Born and raised in coastal Vancouver, Mia Pears, Manager, Transit Network Management, had childhood aspirations of working with the ocean when she grew up… or becoming a hairdresser… or admittedly, hundreds of other prospective career paths. While deciding which path to take was a struggle for Mia, she’s learned over the years that very few actually have it figured out, and sometimes you just need to pick something, jump into it and it will most likely all work out.
Urban issues have always been near to Mia’s heart. With an architect for a dad, Mia was always encouraged to examine and consider her surroundings, and so she did. She started working towards a landscape architecture degree, but found herself searching for answers to the larger questions about policy and planning – Who made those decisions? Why was that policy made? Her big picture thinking steered her to leave the landscape architecture path, spending a few years working for a developer before heading to New York City to pursue a degree in Urban Planning.
Nearly four years working for TransLink and nine years in the urban/transit planning field and Mia hasn’t looked back! Transit Network Management is one of the planning departments at TransLink which works on a variety of projects. Projects like providing information to Mayors’ Council Meetings, implementing transit and transportation improvements from Phase One of the 10-Year Vision, and determining inputs for the next investment plan. To sum it up, Transit Network Management is responsible for ensuring the transit network is developing in a way that will help meet Metro Vancouver’s long-term goals and objectives.
There’s no denying that Mia loves her career with TransLink, however she’s quick to admit that she never thought she would be in transportation planning, never mind managing a team that gets deep into the details of transit.
“It makes sense I ended up here – in order to support the economy, environment and overall quality of life, there needs to be a strong, functioning transportation system. That was always the kind of work I wanted to get involved in,” says Mia.
One of the things Mia loves the most about her career is that planners are optimists! Mia sees planners working towards the betterment of a community, whether that is a neighbourhood, a city or a region. As a manager, she reviews a lot of work and provides strategic direction on next steps. Her job is fast paced and provides an excellent opportunity to be collaborative with other departments within the organization and providing expertise on the transit network.
Mia’s biggest motivator is being part of a team that is dedicated and thoughtful. TransLink is often in the news and can be a topic of public conversation. Mia jokes at her seeming canned response, but honestly finds inspiration in knowing that her team, and TransLink as a whole, are all working towards the common goal of making this region a better place to live and travel within.
When asked her opinion on barriers to female leadership, Mia responds,
“Across cultures and industries, we are in a cycle that maintains the status quo. But there seems to be a shift happening now. I think one of the barriers is that there is an inherent idea of what a leader should be and sometimes women don’t fit that social construct. Currently, we associate leadership with behaviours considered more common in men, like showing confidence, being direct, being decisive. As a result, women are not put into leadership roles. Female leaders can be seen as bossy or too nice. In our society, women are given mixed ideas of when and how to use authority and so any female in a leadership role is forced to navigate those uncertainties.”
Interestingly, Mia notes that in planning or transportation field, a few of the most well-known people are women! Amanda Burden, Jennifer Keesmaat, Janette Sadik-Khan are just a few notable women in the field. At TransLink, two out of three Directors in Planning and the President of BCRTC are all women! Every one of these women would have had to juggle their profession and families, while carving new paths as leaders in their field.
Mia has advice to other women who may want to follow in her footsteps.
“Speak up! Your opinions, your work, your observations are important. It can be intimidating, especially in transit which is often male-dominated. All those things you are saying in your head, you should say out loud!”
Mia encourages women to reach out to other women who inspire them. There is a lot to learn from those who have walked the path already. Relationship building is tremendously important and will help later on when there may be a desire to make a move to another role.
Thanks so much Mia for taking the time out of your busy day and important work to chat with us. We wish you well in all that you do!
Author: Sarah Kertcher