Mentoring 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 Philadelphia Chapter’s Transportation YOU program—Liz Smith, Manager of Long Range Planning, SEPTA (the transit agency for the Philadelphia region), and her mentee, Haley Arici, a recent high school graduate, to find out more about how they met and the journey they are on together in transportation.
Liz, what type of work do you do in the transportation industry?
As SEPTA’s Manager of Long Range Planning, I work on a variety of planning projects that involve looking at things 5 to even 25 years from now. Those projects range from our King of Prussia Rail Expansion project, to coordinating SEPTA’s input to the region’s 2040 long range transportation plan, to station area planning.
What motivated you to be a mentor for Transportation YOU?
I am passionate about working in the field of Transportation, and I wanted the chance to share that with others. I was fortunate to be exposed to engineering in high school, and had a strong female role model in my Mom, who taught me that I could do anything. Even so, I was not aware of the field of transportation until well into college. If I had known more about it, I would have made some different choices in high school and college that could have really had an impact on my career.
Haley, what motivated you to participate in Transportation YOU?
I was motivated to participate in Transportation YOU because of my interest in engineering. I found out about Transportation YOU through Girl Scouts, and thought it would be perfect for me to join. Through Transportation YOU I hope to gain a better understanding of the different types of engineering, and how they are used in everyday life.
How did you two meet?
Liz: The Philadelphia Chapter does not do pairing for our mentors and mentees, it is more of a group mentoring program where all of the mentors interact with all of the mentees. However, it just so happened that my aunt was one of Haley’s favorite teachers at her school, so we would often talk about that at events. I was very shy in high school, and I could tell that Haley was, too, so I knew we had that in common and that maybe I could help her work on that. Last summer I applied to attend the Transportation YOU Summit in Washington, DC, as her mentor, and we had a wonderful time together. You really get to know someone spending 5 days together!! I was truly proud as I got to see her come out of her shell, gain some confidence, and make friends with the other girls at the Summit.
What do you talk about with each other?
Haley: With Liz, we talk about college, different types of engineering, and the work field. She always gives me advice and is like a big sister to me.
Liz: Mostly about school, college, family, my work and then a little bit of everything else!
What is the one best piece of advice Liz has given you, Haley?
I am a very quiet and shy person, and the best piece of advice my mentor Liz has given me is to break out of my shell and have more confidence in myself.
Does your chapter have other kinds of Transportation YOU programs happening?
Liz: We are in the middle of our fourth year of the Transportation YOU program, with our largest ever group of mentees! We are currently working on some targeted presentations outside of the program to groups such as Girl Scouts to talk about careers in transportation. We were able to fill all the slots in our program this year, so we felt these presentations would be a good way to reach a wider audience than our program can accommodate.
Liz, what is the best advice you can offer to young women who are considering entering the transportation industry?
Seek out any transportation related organizations that you can – they will be an invaluable resource! Look for groups in high school such as Transportation YOU, and then student chapters of professional organizations such as WTS in college. You will get exposure to different transportation projects, as well as a great opportunity to network with professionals in the transportation industry. I found my first job after college through a student chapter at my university.