework: Maryland and Virginia
  4. Tax Benefits Gives Added Incentives to Telecommuting
  5. San Diego Association of Governments
  6. Commuter Connections Flextime Rewards
  7. Georgia – Commutesmart

Please provide your thoughts in the comment section whether telework has been successful, or not, in your company or agency. Yes, we want to hear from you!

James Davenport is a TDM Employer Outreach Specialist, on contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Before that, James worked for Prince William County/Department of Transportation as a Regional Planner. In that capacity, he represented the county in regional forums and worked with planners and staff from other localities and transit agencies to help the region plan for its transportation future. For many years, James worked with the National Association of County as a project manager providing education and outreach to county officials, staff and key stakeholder groups on planning issues such as transportation, water quality, collaborative land use and economic development.





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