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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis April 6, 2012
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Meet Mary Ann Collier!

Mary Ann Collier
Director of Operations
Swayzer Engineering, Inc.
Dallas, TX
Chair, APTA Human Resources Committee
Member, APTA Board of Directors

How many people does your business employ? 11

How long have you worked in the industry? 18 years

How long have you been an APTA member? 18 years

What drew you to a career in public transportation?
I, like many other people, fell into this field. I relocated from Louisville to Atlanta, and one of the contacts I was given happened to be a transit board member from MARTA. I was hired to manage their Affirmative Action, Equal Employment Opportunity, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise programs. So that’s how I got started—and fell in love with the industry, as a matter of fact.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource—that helps you do your job?
It’s the networking, professional development, and staff support that helps me complete all the volunteer assignments I have, and continue to grow. The networking gives us the ability to reach out to other public transportation agencies to gain information that may be useful in our field of work. Plainly put, networking yields specific returns. It has also been important to have the support of each of my transit CEOs, as well as my current CEO, for that has allowed me to take advantage of many development opportunities at APTA. 

The small business breakfasts we have at the Business Member Board of Governors meetings have been especially helpful. I’ve met members like Jerry Premo at AECOM; that has led to additional business opportunities. I’ve met with people at Parsons—same result. Those are what I call the direct benefits of being engaged at APTA and using the resources APTA provides to us.

Please explain why or how this has helped.
All of us who work as volunteers on various APTA committees have full-time jobs. If it were not for the staff support helping to keep us focused and on target, we wouldn’t be able to achieve what we do. For example, when I look at what we’re doing on the Human Resources Committee, I see a collaborative effort—with staff, with subcommittee chairs, with committee members—it couldn’t happen without that collaboration.

What do you like most about your job?
Hmmm, how do you define “Director of Operations”? Well, I do the human resources part, plus I help with marketing and business development. What I like most is the human resources work, because that’s my strong suit. But a close runner up is my outreach efforts, because I get to meet and connect with potential organizations that we might either subcontract with or participate with in a joint venture.

What is unique about your agency/business?
I work for a black female-owned mechanical engineering firm—and there aren’t a lot of us around! So while we do a variety of projects, a niche market for us is commissioning: building facilities, rail systems, and operations. And I think that’s something that separates us from other mechanical engineering firms.

The interesting thing for me is that I’m familiar and comfortable working with the public sector environment, given my 15 years of experience in public transit. In like manner, I am comfortable with the private sector side as well. I attribute this level of comfort to having worked for MARTA, Houston Metro, and San Joaquin Regional Transit District.

So when we have contracts with clients like DART, airports, and school systems, I am able to represent Swayzer Engineering Inc. well, and can speak their language easily.

I last worked directly for public transportation in 2009, so it was a natural transition for me to work with the clients we have. I do know the community and the territory. Right now our clients are in Texas, but years ago the firm did some work in the DC area. In other words, we’re certainly open to looking at other opportunities outside Texas as we work to grow the business.

Make sure you see Mary Ann Collier’s video, now that you've read this!

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