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Job description: Responsible for delivery of high-speed rail to Southern California. Currently focused on completing preliminary engineering and environmental approvals for over 150 miles of high-speed rail in the southern region. Works alongside a team of project managers and technical experts to oversee this effort. Also focused on the delivery of early investments in Southern California, projects that the California High-Speed Rail Authority is working on with local partners to see immediate benefits for existing systems while accommodating high-speed rail in the future.
Education: Undergraduate degree in civil engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; master's degrees in transportation engineering and city planning, University of California, Berkeley
Nominator's quote: "Cecily successfully employs a combination of intelligence, grace and humor to develop industry-leading ideas. She leads numerous initiatives and implementation teams to deliver some of the most complex and challenging projects in the world. ... In the office, she fosters a climate of innovation and creativity while serving as a role model and mentor for those in the earlier stages of their careers and as a valued partner to peers working alongside her. Cecily is helping to transform the face of the transportation workplace." — Kevin Reed, WSP USA
Describe your career path to date. After I finished graduate school, I started working for WSP (formerly Parsons Brinckerhoff) in San Diego. I worked on a wide range of projects — including coastal rail double-tracking and light-rail projects — but fairly quickly became involved with the [high-speed rail] project. I initially reviewed and developed design criteria for the program. I was then given the opportunity to serve as the task manager for network integration where I worked with other passenger-rail owners and operators across the state to collaboratively plan infrastructure and services. Following that, and before my current role, I was the Southern California deputy regional director. In the nearly 10 years I have been on the project, I have worked to see it develop from conception to construction.
Why did you go into railroading? I first became interested in a railroading career when I moved from Seattle to Boston for college. While I never regularly used public transit growing up, Boston's system — its history and how it brought together so many different types of people — fascinated me. The interdisciplinary nature of implementing and operating urban and interurban public transportation — incorporating engineering, economics, politics, environment, communities and other diverse factors — fit my interest in contributing to communities and complex problem solving. A freshman seminar on planning Boston's next major transit investment led me to major in civil engineering and to my career path.
Which of your career accomplishments are you most proud of? One of many accomplishments I am very excited about is the recent execution of funding agreements for the Rosecrans/Marquardt grade separation in Southern California. This grade-separation project will separate vehicle traffic from the rail traffic by constructing an elevated overpass structure, which will greatly improve safety, eliminate delays and improve air quality.
Describe a fun fact about yourself. Growing up, I loved playing with Legos and my Brio train set. Every year over the holidays, I would help my father assemble and operate the vintage Lionel trainset that he had from when he was a boy. For one reason or another, the Lionel set was mothballed when I was around 10. Last winter as a surprise, he put back it into service. I had nearly forgotten about it and the memories came flooding back. It made me think about where my early career inspiration may have come from and how important it is to give children exposure to different career opportunities.
What do you enjoy doing when you're not at work? My husband and I recently purchased an older home in Los Angeles and I have been spending a lot of my free time fixing it up. I also enjoy traveling and try to include at least one train trip in the itinerary of every trip.
What has been the biggest inspiration to you in your career? An internship in London for the U.K.'s largest bus company. My boss was responsible for bus systems and tens of thousands of employees across the country, yet she wanted to know if a customer saw a piece of litter on a specific bus. That perspective of needing to understand the big picture, but not forgetting about the details, has stuck with me.
What do you hope to be doing or learning in five years? Leading the implementation of rail projects that will have direct and positive benefits for local communities.
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