Advance Your Potential by Widening Your Search


When mapping my career path in technology, I honestly never considered working for a transportation agency. I had this naive view that the transportation field was limited to building roads and handling the logistics of cars travelling on the asphalt. Although my undergraduate degree was in chemical engineering, I felt that I wasn’t the “right” type of engineer – civil or mechanical – to consider working for the transportation industry. But everything changed when big data started growing into what it is today. I felt like different industries started opening doors to individuals like me who specialized in technology. Suddenly, it became important for ‘traditional’ industries to use a wider lens and see the potential that technology could have on maintaining relevancy and competitiveness in the market. Through the lens of data, I soon realized transportation’s potential and fell in love with the industry.

The intent of this article is not to recruit you to follow my path in transportation. I am hoping that by sharing my journey and passion, it will inspire you to cast a wider net to advance your career path. Look at your own skillset and research an industry that you might not have considered before and try to imagine how that sector could benefit from what you have to offer.

So, without further ado, let me share five reasons why transportation is amazing and how I came to appreciate it:

1. Connected and autonomous vehicles – driverless cars! Seriously – how cool is that?! Imagine being part of an industry that is taking steps toward the world of the Jetsons. I am not saying if you work in this industry you are going to be building autonomous cars, but you could help build the infrastructure that facilitates this emerging technology. It’s tangible change that is already here and is revolutionizing how we think of commuting. Think about all of the data that needs to be protected, the data that needs to talk to infrastructure or other vehicles, and the ecosystem that needs to be built. There is just so much potential and we’re just starting the process. It’s an opportunity for you to be part of a new frontier – exploring a new world and being on the ground floor of this huge game-changer.

2. Unmanned aircraft systems – you know those drones you can get from the store that you like to fly around for fun? Have you seen the Drone Racing League? We can now use them (well, more powerful commercial purpose drones) to do inspections, mitigate rock fall or natural hazards, or even perform object recognition. Essentially, anything you can think of can be achieved by integrating a drone into the solution.

3. Self-cleaning culverts – more than the name implies, hydraulic technology is enabling progress in all manner of design and construction. Also, how amazing does that name sound? Whenever I hear about it, I can’t stop the image of a Roomba mixed with a culvert.

4. e-Construction – if you have ever been on a construction site, you know the amount of paper involved. Even when I visualize an engineer, I automatically think of a guy in a hardhat holding a huge set of plans. But this is changing and it’s changing fast! If you go to the Apple Store on your iPhone and search construction, you will be bombarded with apps that center on performing daily inspections on your phone or marking up plan sets or even using your phone as a calibration tool.

5. Last but not least– people. Engineers are very special people, and funny too. After spending some time on a construction site, you start viewing the world a little differently. Things move so fast that you have to learn to let go and move on to finding solutions for the next problem. At the same time, it is challenging to implement change in an environment that is comprised of a lot of structured thinking. I try my best not to categorize everyone in the industry into one single typeset but in my experience I find even when situations can be challenging, engineers and transportation professionals have great foresight and even greater hearts. Working with them has been so rewarding.

There are so many other exciting initiatives that I can write about but these are my favorites and the ones that get me up in the morning excited as ever to go to work. When I think of transportation, to me it symbolizes freedom, and technology represents connectivity. Why wouldn’t everyone want to be part of a world that connects these two laudable concepts?

I recognize that even though I love this industry, that doesn’t mean it would be the right path for you. If you look past my evangelization for transportation, you’ll see the larger message here is that just because your degree or career path has taken you in one direction does not mean you can’t diversify and bring real value to a different field. My advice is to take a look at non-traditional career paths and envision tapping new potential with your particular and unique skillset. The world is filled with unlimited possibilities and your unique experiences and skills should be celebrated and can elevate your field in new and exciting ways.

Lekshmy Sankar is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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