Young Professionals in Transportation – International provided the opportunity for Candidates running for the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Vice President position to answer some questions about why they wanted the position, their qualifications, and their goals for the role. YPT International also asked questions about their vision for the future of the organization, and how organizations that bring together transportation professionals can better collaborate and interface.
For more information and to learn about all of the Candidates, please visit ITE’s candidacy page.
Below are the questions we’ve asked Jason A. Crawford, P.E. (F), Research & Implementation Division Head at Texas A&M Transportation Institute in Arlington, TX, USA; and his answers.
What drew you to the transportation industry?
As a child I was always enamored by civil engineering – Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, and skyscrapers. As I entered into civil engineering undergraduate studies, I wasn’t set on transportation. It wasn’t until I was taking upper level courses from professors that also conducted research at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute that I began to learn more about and become fascinated with transportation. I sought a student worker position where I reduced data for graduate students and my professors. This drew me in more. As I began to open my eyes to transportation, I was fascinated with how the systems are planned, designed, constructed, operated and maintained. Something, like water systems, we take for granted in everyday life. But I was also drawn to the then advancements in Intelligent Vehicle-Highway Systems now known as Intelligent Transportation Systems.
What skills have you learned along the way to improve your effectiveness as a leader and prepare you for the position of International Vice President?
A leader needs many skills. But perhaps one of the most important is to listen to those they are leading. It is important to understand the needs of those being lead so that as a leader you can motivate, inspire, and encourage those working to make a vision a reality, and to also identify and bring the resources needed to achieve the goal. Listening may sound easy, but it is actually challenging. Challenging in that you need to hear and understand what is being said to you, to ask informed follow-up questions to fully grasp the need or idea, and to encourage and facilitate the quiet member of the group to also share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions.
What excites you about the future of transportation and what do you see as the most pressing issue facing transportation in the coming years?
It’s cliché, but everything! There is so much activity and development in transportation now than what I recall very early in my career. Whether it be connected/automated vehicles, shared service transportation, technology improvements and advances, understanding and improving linkages between transportation and health, or urban redesigns through complete streets. These are all very exciting and fascinating areas just to point out a few. But there are other areas to that offer excitement: improving public engagement on proposed projects, Vision Zero initiatives, traditional roadway signs and markings improvements. Transportation is very exciting!
What project or task has been your most significant accomplishment so far?
To borrow and paraphrase Matthew McConaughey when asked about who he aspires to be, “I’m always chasing that significant accomplishment.” I’ve greatly enjoyed the many research projects I’ve both worked on and led, the National Highway Institute courses I’ve taught to wonderful professionals, and the federal projects I’ve completed. Each of them impacted me in some way. Some allowed me to learn from mistakes to be watchful for in the future and not repeat. Some built on the successes of past work. Not being a designer or directly impacting operations, it is difficult to point to a physical accomplishment that benefited the public. What I do see from my planning research are small improvements I have contributed to that influence the process.
Did you have any mentors along the way? How did they inspire you?
Oh my gosh, yes. In fact, I credit my mentors, both formal and informal, for me being where I am today. My mentors were present in my undergraduate and graduate studies, as I was a young professional, and even today campaigning for ITE Vice President. First of all, my mentors inspired me to always take an opportunity. Whether that was to speak to an ITE group, apply to a leadership program, or run for ITE elected office. Second, my mentors gave me perspective and insight or wisdom. Often they had face my challenges or choices, and were sounding board of advice as I considered and made my decisions.
What is the biggest risk you’ve had to take in your career so far?
The biggest risk I have taken in my career was to cover and protect the staff working for me when a major research contract did not come through. My group was left with severe coverage exposure. I made it my priority to find coverage for the staff working for me, and then sought coverage for myself. I was lucky to have had an opportunity at the end of that period to begin a new type of work for me combining my interests in work zone safety, construction, traffic operations, and public involvement to serve a high profile construction project as a mobility coordinator. My staff survived that coverage scare 10 years ago. Today, I still serve as a mobility coordinator on different high profile construction projects.
Do you have one piece of advice for young transportation professionals on how to succeed within their careers?
Get involved in your professional association and build your professional network of contacts that will provide information, mentoring, support, and encouragement throughout your career.
How can young professionals organizations better collaborate – and if you are elected ITE’s next International VP, what will you do to support young professionals in the transportation world?
I was chair of ITE’s Texas District Younger Members Committee for many years. Then and now, I encourage young professionals to proactively get involved with their professional organization. There are many opportunities in ITE and other associations to volunteer your time in small and big ways, to support or to lead. Take advantage of those opportunities. Contributions through service today, are the seeds to future elected leadership opportunities. Unlike some groups where young members are slotted onto committees, ITE is very open – young members and professionals are welcome to participate. In fact, ITE membership is stepped through our 30-to-30 program where dues increase from $30 to full dues between ages 23 and 30. This program was conceived and advocated by my peers in the inaugural LeadershipITE program as a way to attract and remove financial barriers to ITE membership. ITE welcomes young professionals to join and participate. We need your voice at all levels because you are the future of ITE and other associations.
We look forward to posting the responses from the other Candidates once received.