From a young age, Sarah Tseng, Senior Planner, Strategy and Plan Development at TransLink knew she would do great things.
“I loved the idea of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I wanted to make fun, wonderful things for other people to enjoy. It just took me a long time to realize that could include our cities and our infrastructure: parks, roads, housing, water treatment, and so on.”
During her final year of university, Sarah decided urban planning, specifically transportation planning and policy, was the path for her. Upon completing her graduate studies in transportation planning and policy, she feels lucky to spend her work days doing exactly what had hoped for! Through traveling and living in different places, Sarah really came to realize that not only does transportation infrastructure differ greatly by cities and country, but that it shapes so much of our everyday lives – especially for women.
Data shows that women actually use transportation differently than men because they have different gender roles in our society. Women not only rely on transit more, they also tend to make more complicated trips as they take on more household responsibilities. Gender is an important part of a person’s experience on transit, just as physical ability, language ability, income, age, and ethnicity are too. So in order to meet women’s needs as a society, we need to understand transportation.
Sarah’s day begins with a bus and SkyTrain commute into the office where depending on the day, she works with her team on spreadsheets and charts, memos and presentations, or information materials for the public. Sarah looks at how the transit services and transportation investments people need will change over time, and how our costs and funding will change over time too.
As a senior planner in Strategy and Plan Development at TransLink, Sarah and her team develop TransLink’s investment plans . Investment planning is important as it determines which transit services and infrastructure TransLink will provide over the next decade and how the plans will be funded. Before settling at TransLink, Sarah worked at the (U.S.) Federal Transit Administration, LA County Metro, and Foothill Transit. Sarah also has a master’s degree in urban planning from UCLA and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard.
“When things get hard at work, I stay motivated knowing that my team is there to help and encourage each other. I want to make the transportation system better, but I wouldn’t want to do this work without such a fun, thoughtful team.”
When asked about her thoughts on the most significant barrier to female leadership Sarah’s response was this,
“There isn’t just one; there are many. Some of them are individual issues, some of them are organizational or systemic issues, and they all add up over a woman’s lifetime. And I think that’s what makes change so difficult, and why it takes collective leadership and determination to overcome all of that.”
Despite this, Sarah encourages women to seek out what they want to do, and find a way to learn it. Nearly everything that people do at work can be learned. This is true for both “hard” skills – math, computer programming, economic and policy analysis – and “soft” skills – managing projects, presenting to decision makers, resolving conflicts, leading and developing teams. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.
Then find people who see you and will stand up for you. Work for people who advocate for not just your work output, but for you as a person. More importantly, make sure that you are doing the same thing for others – and for yourself!
“I’ve been lucky to work for so many amazing women of colour throughout my career. They were incredibly generous and kind to me, and taught me so much about how to get work done and build strong teams. Whenever I’m not sure what to do about something, I think, what advice would they give me? What would they do in my place?”
Thanks for the insight into your job and outlook. We look forward to seeing what you do next Sarah!
Author: Sarah Kertcher