Saying goodbye is always hard, especially when it involves people who’ve inspired and pushed you to be better as a professional and as a person. It’s even harder when you know that you’re leaving a workplace where the emphasis on “family” permeates through every task and strategy. This past spring, after two years at TransForm, a non-profit focused on transportation and housing solutions to resolve our social equity and climate crises, I was presented with an opportunity to join the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), where I was a former intern.
I knew that someday I wanted to work directly on how to make transit more reliable and safer for all. Making the decision to leave my current position, however, was not something I could do lightly. To fully weigh out all considerations, I sought advice from my mentors. Over the course of my young career, I’ve been fortunate to have met amazing women who have become exemplary models of how to manage a team with respect and thoughtfulness.
My participation in the 2016 WTS Mentorship Program added another name to my roster of contacts. The mentorship program had just started and we talked about career goals over lunch. It was a timely occasion because of my recent offer to come back to SFMTA. My mentor’s reasonable line of questioning helped me articulate the pros and cons of such a career move, including my vision, motivations, and potential challenges.
After my conversations with my mentor and other colleagues who shared some objective advice, I ultimately decided to return to the SFMTA. Leaving a workplace like TransForm, where we joked about being a “work family” because of how fond we are of each other, was not easy. I am eternally grateful to TransForm for opening my eyes and deepening my commitment to social equity as an urban planner.
A few weeks later when I walked through the doors of SFMTA, I fell into a natural routine of greeting familiar faces in the hallway and cubicles. My heart was elated to see my friends, who are now all my coworkers, become the new “work family” we all need to get through the toughest, frustrating, yet visionary projects together.
The WTS Mentorship Program so far has been a fantastic forum for me to ask the tough questions about career and life. It is invaluable to have a mentor with whom I can talk to and fully express my aspirations and fears without judgment. Thank you to WTS for supporting us mentees and providing avenues for engaging discourse on the most pressing issues facing women (and men!) in transportation.
*Jean Long is a transportation planner in Transit Planning at the SFMTA.