By Ellen Jisu Lee
Moderator: Dan Beal
Panelists: Kate Amissah, Fred Chang, Emily Finkel, and Caitlin Shankle
On Wednesday, March 1, transportation consultant Dan Beal moderated a panel of young transportation professionals on the USC main campus as part of the METRANS Spring 2017 Lunch with a Practitioner Speaker Series.
Panelist Kate Amissah holds a Master’s in Civil Engineering from USC and is a Principal Transportation Planner at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). Fred Chang holds a B.S. in Policy, Planning, and Development and minor in Architecture from USC, and currently works as an associate transportation planner at Iteris. Emily Finkel is a recent graduate from USC with a Master of Planning and works as a transportation planner in the Los Angeles office of Fehr & Peers. Caitlin Shankle is also a recent graduate from USC with a Master of Planning and works as a transportation analyst with Kittleson & Associates, Inc.
Moderator Dan Beal began by asking the four panelists for a brief introduction and to share a bit about their job search process. Though each panelist had a different educational background and job search experience, they each shared three common points: the importance of networking, researching a prospective company well before an interview date, and making efforts to develop computer programming skills while in school.
The panelists agreed that employers prefer hiring a person referenced by someone they know, hence the importance of networking. Kate Amissah mentioned that her application never made it to an interview until she sent it through her professor. The panelists mentioned that conducting research on a prospective company prior to an interview is important because sometimes an interviewer may try to gauge how much you know about the company and/or how much you care about the position you are applying for by what you know at the interview. Finally, they all agreed that knowing how to run programming and software, such as R (a programming language), analytic software, and/or ArcGIS, can make you a strong candidate in terms of someone who knows how to analyze and visualize data, and thus portraying one as a more effective planner.
Drawing from their own unique experiences, the panelists shared useful advice with the students. Kate Amissah, with her education background in civil engineering, encouraged students to get involved with the METRANS’s Mentor program to better plan their career. She shared that she met moderator Dan Beal through the METRANS’s Mentor program and she is still very much in touch with her mentor. Before she met Mr. Beal, her interest was only engineering. He encouraged her to broaden her perspective and expand her interests to planning considering that the job market is very small in infrastructure engineering alone. This recommendation helped her pave her own unique career path as it is today.
Fred Chang had a very different career path compared to the other panelists. He was able to build a good relationship at a METRANS field trip with the vice president of Iteris. The field trip gave him a great opportunity to demonstrate his interest in transportation to the vice president, which led to an internship opportunity and to his current position as an associate transportation planner. His career path is a testimony to the students that an opportunity can come to you unexpectedly at any time and in any form.
Emily Finkel had another fortunate career path and transitioned an internship to become a full time transportation planner. In her discussion, she encouraged students to take their internships seriously and also communicate their career to their superiors because it gives one a good shot at a full-time employment once they graduate. She also stressed that students should build strong relationships with their cohorts, as they could refer you to their superiors for an open position.
Pursuing her BA in Economics and Public Policy, Caitlin Shankle did not have a background in planning during her bachelor’s degree. After working in community development and as a Peace Corps volunteer, she decided to pursue a Master’s in Planning. In her discussion, she mentioned that it is important to know what you want to do as part of your career because it is difficult to be happy in a job one isn’t interested in. When she was searching for a job, she always did a research on the company to find if the company was aligned to her interests.
Bio of panelists:
Transportation Planner, Metro
Kate Amissah can be reached at [email protected].
Associate Transportation Planner, Iteris
Fred Chang can be reached at [email protected].
Transportation Planner, Fehr & Peers
Emily Finkel can be reached at [email protected].
Transportation Analyst, Kittelson and Associates
Caitlin Shankle can be reached at [email protected].
Ellen Jisu Lee
Ellen Jisu Lee is a Master of Planning Candidate at the USC Price School. She is interested in the movement of people and goods within a city and what defines a characteristics of a city. She expects to complete her degree in May 2017. She can be reached at [email protected] or at [email protected].