2022 YPT Mentoring Program Spotlight: Heather Hanson



Can you tell us a little about where each of you work and what you do?

Mike is the Chief Operating Officer at Pittsburgh Transportation Authority (formerly Port Authority of Allegheny County). Mike heads up all operating divisions at PTA including bus, light rail, paratransit and incline. I work at the biotechnology company, Genentech in South San Francisco as the Bus Operations Program Manager. In my role, I get to work with an amazing team of drivers who provide some of the best commuter bus service in the Bay Area 😉 I also get to work on electrification planning, designing infrastructure and transitioning our fleet of buses from diesel to electric.

Have you ever been in a mentoring relationship before? If so, what was your role?

Not formally, but I look at many of my colleagues at Genentech as mentors as they have many years of experience in transportation and are always open to share their learnings in this industry!

What prompted you to get involved with a mentorship program?

Continuous learning! I am a life-long learner.

For those that did a mentoring pairing: With YPT, we’ve done the pairing and given suggestions on best practices, but left it to participants to structure their mentorship. Can you walk us through how your partner did mentoring? (Who takes the lead; how often do you meet; do you structure your meetings or set goals – give us an inside look into what mentoring looks like for the two of you)

Mike and I usually meet once a month via phone call. We like to catch up on current events and share what we have going on in our worlds. Since we live so far away, I like to hear more about Pittsburgh, PA and he, San Francisco, CA. We talk about what projects we are both working on and because we both work in operations, our daily challenges etc. overlap with one another’s. We also chat through some of the projects I have going on and receive feedback/perspective from Mike.

Why do you think it’s important to participate in mentoring, especially in this field?

Being so early on in my career, I know that I can benefit from learning from a more seasoned professional.  Mike has over 28 years of experience in this field- so I quite literally struck gold being paired with him!

What topics did you find most beneficial to discuss with mentor(s), and why? What is something that you’ve learned from your experience in our mentoring program?

Work life balance is a topic Mike and I make sure to find time for when we meet. I also find value from chatting through relatable operational quirks & challenges. One of the many things that I learned from this mentorship with Mike, is how to better understand my team of drivers and the work that they do. Mike started off his transportation career as a bus operator, so he has a unique perspective which is so valuable!

Leave a Reply