road to success
Throughout his career, John Horsley has worked with governors, members of Congress, and U.S. presidents. Horsley is the former Executive Director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) - an organization which develops nationwide policies and guidelines for highway transportation. What you might not guess is that his career began when he was working in a congressional mail room. With hard work, skill, and determination, he eventually took the lead of a national organization that is known as the “voice of transportation” in the U.S., and his career path has been paved with national projects that impact the lives of millions.
For example, in 1999, Horsley, while at the U.S. Department of Transportation, teamed up with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to implement the Millennium Trails program, which improved over 2,000 trails across urban systems and national parks. If you hike, walk, or bike on trails, then it is likely that you have traveled on a Millennium Trail. In 2009, Horsley, as Executive Director of AASHTO in partnership with FHWA, was asked by President Barack Obama to orchestrate a $28 billion program that led to huge improvements on over 34,000 miles of highway and bridges.
Clearly, Horsley has accomplished a lot, but he did not arrive at his destination overnight. There were, of course, challenges along the way. But his rise to the top goes to show that success is attainable for those who passionately pursue it - and to a level you may never have even dreamed of. Horsley stresses that he was gifted with good teachers and mentors, but that there are a number of ways in which students can work to ensure their own success.
He advises students who are interested in transportation to start preparing for college and their future careers early; to work hard, and to take as many math and science courses as possible - coursework he calls the “foundation” for transportation careers. But he also notes that you don’t necessarily have to love math to be successful in transportation. Horsley, himself, said that geometry was not his favorite subject in school. Math and science are necessary and foundational skills for transportation professionals, but it is important to realize that the industry also needs expert in diverse areas such as public policy, economics, and business, just to name a few.
Horsley stresses the importance of recruiting young minds to transportation, since the next generation of engineers will be in charge of sustaining the national transportation infrastructure for the future.
“Over the years, we have built the best highway and rail systems in the world, and the next challenge is to rebuild and replace these highways,” he said.
This challenge becomes even more pertinent as the population continues to grow, roads continue to age, and the former workforce continues to retire. The need for transportation professionals has, perhaps, never been greater. For this reason, Horsley asks students who are inspired by making a difference, and who would pursue an exciting and rewarding career, to “knock on the door.” The transportation industry - the future - needs you.