Reflections Post-Graduation Featuring: Katy Lang

Katy Lang tells us about her experiences post-graduation. She graduated in May 2018 and is currently working in the Washington D.C. area. Her work focuses on transportation. Read her responses to the following interview questions to find out more about the work that she does and some advice looking back.

What is your current job?

Program Manager for WalkArlington. WalkArlington is part of Arlington’s transportation demand management (TDM) team. TDM focuses on understanding how people make their transportation decisions and helping people use the infrastructure in place for transit, ride-sharing, walking, biking, and telework.

How does your job relate to the specialization you pursued at Carolina Planning? If at all?

I concentrated in Transportation with a focus on pedestrian safety, so although I do not have a traditional ‘Planner I’ job, I am working directly with my academic interests. That is, helping more people walk more often in a more walkable environment.

What are some key skills that you use day-to-day?

Clear written and oral communication and project management are part of everything I do. I use my planning background, understanding of how transportation funding works, knowledge of key pedestrian safety countermeasures, options for traffic calming, and my immersion in the current issues affecting our transportation industry in my day-to-day work. They influence how I frame projects to the public and work with individuals on problems they’re facing with walking in their neighborhood.

Is there anything that you wish you would have done differently while in school?

I loved my experience at Carolina and wouldn’t change much. I took some classes outside of my specialty which broadened my understanding of planning and the frameworks under which other kinds of planners (e.g., housing, environment) operate. I highly recommend doing that.

What is the best part about your current job?

The best part of my job is interacting with people who walk and bike in Arlington (or who want to walk and bike more) and seeing the impact of our work; whether that is helping people understand planning documents and processes, informing people about the best detour to take around a construction project, or leading a walk or bike ride.

Is there anything that you did not expect from your post graduate experience?  

Even in a big metropolitan area like D.C., the planning world is really, really small. I’ve already interacted with DCRP alumni professionally and run into people I had informational interviews with during my job search. I didn’t expect that I would be connecting so many dots in the transportation industry less than a year out from the program and hundreds of miles away from Chapel Hill. That means my advice to current students is: value every connection. That person you randomly met at TRB or at an event will likely pop up again in your professional life, so be curious about their journey and work.

Featured Image: Custis Trail in Arlington County, Virginia. Photo Credit: Tool Design Group

About the author: Katy Lang is the Program Manager for WalkArlington in Arlington County, VA. She has lived in the Washington, D.C. area for a decade and as a result, she has a love-love relationship with D.C.’s Metrorail and all things urban. She is passionate about pedestrian safety and the pedestrian’s right to the city and the street.