Reflections and Expectations: Short Turn

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What an interesting last few months it has been. Join me in a look back at these last three months in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

April, May and June 2017

Birthday, April 4 – I turned 28 that day. That was pretty much about it.

Relay for Life of Mission Viejo, June 3 to June 4 – For the second year in a row, I participated in this local American Cancer Society-sponsored event to support the Canedy family — friends I’ve known for almost seven years.

Each year, the event raises money for cancer research in a variety of fun ways put on by the dozens of teams that participate. I was part of the Green for Bean team that the Canedy family has had going for more than a decade — taking turns walking laps around the track at Saddleback College, raising money for our own team and supporting others as well. I’ve financially supported the team since 2011 before finally being able to join them in the annual event last year. It’s always a great feeling and a great time being there.

MTI convocation ceremony, June 17 – This year, I attended the graduation ceremony for graduates of the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program, administered by the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University. I was in attendance to cheer on my former classmates graduating after me, as I officially graduated last December. I already had my turn at last year’s ceremony, even though I had to return in the fall semester to finish out one more course. Still hasn’t hit me that I’m an alum of this program. I’d give it some more time.

VTA coach operator training, May 3 to June 13 – For a six-week period, I was among the class of initially 30 students who were training to become coach operators (bus drivers) for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). This intensive nine-week program is conducted a few times each year, preparing students to become part of the next generation of bus drivers to fill vacancies created for any number of reasons (retirements, deaths, terminations, promotions among the common reasons).

During week six of this nine-week program, I was dismissed. That brought the number down to 27 students who remained standing as of that day I was cut (two students before me left on their own volition weeks before this).

This opportunity was months in the making. The recruitment process opened up for applications in late January, initial written exams took place in early February and interviews in early March. I spent the remainder of March and April obtaining a Class B driver’s permit, getting fingerprinted, submitting to a physical exam among other administrative matters before officially being on-boarded in early May.

I always knew this would be a challenging endeavor, perhaps the most challenging of my lifetime. But it was one I very much anticipated and looked forward to taking on once that day came. In my interview and throughout the training program itself, I often talked openly about how my lifelong experience and appreciation for taking transit would be an asset in this capacity once — and if — my roles reversed from passenger to operator. I went into this program with a genuine interest for the work at stake, even though I possessed no previous professional experience as a commercial vehicle driver.

When it was all said and done, I progressed as far as I did but not enough to the point where I could have become a full-fledged coach operator. I truly did give it my best shot in this expectedly challenging program. I learned a lot from this experience, some of which could be applicable in other areas of my life and career as well. 

I am heartbroken and disappointed that I wasn’t able to make it all the way through and possibly beyond. Nevertheless, it truly was an experience of a lifetime. I’m grateful to VTA, its training personnel and my former classmates for making this experience one that I will never forget. Hopefully not before long, I’ll get to see some of my former classmates welcoming me onto their buses one of these days. I’ll look forward to that.

July, August and September

Job search – That last item made this the third time in the last year and a half where I lost a job. Where will I go next? God only knows.

It’s summertime – No big plans yet. It’ll probably be a series of small things to keep me going. I’ll go find some more books to check out at the library. Yes, I started doing that again recently. First time in years, really.

Let me hear your stories. How have you been in these last few months? Any fun summer plans ahead? Share your thoughts below in the comments. I would love to hear from you.

On This Sunday: Flip-adelphia

No, not that drinking game from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I’m referring to this — an iconic fixture at the city’s 30th Street Station, its main passenger rail terminal.

Yes, the flipping display board that’s known as the Solari board, named after its Italian manufacturer. Once common in airports and train stations all around the world, only a few of these remain as digital display boards become the norm. By the year’s end, Philly will make its upgrade as well.

It was this past week back in 2012 when I moved to Philadelphia from SoCal for a one-year service with AmeriCorps. I ultimately moved back to California after a little more than a year living on the East Coast.

Even though my time in the City of Brotherly Love was short, the sight and sounds of the clicking and clacking from 30th Street Station’s Solari board is one I still remember vividly and fondly. I share the same level of appreciation for this board as the natives of the Delaware Valley. Being a devoted fan of trains before I even moved to Philly, this board always became a welcome part of my numerous Amtrak train travels to cities like New York City, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago and Boston. Even when I was simply passing through to make local transit connections, I would sometimes stop to watch and listen to the board as it became a personal source of amusement at each turn.

The 30th Street Station Solari board: Much like Philly itself, I hardly knew ye. You will be greatly missed.

