Written by Sarah Mora, EIT


A/E/C technical professionals are expected to be subject matter experts in their designated specialties. But a vital, often overlooked component of the job is understanding what’s happening in the industry and knowing your industry counterparts.

Over the years, I’ve attended many A/E/C events, often intimidated by the topic or the amount of unfamiliar faces in the room. When I was approached by my firm’s President, Eileen Chin, to join the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association (IRTBA) Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), I was apprehensive about what I would learn and who I would meet.

As an ELP participant, I can say firsthand that this leadership program has done a tremendous job of providing diverse presentations, resources, and activities. Our first session of ELP 2017-2018, “How the Industry Works,” gave me a deeper understanding of IRTBA, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, bonding, accounting, risk, and claims. The fall session focused on utility coordination, working with contractors, planning and prefabrication, and labor unions. The last session for 2017 included presentations from local agencies such as the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), Illinois Tollway, Illinois Department of Transportation, and the collar counties. This session provided insight into doing business and the procurement process at each agency, as well as perspectives from executive-level agency leaders. In January, we left the boardroom and traveled to the Prairie Concrete Plant in Bridgeview to discuss materials. The day included presentations from CDOT, STATE Testing, and True North Consultants as well as a brisk plant tour. Our ELP class will meet one more time this March before we go to Springfield in April to meet with Illinois legislators, and then the program will end with trip to Washington D.C. in May.

For me, being active in a leadership program like ELP has been a game changer. After going through this program, I am more confident at industry events – with familiar faces by my side and more knowledge under my belt. Initially, it was nerve-racking to step out of my comfort zone, but now I have made valuable connections, expanded upon my technical skill set, and gained a more comprehensive understanding of the transportation industry. I strongly encourage others to seek out leadership programs for career development. You won’t regret it!