Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Advice for TRB Committee Involvement

I often get asked by young professionals about what I have done to be involved with TRB. I began my involvement in the Transportation Research Board Meeting #TRBAM with activity surrounding the Kittelson interest in Highway Capacity Manual research. The foundation of that work was a solid base to start branching out to get involved in activities that were more diverse than what Kittelson was involved. This cognizant choice was a function of my interests and what I saw of as a need for the firm. This allowed diversity of the "brand" and growth of the staff involved. There was another person involved in this sort of work at the time, so it wasn't entirely a jump to a new topic either.

Looking back, the combination of a new business line or one that could be enhanced by even more dedication to the effort, I found that the chances to lead for a young professional were ample and while from a financial standpoint did not make the most sense; the company was exceptional in its interest and dedication where they would follow people that had a passion for a particular topic. Blending the expertise in KAI's core Operations business and complimentary topics was a recipe for success provided that both parties are willing to make the investment.

Back to the TRB story...
The Traffic Signal Systems Committee added me as a younger member which was a great entry into the inner circle, sitting at the Big Kids table at the formal meetings. The experience was daunting at the start, but slowly by volunteering time and organizing efforts (workshops on Sunday, paper reviews, strategic planning, etc) it lead to greater exposure and an understanding of teaming arrangements both in the research community and for local projects. It lead to a payback over the long term, not often something that a corporate quarterly financial report would highlight.

Once you have initially started with a Committee, coordination with other people across TRB is of interest to diversify the range of topics that you can get involved with. In the private sector this can help build that next group of professionals that would continue to grow the market.

Tips for getting more involved in a Committee
1. Analyze the activities they are doing and think about how well they are doing them and if you can help (website, social media - who is in charge of this?, newsletter - do we have one?)
2. Email the Committee chair and or Secretary and start a dialogue to inquire if they have any ideas.
3. Sign up to develop a Research Problem Statement, joint with another Committee. The other Committee may not know your experience level and your technical understanding in your topic may be higher than theirs. If you are new to the profession this is difficult, but you certainly add value in the other Committees work.
4. Attend the meetings. I know it can be hard to get there, but it means a lot to the Committee Chair. It is sort of a Catch 22, it helps to be on a Committee to get your company/agency to pay for the trip and that's always going to be a barrier.


briandavispdx said...

Peter, this is a great perspective. Even in my second rodeo, I'm finding it a little hard to grasp the role of committees, how their membership works, and how it helps professional development. This illuminates some of that. I was particularly intrigued by your #3, as I had no idea these joint research problem statements existed, and in a sense my thesis topic will be one. I've been seeing very little literature attempting to link logistics performance measures (cost, emissions, etc., of urban deliveries) with signal timing policies, and I'm curious to know if this is along the lines of what you were talking about here.

Thanks for the post!

Lisa Berardi said...

Hi Peter, Lisa Marflak at TRB here. Great advice for first time TRB Annual Meeting attendees! I would like to post a link to your blog on Dec. 31 on TRB's Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ accounts. Please email me if you have any objections: lmarflak@nas.edu.