Moving Forward on FORWARD THINKING Sean Coleman of Kimley-Horn shares his perspective of Leadership ITE and its potential role in heading off global transportation issues Accelerating environmental, political and economic factors are challenging transit systems around the world. Since 1993, catastrophic storms have disrupted major freight and rail shipments through the Midwest and southern United States, including those delivering coal to power plants, natural oil to refineries and chlorine to water treatment systems nationwide. In 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil ignited fear that practically paralyzed this country’s aviation industry. Fourteen years later, public safety concerns still plague transportation logistics, now at a global level. The world’s expanding populations are dramatically increasing urban transit problems and requiring more consumables be distributed more frequently across lands and seas. In the U.S. alone, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates the cost of upgrading decaying roads, bridges, railroads and transit systems at $3.6 trillion if accomplished by 2020. The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) recognizes these critical issues and in 2013, introduced “Leadership ITE” to encourage and empower its members to be active leaders in local and global discussions about vital transportation improvements. Thirty participants were selected to engage in an intensive nine-month program of workshops, conferences, team projects and other activities addressing the challenges and opportunities that face the transportation profession and ITE. They explored current issues in transportation, developed and honed leadership competencies and strengthened the professional network required to excel as leaders in their places of employment and communities. EG: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH Leadership ITE? SC: It was one I’ll cherish for the rest of my career. I invested roughly 350 hours, which included attending multi-day meetings centered around three International ITE Board of Direction meetings: Washington, D.C. in November, 2013 for the program kick-off; Miami in March, 2014 for the ITE Technical Conference; and Seattle in August, 2014 for the ITE Annual Meeting. This inaugural class was a melting pot of 30 transportation professionals from across the U.S. and Canada with public-sector, privatesector, and academic backgrounds - each person brought a unique perspective that enhanced the group’s energy. Our class took part in professionally facilitated team-building and leadership development exercises at each session and had monthly webinars focusing on soft skills. EG: HOW WERE YOU SELECTED FOR THE INAUGURAL CLASS OF Leadership ITE? SC: I was sponsored by my company Kimley-Horn. The application process was fairly strenuous - I had to solicit letters of recommendation from multiple references and respond to 10 lengthy essay questions. The questions weren’t simple - they forced me to consider how transportation fits into and influences society and quality of life, and to consider the future challenges of the transportation profession. I also had to articulate exactly how I would use the experience with Leadership ITE to better my employer, ITE as an organization, and the transportation profession in general (pretty heavy stuff!) But the application process really helped shape my expectations for the program, and I knew from the start that I could not just be a passive participant. My company had put a lot of faith in me by backing my application, and ITE was granting me this huge honor to be a part of the inaugural program, so I realized I had my work cut out to leverage the program into something even larger than just “leadership development.” EG: WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF THE PROGRAM? SC: The most consuming aspect of the program was the small group projects that spanned the course of the program and culminated with presentations to the ITE Board prior to our graduation in Seattle. It was a challenge to coordinate schedules amongst six geographically diverse individuals, balancing between four different time zones and Canadian holidays! Our group was also diverse in background, which was at first was a challenge having to wrestle so many different opinions and views on our topic; but we quickly found that leveraging those different backgrounds ultimately produced a stronger, more compelling outcome. EG: TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR PROGRAM PROJECT AND ITS OUTCOME. SC: The projects focused on challenges facing ITE as an organization and to our profession, and we were tasked with developing strategies for how the ITE Board might tackle them. The most inspirational aspect of the program was seeing how our efforts led directly to tangible results acted on by the ITE Board. For example, one of the initiatives that came out of our work as a group was attracting more young engineers into ITE through a reduced dues initiative. The organization realizes it’s important to develop a strong membership of young engineers and position them as leaders who can engage and shape the future of transportation. Based on our class’ recommendation, the Board adopted a new dues structure aimed at capturing and retaining young members into ITE. EG: WHAT WAS YOUR TAKEAWAY FROM Leadership ITE? SC: To me, the networking opportunities with my classmates, the ITE Board and industry leaders were the most valuable parts of the program—I have made connections with colleagues and formed friendships that I will have with me the rest of my career. I certainly learned new skills and enhanced existing ones during the formal leadership training seminars, especially those related to leadership in a volunteer organization. The biggest lesson learned though, came from the discussions and group interactions, which were enhanced by the diverse backgrounds we each brought to the fold. The passion I saw from my classmates about ITE and about the transportation profession was inspiring and invaluable, as was the idea generation and sharing that was fostered during the discussions. EG: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG ENGINEERS LOOKING TO INCREASE THEIR LEADERSHIP SKILLS? SC: Get involved early at whatever professional organization you think best matches your interests! That’s the advice I constantly give young engineers in my office: don’t simply sit on the sidelines, eat fried chicken and mac n’ cheese at lunch meetings, and attend conferences because of the desirable destinations. You need to volunteer and get involved with the goal of bettering yourself and supporting the organization. Also, don’t be nervous about the skill sets you think you may or may not bring to the table—just the act of volunteering opens up more networking and skills development opportunities than you’d ever discover being passive. And as you continue to volunteer, you’ll naturally grow your connections and your sphere of influence, which will organically grow into opportunities to demonstrate leadership without needing to intentionally seek them. The best part about my experience with ITE is the friendships that I made. It’s now so much easier to raise my hand to volunteer when I know that I am among friends who share the same passion for our organization and our chosen profession. SEE YOUR AD IN OUR NEXT ISSUE! WHY advertise? Engineering Georgia provides you with a unique opportunity to build your brand, promote your services and grow your business. It is a magazine that is designed to provide you with the ROI you should expect for your advertising dollars and will feature content that is laser focused on furthering your business development goals. Advertise in Engineering Georgia and get results!
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