Mentorship Team Spotlight: Eliza and Destry, WTS Inland Empire

Eliza and DestryMentoring 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 Inland Empire Chapter’s Transportation YOU program, Eliza Echevarria, Community Relations Manager, Riverside County Transportation Commission, and her mentee, Destry, a freshman in college, to find out more about how they met and the journey they are on together in transportation.

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

I am the Community Relations Manager for the Riverside County Transportation Commission. Basically, I am responsible for the external communication for the Commission. I take the complex transportation projects and programs that RCTC administers and make them understandable to the public so that they can see the benefits of their tax dollars at work and can also engage in the outcome of proposed transportation improvements.

What motivated you to be a mentor for Transportation YOU?

Having raised my two children to young adulthood, I saw the direct effect of their struggle to break into their chosen profession without an industry mentor. I saw the opportunity in my association with WTS to make a difference in our local young women’s career path by introducing them to and mentoring them in the transportation field. Sometimes it just takes a little guidance to achieve success in attaining one’s own career goals. Since I have knowledge in the transportation field, I think it is important for me to share that knowledge and ensure the future success of this industry.

Destry, what motivated you to participate in Transportation YOU?

WTS Inland Empire Chapter approached me with an offer to attend Transportation YOU DC Summit after they so graciously had awarded me with the Bimla Rhinehart Memorial Scholarship. What hooked me was the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. The reason I actually attended though, was both the nostalgic city and the offer of a mentor! My parents counseled that this was an offer I couldn’t refuse: a safe way to further investigate this new idea of a career in transportation. At the least, I would have the opportunity to visit some national monuments and historical landmarks. What I got was more than I could have ever anticipated or expected: a new direction in life; valuable and useful exposure to an exciting diversified industry; transparency of facts; connections with strong, independent, competent women happy to be in their respective fields; a view of an innovative and bustling business world and a sense of belonging coupled with affirmative support and networking contacts! Having a personal mentor and witnessing women I could converse with in the field was the game changer.

How did you two meet?

Eliza: We met through the WTS-Inland Empire. Destry was the high school scholarship recipient for our chapter and designee to attend Transportation YOU and I was slated to attend Transportation YOU as a mentor. As it turns out, I think we are a good match and I hope to be able to assist Destry into a career in transportation.

What do you talk about with each other?

Eliza: Destry is a real go-getter. I have every confidence in her career aspirations and know that she will do well wherever she “lands” (she is looking for a career in aviation). My main conversations with her are about being aware of potential opportunities in the field of aviation and the importance of networking.

Destry:Eliza and I talk about how life is going in general, how college is, networking with companies/people, balancing work and life, and, of course the many opportunities available for women in transportation…along with general welcomed advice about a resume. We’ve conversed about my interest to be more involved in WTS and in Transportation YOU. Eliza is available by e-mail, phone and face-to-face. She has the ability to make me feel like the most important person of the moment. As my college years progress, I know I can rely on Eliza for honest conversations of support and guidance.

Destry, how would you describe Eliza as a mentor?

I admire the fact that Eliza accepted the challenge of taking a teenager on an introductory trip to the business world…three time zones away! She is brave, patient and attentive with a listening ear. Eliza is willing to help me in my college and career pursuits. I confided in Eliza that I didn’t know how an Environmental Science degree was going to fit into a career in transportation. She not only enlightened me in the varied connections an environmental science degree had with transportation, but that she herself had a degree in Zoology! That was an “a-ha” moment. Eliza was also there supporting my decision when I turned to Airport Control and Management instead. She didn’t see me as fickle or attempt to sway me in any direction; she respected my interest and honored me as a person. She is an inspiration; a strong woman with career, education and family. Eliza is skilled at public relations and is deservedly The WTS chapter’s “Women of the Year.” She is worthy of admiration!

What is the one best piece of advice Eliza has given you, Destry?

Eliza told me it was okay to reach for the degree I desired. As a high school senior I was intensely worried about what to major in for college. It was a source of great stress for me. Eliza told me that she loved her job and wouldn’t have it any other way. I protested and said something to the effect of, “Well you should, you majored in it!” She then told me her major was in Zoology, not public relations. I was shocked that her degree in Zoology did not hold her back in a career she found she loved. And that a Zoology degree could be in the transportation industry. To a stressed-out high school senior this fact took a lot of pressure off of my shoulders. Eliza’s statement told me that life can take you in many different directions; all you have to do is do what you love, be yourself and it will be a beautiful ride.

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

Eliza: I was just appointed the first Transportation YOU Committee Chair. So the slate is clean and I will be developing a structured plan to formalize our program for the young women in our area. I am fortunate to have many supportive women that are WTS-IE members who are willing to help get this program off of the ground. I know that it will not happen overnight but I am confident that it will be successful.

Eliza, what is the best advice you can offer to young women who is considering entering the transportation industry?

If you put your mind to anything, you can accomplish it. Don’t ever let anyone tell you ‘no’ and ruin your aspirations. Do not be intimidated by the unknown. There is always someone, particularly in the WTS that is willing to help guide you in a career in transportation so ask a lot of questions. Finally, be willing to listen and learn from their wisdom and knowledge, so stay open minded.

For those young women already working with a WTS mentor, stay affiliated with WTS. When you go to college and find that there isn’t a WTS chapter on campus or locally, contact WTS International or your WTS mentor to set one up. Don’t limit yourself to one mentor. Draw from the wisdom of many to help shape your future.

What would you advise other women considering becoming a mentor?

Mentoring is a rewarding experience. It is our responsibility as professionals to plan for the succession of our future young transportation leaders and a wonderful way to invest in our transportation industry.



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