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12:52 a.m. ET on Nov. 12, 2012. Taken on my way back home from Atlanta!

On This Sunday: Pomp and Circumstance

On Saturday night at San Jose State University, I participated in the convocation ceremony for graduates of the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program, administered by the Mineta Transportation Institute.

While my actual finish in the program will come in December, last night was the time for celebration. Here are the highlights.

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The 10 of us that make up the Class of 2016.

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All hooded up, post-ceremony.

On This Sunday: Four in One Afternoon

Tuesday was an unusual day for Bay Area commuters.

All during afternoon rush hours Tuesday, four rail-related incidents played out where trains struck something or someone: Caltrain against a pedestrian in San Mateo, VTA light rail train against a pedestrian south of Fruitdale in San Jose, Amtrak against a car in Santa Clara and BART against a person at San Bruno station.

Individuals in the VTA and BART incidents died shortly after while no injuries were reported in the Amtrak incident. No word on the condition of the pedestrian involved with the Caltrain commuter rail train.

I was affected by the VTA incident. I left work in North San Jose at 4 p.m. — an hour earlier than usual — and was supposed to be home in Campbell by 5:30 p.m. Long story short, I ultimately arrived home at 8:10 p.m. There were a bunch of conflicting information about bus bridges that resulted in me getting home nearly three hours later than expected. Now, I already have a plan in place if something like this happens again.

I don’t believe there was a connection among the four incidents although it was certainly unusual as it all played out in the same region among similar modes within minutes or hours of each other. In all my years as a transit rider, this is one of the rare occasions where I’m affected by a major system disruption. Not fun at all for anyone to endure.

Caltrain has certainly been experiencing an uptick in fatalities on its tracks this year, surpassing records of previous years. More than a dozen have died this year, some of them ruled apparent suicides, after being struck by its commuter rail trains at mostly at-grade crossings. The agency in charge of operating Caltrain has taken measures to mitigate the number of deaths involving its trains including upgraded signage and signals and increased patrols along its crossings. Long term, grade separation throughout much of its route should greatly help although nothing will fully stop people from finding their way onto the tracks.

No matter where you live, committing suicide by trains isn’t the answer. Even if it doesn’t always seem like it, your potential actions also put others in danger as well. Talk to someone if you feel this way. Call 1 (800) 273-8255 or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. We really don’t need anything like Tuesday in the Bay Area again. None of us do, especially you.

Career Corner: February 2014

Career Corner is another new monthly series on simonoh.com, highlighting the top five stories with outstanding and insightful career advice from some of the best career experts around.

Check these stories out and see how they can help you with your career or those around you.

1. 8 of the Strangest Interview Questions Job Candidates Have Asked 

2. Why Networking Doesn’t Work (and What You Should Do Instead)

3. 6 Small Résumé Changes That Have a Big Impact

4. Reference Checks: Last Hurdle to Your Job Offer

5. 7 Factors Defining the Right Job For You

Expectations for 2014: Finishing What I Started

Courtesy: Fox 5 San Diego on Facebook

Courtesy: Fox 5 San Diego (KSWB-TV) on Facebook

Happy New Year, America!

With 2013 now in the rear-view mirror, I can finally look forward to what 2014 has to offer. If you’ve been paying attention to my posts in this space throughout the last year, you’ll know that 2013 had some pretty remarkable moments but was generally a disappointing year overall. I’m hoping that this new year ushers in better times ahead.

Each year, I choose not to make New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I set expectations — listing all the things I should do without holding myself to a firm timeline or strict set of procedures. That way, I won’t run the risk of abandoning such goals such easily due to burnout or loss of interest. This year entails having to accomplish a list of things that I should have already completed in years past.

Here are my four major expectations for 2014 — the year I hope to finally finish what I started at some point in the past.

1. Job search – Needless to say, the process that officially began in November 2011 — a month before I graduated from Cal State Fullerton — still hasn’t officially ended yet. (AmeriCorps was an aberration, separate from the current search.)

Despite a string of unsuccessful attempts during the first half of 2012 and much of 2013, I still remain focused on putting an official end to this search this year. I continue to look for entry-level career opportunities in public relations as it pertains to public affairs, community relations and corporate communications. My hope is to work on transportation issues although I am interested in any opportunities where I can still be resourceful and thrive, regardless of the field of interest.

