Next stop, transit planning

Reeya Dalpati (she/her), is a recent Faculty of Environment graduate whose co-op journey has taken her all the way from her own faculty at the University of Waterloo to finding a passion for transportation planning.

Reeya’s co-op journey:

Work term one: Reeya kicked off her co-op career working as a cohort community building assistant for the Faculty of Environment at Waterloo. She mainly consulted and engaged with students and faculty members to make the transition to online learning seamless. She was also tasked with building a sense of community and marketing through social media.

Work term two: Reeya then moved to a geographic information systems (GIS) analyst role at JANA Corporation. Automating large scale geoprocesses and developing tools to identify pain points in pipelines were among her tasks.

Work term three: For her third work term, Reeya accepted a position for the City of Brampton, working as an operations system management assistant for public works. In the public sector, she worked on the transitioning of the city’s customer-facing software and fleet management systems.

Work terms four and five: Reeya’s last two terms saw her move to Left Turn Right Turn (LTRT), where she worked as a transit explorer. Within this role, she worked on planning, implementing, and evaluating transit solutions such as on-demand transit. She also supported business procurements which involved writing work plans, as well as analyzing costs. She also engaged with customers, stakeholders, and staff across rural and urban communities in North America. Reeya returned to the company following her co-op terms.

Q&A with Reeya:

Having worked within different disciplines in both the public and private sectors, has the experience of shifting industries been rewarding for you? Could it be rewarding for other students in your opinion?

Reeya Dalpati smiling.

“It has been extremely rewarding! I don’t think I would’ve ended up where I did if I didn’t try out different disciplines. My co-ops really shaped my experience and opened my eyes to various potential avenues for my career.”

“Co-op is a great way to figure out your professional interests which can be different from your courses – in fact, my favourite co-op placements stemmed from some of my least favourite courses! I encourage everyone to try out all sorts of jobs, in both public and private sectors, as well as within different industries.”

Are there any specific sectors within planning that interest you and one that you want to target as you expand on your career?

“Transportation planning, specifically transit planning, is what I want to target.”

“It's the field I've been working in since my eight-month co-op and I'm actually pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Toronto focusing on transportation in the fall.”

“Transportation planning was not a field I foresaw working in when I started my undergraduate degree. It wasn’t touched upon deeply in my program as it's a niche discipline, but there are so many interesting topics within in – my current favorites are on-demand transit and transit equity.”

“In fact, my co-op experience at LTRT was instrumental in my decision to pursue this career path!”

With it being more niche and not touched upon too much in your program, was it a challenge to translate skills learned from class to your work?

“In my program, we learned general concepts but rarely touched upon emerging transit solutions and analyses. My co-ops were a huge learning curve! However, I was able to apply the broader concepts of transit planning and my GIS skills to understand why things work the way they work.”

“In my upper years, I took an elective which dove into some detailed calculations for transit planning. Since I'm in consulting, I haven't needed those on a day-to-day basis, but I know a couple of my colleagues have found them useful for their jobs.”

"Co-op played an instrumental role in my on-the-job skill development. I think the transition from school to work without co-op would have been extremely difficult, especially for technical skills such as advanced GIS, if I hadn’t already been exposed to them through co-op.”

“Having different co-op placements was key as well. I was able to learn a variety of technical skills and discover my work/learning styles. While I do think I would’ve been able to learn on the job regardless, co-op made the process a lot easier and faster.”

What has been the biggest challenge within any of your co-op terms?

“A challenge I faced was figuring out how to fit into large projects when you're only in that role for a few months. While it gives you a glimpse into the industry, in some instances I found it difficult to understand the broader picture.”

“Making connections in a remote environment was another challenge I’m sure I shared with many co-op students. It’s much harder to build connections without spontaneous coffee chats, especially as an introvert.”

“With everything being remote, you often have to schedule meetings in advance, and there’s less non-work chat. It's taught me a lot about the importance of making the time to get to know your colleagues. I’ve been extremely lucky to have worked at companies like LTRT where team building is valued and encouraged. I’ve gotten to know my amazing coworkers through one-on-one chats and over board games”

What has been an example of an accomplishment that you've achieved throughout your co-op career?

“I am really proud of my work with the City of Vaughan’s shared micro-transit pilot during my 8-month placement at LTRT. I was a key contact for both customers using the service on a day-to-day basis, as well as the city and other regional partners. In my role, I was able to optimize geospatial analyses and leverage advanced Excel skills to build a dashboard to monitor progress throughout the one-year pilot. The findings from these analyses helped determine the possibility for service expansion and explore other service changes."

"This project helped serve the people who need the transit and provide a sustainable alternative to get commuters out of their cars. It also introduced me to on-demand transit as a public transit mode. It was a really cool hands-on experience which led to me receiving the honourable mention for the co-op award during my last term.”

What would you say to an Environment student who's looking to branch out into other industries like you have?

“I’ve told other Planning students to keep their options open. During their co-op experience, they might end up loving the things that they did not particularly enjoy during their coursework. I’m a prime example of that. Sample as many different avenues as you can!”

“I would also encourage all Environment students to not restrict themselves to certain companies or industries, especially your first few co-ops. I have given my TA students the example of me starting out being passionate about urban design. While I do still enjoy it, I learned that urban design wasn’t the right fit for my career. I ended up pursuing infrastructure and transportation and ended up loving GIS.”

What do you envision is next for you?

“In the short term, I'm heading to the University of Toronto for a Masters of Engineering in Cities Engineering Management and continuing to pursue a career in transit planning. Down the line, I'd like explore more leadership roles and potentially work on global projects.”

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