What’s your current job and how did you get there?
I work on the Smart Cities team for a transportation advocacy non-profit. We focus primarily on helping cities develop pilot projects and policies for automated vehicles, work effectively with TNCs (e.g. Uber and Lyft), and manage their data collection efforts and platforms. My day-to-day responsibilities vary, but I engage in a lot of content and curriculum development for the meetings of our cities, handle most of the logistics and operations work, and write reports or blog posts. It’s all over the place, but I’m having a blast.
How I got there is a little less clear cut. I had a few varied internships – including a few months writing text messages for Bernie’s campaign. After college, I moved to DC and fell in love with city life. So, I picked up a few urban studies/planning classics (Jane Jacobs, “The Power Broker”) and started applying for jobs in transportation, real estate, and economic development. Through a lot of networking and some serious luck, I ended up with a part-time position at the organization where I am now. It was a six-month position, and it turned out I liked it a lot. I was able to use that short experience and the connections I made to get a full-time position in the organization.
What advice do you have for current students?
My biggest piece of advice is to embrace failure. I took a seminar on “Ulysses” at UVM. It’s an impossibly difficult book to read. Way too hard. But whenever anyone expressed frustration with it, our professor would say that if we knew what we were doing, we weren’t learning anything. Today, I view a lot more than James Joyce through this lens. Thinking back to where I was earlier in my career (anywhere from two weeks to a year and a half ago), I’ve recognized that no matter how hard you try, you’re going to have bad interviews, you’re going to mess up assignments, and you’re going to make a fool of yourself once or twice. It’s absurd to think you won’t, so embrace it. Laugh at it. Treat it as a learning experience. Check it off the box of things you won’t do again and take solace in the fact that your professional self continues to grow.
-Rob Benner ‘14
Smart Cities Program Associate with Transportation for America