2. Writing – I know. I have been doing it a lot lately, primarily on this space.

If I can take a page from Jessica Lawlor‘s playbook, I hope to branch out more with my writing skills by contributing for others through freelance work, guest-contributing on other sites and blogs and even advising people on how to write. People have told me that I am a great writer and I believe them. Why keep it to myself when others can benefit from my talents as well?

3. Travel – I keep believing each year that my budget gets smaller and smaller that I won’t be able to travel as much as I used to. Last year didn’t see any expected decreases in travel. As much as I still believe it won’t happen as much, I can be easily and quickly be mistaken.

Among the new cities to visit that are under consideration include Salt Lake City, Denver and Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Revisits from previous years that are in the works include Anchorage, Alaska and Washington, D.C. More might come up, domestic and international, as this year progresses.

4. Driving – It sometimes benefited me and sometimes gave me grief not knowing how to drive. I’ll be 25 in April and, yes, I still don’t know how.

The high cost of purchasing and maintaining a car combined with my general preference toward transit are reasons why I have chosen not to get a driver’s license yet. I have previously attempted twice to obtain one but eventually abandoned those efforts for various reasons. For the time being, I have some time to get started on that process once again.

Even if and when I do obtain a license, I won’t be buying a car anytime soon and I will continue to prefer transit as a commuting option. It does, however, open up the opportunity for me to start using ZipCar. That should make for a more cheaper alternative to owning a car.

Now, as for what will actually happen this year…

Road to grad school – I will be starting the graduate certificate program in transportation management through the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University. It all begins Wednesday night with my first class dealing with emergency issues for transportation professionals.

This certificate program is a precursor to my eventual plans to pursue the full Master’s Degree program. For now, I can start out with the program I’m in now, giving me a first look at what I can truly expect going forward.

PRSA New Professionals committee – I am already the new diversity liaison for the PRSA New Professionals executive committee. I hold the distinction of being the inaugural officeholder for this title and this marks my first leadership position on a national level.

After serving in student council in high school in 2006 and on the Cal State Fullerton PRSSA chapter board in 2010, the pattern of holding a leadership position every four years proudly continues. I look forward to serving in this capacity and doing my part to encourage greater diversity and support among minority professionals in the public relations field.

What are your expectations or resolutions for 2014? Share your goals for this new year below. I’d love to hear from you.

I’ll leave you with this.

Sept. 6: Then and Now

Around this time last year, I was preparing myself to be a moderator for a panel discussion as part of the annual Mobility 21 Summit in Downtown Los Angeles, which took place on Sept. 6, 2011.

This major transportation conference in southern California brings together elected leaders and industry professionals alike to highlight and address mobility needs in a rapidly-growing region.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) serves as keynote speaker at Mobility 21 Summit in Los Angeles on Sept. 6, 2011.

The keynote speaker at the summit last year was Ed Rendell, who served two terms as governor of Pennsylvania before being termed out earlier that year. Since he left office, he went on to become one of the co-founders of Building America’s Future, a bipartisan coalition of former and current elected leaders nationwide advocating for greater investments into improving our nation’s infrastructure.

I personally had the opportunity to meet Gov. Rendell during a VIP reception following the conclusion of the summit. Although our interaction was brief, it was a noteworthy and honorable moment to meet someone who was well known and influential that championed such a great cause.

This was on Sept. 6, 2011. Little did I expect that around that same time one year later, I will find myself moving to the same state he once served as governor. Little did I also expect that I would find myself moving to the same city he once served as mayor from 1992 to 1999 before becoming governor — Philadelphia.

If you did not know already, I am moving to Philadelphia later this week as I have joined AmeriCorps. Beginning Sept. 4, I will be working with elementary and middle school students at a local school there to assist with tutoring and after-school programs. This is an 11-month program that I have decided to join after consulting with others I know that have served in AmeriCorps combined with my desire to work directly with charitable causes, owing to my years-long support for nonprofit organizations.

As a recent college graduate, I feel it is important to spend this time serving others that need help the most. The unfruitful job search of the first half of this year helped pave the way for something more meaningful in the interim; something that equally benefits myself and the people that I hope to make an impact on.

I have never lived in another state before and any feelings of unease and uncertainty has been remedied by frequent travels to other states in the last two years. I have never been to Philadelphia although I have traveled to New York City and Washington, D.C. for which both cities are equidistant geographically from the city I am moving to. I look forward to revisiting both cities to build my professional network out there in addition to my fulfilling my AmeriCorps duties.

One year ago, I didn’t see this happening. Six months ago, I didn’t see this happening either. What a difference that short amount of time makes.