Full Name: MaryAnn Carpenter
Title: Transportation Specialist/International Liaison
Division/Department: Federal Highway Administration
Location: Washington, DC
What is your typical workday like?
There is no 'typical' day. One day, I am busy with Office of International Program's (OIP) Country Program Managers and other FHWA subject-matter experts examining the agency's international accomplishments and pursuing collaborative relationships in countries as far away as Japan, South Africa, Australia, South Korea, India, Sweden and the Netherlands, and as close as Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia.
On another day, I might be engaged in internal meetings to ensure the lines of communication between OIP and FHWA offices are open, and, yet, on another day, I might be involved in information gathering and the sharing of best practices in road construction and maintenance, freight movement, smart cities, safety, and many other areas affecting our national highways.
What has been your biggest accomplishment over the last year?
Out of many great accomplishments over the years, the greatest one for me is being appointed as the OIP Liaison to FHWA for international activities. In this role, I serve as the bridge connecting OIP and FHWA program managers showcasing some of the active relationships and fascinating programs that FHWA is involved in such as: highway safety and transportation, infrastructure sustainability, vehicle and behavioral safety, and freight management, to name a few.
This past year, I authored a holistic guide for OIP's program managers who are responsible for establishing international bilateral engagements. It is a comprehensive resource that addresses all aspects of the program manager's job from the initial research to the signing of a collaborative agreement between FHWA and foreign agency counterparts. I also developed and hosted an inaugural webinar series, "Where in the World is FHWA?", the title borrowed from the famous children's series about an intrepid globe trotter, to illustrate how transportation practitioners from around the world can learn from each other to improve the safety, durability and efficiency of our road systems and help save lives.
The OIP is one of the most active offices in FHWA. We help resolve issues, prevent delays, and track down critical information. Recently, I could demonstrate my problem-solving skills in difficult or unanticipated circumstances and attend to critical priorities for the agency. As the intermediary between OIP upper management and the Transportation Secretary's office, I ensure we receive timely briefings materials that support the Secretary's meetings with international counterparts. Many of these briefings and meetings require technical background information on specific topics of interest to the Secretary, other government and international officials.
Prior to working at FHWA, what was the most unusual or interesting job you've ever had?
Prior to working at FHWA, I served as an investigative journalist for an international broadcast media. My job circled me around the United States and the Caribbean region where I worked with various government agencies and interviewed many foreign heads of government. I had provided compelling coverage of both anticipated and breaking news for broadcast and print media. I travelled around the Caribbean as a news director led to many bumpy flights, rattling aircraft, shaky lift offs, heavy landings and eventually flying phobia to say the least.
That journalism career path also bled into diplomacy where, I served as a foreign government advisor in consular affairs governing foreign diplomats and civilian overseas personnel. In this capacity, I also served as advisor on U.S. State Department diplomatic privileges granted to permanent representatives of member states to the Organization of American States. My career as a journalist and a diplomat served me well for my current job as OIP Liaison here at FHWA.
What are your hobbies in your spare time?
Because my job is so fast-paced and ever evolving, I have become a connoisseur of the art of relaxation through reading and professional development activities. These professional activities are often in the form of reading journals or completing online tutorials to enhance my job skills. Additionally, I am an avid vicarious traveler through television documentaries on exciting, strange, unique, and dazzling new places around our world. Much of this world travel is expressed in my love for interior design and I constantly redesign my home to reflect the places I have traveled to.
What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned in your career to get you where you are today?
There have been many lessons that I have embraced in my career and life journey. However, one of my greatest is to always know what you stand for—and what you do not. This knowledge provides clarity in my life, which is reflected in the clarity of thought in the workplace. I stand for persistence, hard work, and never taking shortcuts. Moreover, I believe in the power of failure as a learning tool, as long as you pay meticulous attention to the path that resulted in the failure—learn from your mistakes and do not repeat them.
Complete this sentence: "People would be surprised if they knew..."
I love all things antique and vintage.