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Featured Post: A closed mouth doesn’t get fed

By: Amelia Lin

From the cornucopia of advice and wisdom I garnered from the trailblazing individuals

at the 2023 COMTO Conference, the title quote from Kimberly Slaughter, who led the Women’s CEO panel, struck a chord. It showed me that, ultimately, I am the one who has the power to direct the course of my life, and it is up to me to speak up for myself.


My name is Amelia Lin, and I am a COMTO CITY Intern with the host company HNTB. Participating in the CITY Intern Program gave me the opportunity to participate in professional development webinars, meet industry professionals, and present at the national conference.

COMTO Interns take a group photo at the national conference.
Standing (left to right): Jeremy Edwards, Charles Cave, Rowland Oloye, Adepoju Arogundade, Jonathan Miranda, Aditya Mukerjee, Justin Vincent, Kunle Akinlosotu, Amelia Lin, and Nicholas Worrell | Sitting (left to right): Taria Smith, Unknown, Colean Bembry, and Alicia Walker

Lessons Learned

I learned about COMTO shortly after being accepted into my internship (the reverse is what typically happens to students in the CITY Intern Program). I like to keep my eyes and ears open to new opportunities. The campus recruiter I spoke to emailed the CITY Intern application to me, explaining it was a way to get involved with the transportation community at large while meeting and learning from professionals with incredible stories and lived experiences. I was sold.

After hearing about the opportunity, I had less than a week to write a personal statement and find two individuals to write letters of recommendation. Luckily, I had a great network of mentors and faculty willing to back me on such short notice. A few weeks later, I was thrilled to hear from the application review committee about my acceptance into the program. I could never have imagined the whirlwind of adventures ahead.


Within days of starting my internship, I discovered I would be presenting a “Day in the

Life of an Intern” video at the COMTO Conference the following week. I scrambled to compile, videotape, and edit the piece before the deadline—managing to complete the task unscathed.


In addition to filming the presentation, I attended professional development webinars

where CITY Interns from across the country had opportunities to build connections while hearing from industry professionals on networking tips, resume advice, digital footprint, conference preparation, and much more.


One piece of advice that stood out to me was from one of our speakers, Kelli Kelly, the director of business development strategy at Kiewit, who shared with us a crucial tip for communication in the professional world.

In order to be heard and taken seriously in the workplace, it is important to “speak the way they speak” because communication is one of many ways others perceive you, and portraying yourself in a professional manner can build your reputation and accelerate your success in the workplace.


After learning this helpful advice, I was able to apply it the following week at the COMTO Conference, which came with a lot of firsts for me. The conference marked the first time I traveled by myself, the first time I was in Los Angeles, and the first time I would meet the other CITY Interns in person. I was nervous but excited to see where this adventure would take me.


One of the most memorable seminars that I attended was “Climbing the Corporate Ladder,” presented by Greg Bradley from Bradley Consulting & Training, and Ken Middleton from Jacksonville Transit Authority. Greg and Ken emphasized the traits and what it takes to be a leader and a team player.

Leadership is creating a desire for people to follow you through your words and actions. I learned that a good leader is someone who doesn’t forget their roots; they bring their team along for the highs and lows. As they ascend in the organization, they take with them those who helped along the way.

A good leader keeps an open mind and hires individuals who come from different backgrounds, people who prioritize and appreciate diversity of thought. A good leader delegates tasks, holds people accountable, and trusts their team to do the job well. Acting with dignity, consistency, and integrity is incredibly important when you are in a position of decision-making and authority.

As Ken Middleton put it, “A leader is strong, but not rude; thoughtful, but not weak; humble, but not timid; and proud, but not arrogant.” From both Ken and Greg, I learned what it takes to grow myself as a leader and empower others around me to follow suit.


During the “Emerging Leaders Forum,” Carita Ducre from the American Public Transportation Association, and Ayesha Hassan from Michael Baker International, spoke about the ups and downs of the workplace and ways to expedite your success and learning. Both Carita and Ayesha emphasized the importance of finding mentors and how hearing from these people can help open your eyes to opportunities you would not have otherwise known while giving you advice and counsel on problems and prospects.

Fostering bonds between peers and people in places where you want to be is crucial for setting yourself up for success in that realm.

After the seminar, I had the chance to speak with Ayesha about her experience finding her niche, and she talked to me about the importance of intentional exploration in one's youth. Taking the time to go out and speak to others already doing what interests you, finding mentors, and carving out opportunities for yourself is what's going to set you apart from your peers and guide you toward the path of success. I took that advice to heart, and when I got back to the workplace, I began to talk to more people and ask more questions. Since then, I have grown my support network and my breadth of knowledge so that I can take charge of my own future.


Many Thanks!

From COMTO, I would like to thank Alicia Walker, Colean Bembry, Erin Thompsan, Yolanda Brooks and Charles Cave for believing in us, encouraging us to step outside of our comfort zones, and for being the most wonderful, passionate group of individuals rooting for our growth and success. As for the other CITY Interns, I am so grateful to have met all of you: Justin, Taria, Adepoju, Kunle, Jonathan, Rowland, Jeremey, and Aditya—I know all of you will do amazing things now and in the future. I hope that we all continue to stay friends for a long, long time uplifting each other and supporting each other in all of our goals and endeavors, as well as in times of hardship and failure.


In addition to the wonderful, memorable individuals mentioned above, I want to thank Jack Wang for your charisma, open-mindedness, and general zest for life and learning; Adeline Chien, Catherine Curtis, and Brenda Nnambi for your overwhelming support and encouragement; Nicholas Worrell for your reminders that even coming from a younger generation, we are Valuable, Important, and Powerful; Juan Uribe and Mel Sears for sharing your stories and experience; and Kris Agers for your uncanny ability to connect others and make people feel at ease.


There are definitely others I met and learned from, but to include everyone would turn what was supposed to be a short recollection of memories into a 100-page novel. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you COMTO, thank you HNTB, and thanks to everyone who made this experience possible.



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