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Professional Development Program


Tricia Sergeson

Photograph of Tricia Sergeson Education: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Language and Cultures, and Minor in Philosophy, Washington State University; Master’s in Public Administration, International Public Service and Development, Rutgers University
Position Title: Transportation Specialist
Division/Department: FHWA Colorado Division, Lakewood, CO
PDP Participant: July 2014 to July 2016

  1. Could you discuss your experience in the Professional Development Program (PDP) and how it has benefited you?
    The Federal Highway Administration’s Professional Development Program (PDP) has been an incredible opportunity. I never dreamed I would have a career in transportation, however after applying and being accepted into the PDP program it has been one of the best and rewarding decisions I have made.

    I love working within a constantly changing and multifaceted field. I find it so rewarding that I have the opportunity to continually learn in a sector that seeks innovation and strives to push the boundaries of cutting edge technology and services. My coach, supervisor and sponsoring Division staff members have been amazing mentors and been constant advocates to provide me new opportunities in my career development. Through all my assignments, I have been so grateful for the patience and opportunities staff throughout the agency have offered.

  2. What are the challenges you encountered in the PDP?
    One of the most challenging aspects of the PDP program for me was deciding how to prioritize assignments within the two years. As PDP’s we are encouraged to explore other disciplines and interests to broaden and enrich our capacity as FHWA employees. It is amazing how quick the two years goes by, and there is still so much to experience and learn. My mentors in my sponsoring Division office helped to offer excellent guidance to prioritize my assignments, but I still feel like there were more opportunities I wanted to take advantage of than time available in the program.

  3. What are your hobbies in your spare time?
    I love anything outside, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and running. I also am constantly trying to beat out Anthony Bourdain and looking for my next travel/cooking adventure.

  4. What advice would you offer to any future PDP participants?
    Some of the best advice I received from my sponsoring Division mentors was to explore cross disciplinary assignment options. The Professional Development Program is such a unique and amazing opportunity to take in as much information as you can in the two year span. I am still learning every day, but gained a new appreciation for the inter-connectivity of the departments within FHWA through these diverse assignments.

    One other piece of advice that I continually need to remind myself of is, wherever you are, try to be all there. Rotational assignments present a unique set of challenges to PDP participants. It can be hard to remain present when you also are thinking of your next assignment, final placement, etc. But, the information gained and the amount of professional and personal growth I have had from these experiences has been truly invaluable. With eight months left on the program, I try to remember – wherever I am – to be all there, and to take this time to seize the opportunities, to invest, learn and grow. For new PDP’s, the Professional Development Program is a wonderful opportunity, welcome to the agency and good luck!

Calvin Chong

Photograph of Calvin Chong Education: Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Master’s in Structural Engineering, UCLA
Position Title: Bridge Engineer
Division/Department: FHWA Eastern Federal Lands Division, Sterling, VA
PDP Participant: July 2014 to April 2015

  1. Could you discuss your experience in the Professional Development Program (PDP) and how it has benefited you?
    After graduating from UCLA with a Master’s Degree in structural engineering, I entered the PDP as a civil engineer in the bridge design team of Central Federal Lands. I spent the first six months of my PDP learning many parts of the design process, including engineering design, computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) drawing, and contract requirements. I had the opportunity to travel around the country for training in FHWA’s mission, leadership, and bridge design. Overall, I gained a wealth of experience that helped me to build a professional network and to perform work relevant to FHWA’s goals.

  2. What were the challenges you encountered in the PDP?
    There were two major challenges I encountered in the PDP. The first was trying to quickly learn a new set of codes and building philosophies pertaining to bridge, when my college studies were focused primarily on buildings. I wanted to quickly familiarize myself with the AASHTO (American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials) specifications so that I could help my team on their projects. The second challenge was learning to communicate more effectively. I had to develop both my technical and interpersonal skills to work more efficiently with my team.

  3. What are your hobbies in your spare time?
    I spend a lot of my spare time watching TV and I also enjoy hiking and biking.

  4. What advice would you offer to any future PDP participants?
    PDP’s have the opportunity to work with many experts in the field with many years of experience. Use this opportunity to expand your knowledge in your field, as well as learning about new topics that may interest you. Don’t be afraid to ask your peers if you could help with their work, even if you are not too familiar with the topic. You will gain a lot of knowledge and build connections with people that you will work with in the future.

