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Karen Gonzalez

I do multimodal mobility planning for a variety of public and private sector clients as a consultant for Kimley-Horn in the United States. As a planning analyst, I collaborate with multiple teams and departments including Transport Planning & Traffic Operations, Aviation, and Intelligent Transportation Systems. I have been involved in the development of multimodal guidelines, regional planning documents, master plans, local comprehensive plans, and mobility studies. 

The concepts, theories, and research methods I learned at ITS were the basis for my present career as a mobility planning consultant. Every one of my experiences at ITS was a stepping stone in my personal and professional growth, from working on the redevelopment of Leeds City Square as part of the Transport Integrated Project, to the European Field Trip, and the presentation of my dissertation. Upon graduation, these experiences and the knowledge I gained at ITS set me apart in a very competitive local job market. To this date I still refer back to class material for guidance when working on new projects.

The robustness of the ITS curriculum impressed me above that of any other transportation planning program I researched nationally or internationally. The variety of options within the Transport Planning MSc was another deciding factor for me, as I wanted to explore different approaches to the subject. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover ITS was highly valued by students from multiple and diverse countries and backgrounds.

My advice to students interested in this course and a career in transport is to do your research. Transport is a much bigger sector than any of us can grasp, limited only by the reach of our own imagination. It is important to be informed and have a clear vision of your goals to make the best out of this program. Speak to professors, current students, alumni, and industry professionals early on and discuss your interests and plans. A year goes by very quickly, but the things you learn and the relationships you make are for life!

The ITS Employer Visits offer an excellent face time opportunity with potential employers. I participated in the visits, interviewed with many firms, and eventually received an offer from one of those interviews. Ultimately, I accepted a different offer in the United States, but only after much practice interviewing. I received a lot of assistance from the university, everything from job fairs, employee visits, resume review, and even seminar sessions with industry consultants. I was also interested in applying for positions back home, which was less straightforward. Nonetheless, my dissertation supervisor, Frances Hodgson, helped me tremendously to develop a research topic for my dissertation that allowed me to become familiar with the transportation industry in my home country. 

Before going to ITS to complete my Master’s Degree, I had a vision for my city and a passion for mobility and sustainable development. I strongly believed that at ITS I would acquire the knowledge and technical skills I needed to realize my vision. Nearly two years later, I am doing the exact work I wanted to do. I love my job and can’t wait to see what the future holds!

My advice to ITS international students who are seeking work in the transport sector is to know your target audience and how to differentiate yourself. Nobody is very good at anything until they practice, practice, and then practice some more. Be open, approach people, network, and create connections. Being informed goes a long way. Lastly, if you’re passionate about transport, show it; chances are you’re talking to someone who feels just as strongly about it.