Mentorship Pair Spotlight: Catherine and Diana

_MG_0047Mentoring is at the heart of the Transportation YOU initiative. Mentorship exposes girls to opportunities in transportation fields early, inspires them to set high goals, and provides girls with the tools to succeed academically and, eventually, professionally. WTS International sat down with a mentorship pair from the WTS Puget Sound Chapter’s Transportation YOU program, Diana Giraldo, Project Engineer at HNTB Corporation, and her mentee, Catherine Rollins, who will soon enter the 12th grade at Franklin High School to find out more about how they met and the journey they are on together in transportation.

Diana, what type of work do you do in the transportation industry?

I’m a civil engineer and do mostly highway design. I’m currently the design manager for the I-405 Widening and Express Toll Lanes Project – a $155M design-build project.

What motivated you to be a mentor for Transportation YOU, Diana?

It feels good to help someone else grow. I’m always motivated when we’re talking about fostering diversity in the workforce and encouraging girls to go into STEM fields, and transportation in particular seemed like a very effective way to contribute to the cause from the early stages. I think it’s important to get girls excited as they learn about the different options and paths they could take in school. I also believe that transferring any knowledge is something that we all owe to society, and mentoring is a rewarding way to do so.

So how did you two meet?

Diana: We were paired randomly at the WTS Puget Sound Transportation YOU kick-off event last year.

What motivated you to join the Transportation YOU program?

Catherine: Growing up I always learned physically rather than verbally. I was able to understand exactly how everything was done. I enjoyed building things and science. So I thought, why not be a part of technology? At my school, Franklin high school, there’s a group called Inspiring Girls Now In Technology Evolution (IGNITE). It helps young women learn more about the technology field by going on field trips and going to several events that were led by women, in the hopes that young women like me would soon want to become a part of the technology field—and it worked! I was soon paired up with Diana and became even more involved in the program. We soon heard that we had earned the opportunity to be a part of the Transportation YOU DC Youth Summit, and we were both excited! We knew it would be an excellent experience for the both of us to learn more about the transportation. Very few people know exactly all the information that goes along with transportation and by getting the chance to do this at a young age can help many young women like myself to become more involved with technology and transportation.

Catherine, how would you describe Diana as a mentor? What do you admire about her?

How I would describe my mentor is almost as a split image of me! What I mean by this is we both love our families. We both have sisters that annoy and try to control our lives due to their very strong personalities. That doesn’t stop us one bit though, it helps us want to strive to become a better/stronger person. To know that you will always have a battle with your strong willed sister makes you want everything more. We both are not really loud people who just love being around people all the time, but we can always depend on our families. Diana is an engineer, and I want to become an environmental engineer when I get older. Knowing that you have someone that you can look up to that has achieved a similar goal to what you want to be in life and shares the same passion as yourself can only draw you to a person even more. How she became an engineer, and became clear to my family is very amazing and important to me. I am able to actually look up to her not only as a role model, but also a mother figure.

What do you think are the benefits of having a mentor?

Catherine: There are several benefits when it comes to having a mentor. Having a bond where you can talk to your mentor about certain things you don’t feel comfortable talking to your parents with can help out a lot. You are able to talk to someone who comes from a whole different background from you, and is willing to help you from a different perspective than your family can. Having a mentor means knowing someone who’s had different life experiences, and can coach you to become better at certain things.

Diana, did you have any mentors when you were starting out in the industry?

I think I have always benefitted from mentors, starting with my parents. They were great role models as they both worked, went to school, and raised two daughters, always making it look easy. Once I started in this industry at HNTB, I was lucky enough to have a woman as my boss, Wendy Taylor. She has always provided me with personal and professional support. This mentoring relationship has helped me stay focused and guide my career in a direction that matches my goals and life demands.

What do you to talk about with each other?

Catherine: When Diana and I are together we pretty much talk about everything, from our families, to school, college, to the different foods we hate and why!

Diana: Yes, anything and everything! How school is going, her family, her interests, what classes she should take next year, sports, job interviews, shoes, food, engineering, environment, activities, projects, events. When we’re focused on transportation, we talk about the different things that environmental engineers can do, and what would help her get there. We talk about the many fields and opportunities that engineering can offer. We talk about anything that allows us to develop trust and just have a safe environment to ask questions.

How often do you meet?

Diana: We try to meet once a month through the chapter events and other activities we plan. If we don’t meet personally, we check on each other by a phone call, or by texting.

Let’s talk about WTS International’s flagship Transportation YOU, the DC Summit. How did the Summit influence you?

Catherine: The DC Summit has changed me in various ways. Being able to travel to another state, to meet other women who have achieved or want to achieve what I want to become when I get older, and just being able to talk or get help from those who play a major role in transportation have all impacted me. Thanks to this opportunity, I was able to understand more about how important woman are in transportation, and also the various types of transportation opportunities out there. Everyone knows the basics of cars, trains, bikes, busses, etc., but now I understand the industry at a deeper level, exactly what each mode does, and what it takes to get there.

Does your WTS chapter have other kinds of Transportation YOU programs happening?

Diana: We’re taking a break for the summer. We’re discussing our lessons learned as it was our first year with the program. We will probably repeat some of the events and field trips that were successful, as well as a video project for the girls to interview influential women in many of the important projects that are going on in Seattle. We’ll be connecting with other chapters to also share effective events that can be recreated.

Catherine, what is the one best piece of advice your mentor has given you?

One of the best pieces of advice Diana has given me is that you can be successful in anything you do as long as you keep your mind to it!

Diana, what is the one best piece of advice you can offer to other young women considering entering the transportation industry?  

DO IT! It’s really exciting and rewarding because you can make a direct impact in your community. There are many choices, so, try different things until you find the one that you enjoy doing, because even sometimes failing at what you love is much better than succeeding at what you hate.


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