Tracy Duval

Tracy Duval Education: Master of Business Administration, Brenau University; Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Bethune-Cookman University
Position Title: Transportation Specialist (Civil Rights/Realty)
Division/Department: FHWA Florida Division, Tallahassee, FL
PDP Participant: August 2014 to August 2016

  1. Could you discuss your experience in the Professional Development Program (PDP) and how it has benefited you?
    I started my adventurous journey with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as a Freight Intern in the Summer Transportation Internship Program for Diverse Groups (STIPDG) and a Civil Rights/Realty Intern in the Pathways Program. Upon graduation in 2014, I was accepted into the Professional Development Program (PDP) as a Transportation Specialist (Civil Rights/Realty) hosted out of the Florida Division (Tallahassee Office).

    During my time in the PDP, I’ve participated in several developmental assignments and training opportunities that correspond with my professional and personal goals. For me, the PDP has set a platform for learning, development, and personal growth through practical work experience. In addition, I’ve faced challenging situations that allowed me to strengthen existing skills, learn new programs and most importantly build interdisciplinary relationships among my colleagues. For example, during a recent developmental assignment, I identified a required program plan that had yet to be implemented, despite numerous attempts by the State Agency. I was able to assist with plan implementation by facilitating a day-long workshop with multiple and varying offices and sharing examples of why the plan was necessary. By fostering a collaborative environment, providing examples from other States, and allowing the group to draw practical parallels to their own programs, the plan was readily implemented.

  2. What are the challenges you encountered in the PDP?
    The biggest challenges faced so far in PDP are financial constraints and how funding is critical in identifying assignments, particularly location and length. As with most challenges, funding concerns provided a unique learning experience. I learned to use performance-based budgeting in order to establish clear learning outcomes associated with value-added assignments. I also put extra time and resources into researching collateral or ancillary activities so that I could maximize my funds.

  3. What are your hobbies in your spare time?
    In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family/friends, shopping, traveling, mentoring, and community service. The best activity is one that combines all my favorite things. For example, last year I traveled to Germany with my friends and coworkers. We had a blast in the shops and attractions, but we also spent some time examining pedestrian accessibility features in European cities. I returned with some sobering reflections on the challenges facing those with disabilities and how I could apply what I learned in my own communities.

  4. What advice would you offer to any future PDP participants?
    I say this to future PDP participants: take full advantage of every learning opportunity provided. Each and every learning opportunity is so much more than career development. You are building a professional and social network that will sustain you for a lifetime. Any trainee can build competence through learning assignments, but the ideal PDP builds a professional career with every single program experience.

Shardé Lightburn

Sharde Lightburn Education: Bachelor of Music, SUNY Purchase College; Certificate of Accomplishment in Accounting, Graduate School USA
Position Title: Financial Specialist
Division/Department: FHWA Connecticut Division, Glastonbury, CT
PDP Participant: December 2012 to August 2014

  1. Could you discuss your experience in the Professional Development Program (PDP) and how it has benefited you?
    The PDP has provided me with a unique experience that enhanced my personal and professional growth and prepared me for my current position as a Financial Specialist. The rotational assignments were challenging and helped me to strengthen competencies required for professional work in the Federal government and especially those required for my current position. My ability to learn at a faster pace, communicate effectively, work under pressure, and quickly adapt to change is a direct result of my participation in the program. While in the program, I received broad experience working in field offices in North Carolina (sponsoring office), Virginia, Arizona, and New York and a headquarters experience in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer in Washington, DC.

  2. What were the challenges you encountered in the PDP?
    The two major challenges I experienced were:
    1. Finding housing. My recommendation: ask, ask, ask! Reach out to current and former PDP participants because they have been through this process and will be able to recommend options.
    2. Creating a social life when relocating frequently. My recommendation: Meetup.com, researching community events and festivals, and volunteering.

  3. What are your hobbies in your spare time?
    Volunteering and coaching are passions of mine and I am a big advocate for giving back to the community. My favorite place to volunteer is the Bloomfield Food Bank and I spend time as a Beachbody Coach to help people improve their health and fitness.

  4. What advice would you offer to any future PDP participants?
    Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Whether it pertains to work (What is a Categorical Exclusion?) or life (Can you recommend any local sights to visit?). This helps to develop interpersonal skills and build relationships with the people you will meet and work with while in the program. This approach will make your experience more enjoyable as it did for me.

Lisell Guerra

Photograph of Lisell Guerra Education: Master of Science in Civil Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering, Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico; Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez
Position Title: Area Engineer
Division/Department: FHWA Texas Division, San Antonio, TX
PDP Participant: September 2013 to September 2015

  1. Could you discuss your experience in the Professional Development Program (PDP) and how it has benefited you?
    I joined the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Puerto Rico Division as part of the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) in March 2012. After receiving my Master’s Degree in Geotechnical Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, I became a participant of the Professional Development Program (PDP) in September 2013, based out of the FHWA Kentucky Division. During the next two years, I had the opportunity to take several valuable trainings, perform plans, specifications and estimates (PS&E) reviews, and assist in file reviews and field inspections as part of the National Bridge Inspection Program (NBIP) for the Kentucky Division. I also acquired technical experience in construction and highway design during my developmental assignments with Central Federal Lands. At the completion of my PDP in September 2015, I was placed in the FHWA Texas Division, in which I’m currently working as an area engineer for the San Antonio and Bryan Districts.

  2. What were the challenges you encountered in the PDP?
    My biggest challenge during the program was being far away from my family and being exposed to a different culture and language. Nevertheless, all the efforts were worth it, because I had the opportunity to meet and work with great professionals from different disciplines. I was also able to develop professional and interpersonal skills while contributing to the agency with meaningful work. I highly recommend this program to committed individuals willing to learn new skills and acquire valuable experience in a learning-friendly environment.

  3. What are your hobbies in your spare time?
    Spending time with my family, reading, and traveling.

  4. What advice would you offer to any future PDP participants?
    My advice to future PDP participants would be to establish their career goals toward the beginning of the program, but also explore any other discipline that might catch their attention.

Andrew Emanuele

Photograph of Andrew Emanuele Education: Master of Urban and Regional Planning, Environmental Concentration, University of Minnesota
Position Title: Community Planner
Division/Department: FHWA Minnesota Division, St. Paul, MN
PDP Participant: July 2014 to July 2016

  1. Could you discuss your experience in the Professional Development Program (PDP) and how it has benefited you?
    Following my graduation from the University of Minnesota with a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning (Environmental Concentration), I was fortunate enough to be accepted into FHWA’s Professional Development Program (PDP). Working with my coach, I spent several months "getting my hands dirty" at the St. Paul Division Office on planning-related activities. Following this, we crafted three-long term assignments: four months with Caltrans in Sacramento to learn state-level planning, three months with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to focus on environmental training, and three months with Wilmington Area Planning Council in Delaware to study planning from a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) perspective. Following my graduation from the PDP program in July of 2016, I’ll be placed as permanently as the Planner at the St. Paul Division Office.

    The benefits of the PDP program are numerous, including networking, hands-on training, and rotational assignments with other agencies that put your FHWA position in perspective. In my case, the greatest value came from working with my coach to design a developmental program specific to my learning needs.

  2. What were the challenges you encountered in the PDP?
    I was a PDP participant during a period of fiscal uncertainty before the passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. This lead to difficulty planning out rotational assignments because we were often told funding may not be available. It caused several of my rotations to be delayed. In one case, several PDP’s were recalled from a rotation when funds dried up – returning home immediately and interrupting their learning. However, the PDP team worked closely keeping us informed, and funding eventually became available to complete all our assignments. In the meantime, we simply focused on training from our home office.

  3. What are your hobbies in your spare time?
    My hobbies include backpacking/camping, world travel, reading, and weeping while I watch my Minnesota Vikings get routinely destroyed on Sundays.

  4. What advice would you offer to any future PDP participants?
    I would suggest keeping an open mind as you head into the program. While hiring takes place for a specific discipline, and there are many opportunities within that discipline to focus on areas of interest, your curiosity and direction may shift to something completely unexpected. Also, don’t take the experience for granted – not everyone gets an opportunity like this. Take time to cultivate your relationships with fellow PDP’s, as the connection will often last a lifetime, both personally and professionally. Finally, don’t let the alphabet soup of governmental acronyms frighten you – it eventually becomes second nature.


Page last modified on May 19, 2016.
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