Take Risks, Reach Higher
Michael Melaniphy always knew that he wanted a career in transportation. As President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Melaniphy loves the interaction between people and mechanical things that defines the transportation system. His position at APTA gives him the opportunity to influence both of these elements. In Melaniphy’s words, the mission of APTA is to “further the understanding of and to advance public transportation throughout this country, and to grow it to a bigger piece of the national landscape and dialogue.”
Although Melaniphy knew he wanted a career in transportation, his father wanted him to be a banker. This influence led Melaniphy to major in transportation management during college, combining business with his passion for transportation. During his years at Indiana University, he immersed himself in the world of transportation - driving the bus for campus events, interning with the Indiana Department of Transportation, and serving as President of the Transportation Club. He was also careful to learn and improve in areas where he was less comfortable, such as public speaking.
“It is important to stretch yourself,” he said.
He adds that public speaking proved to be especially valuable in his career, where he is often called upon to advocate the benefits of public transportation to the community as a whole, not just to public transportation users. The efforts of Melaniphy and APTA seem to be paying off. Public transportation is growing in popularity in cities of all different sizes, and the system is experiencing the need to add capacity quickly. Melaniphy says that to meet this rising demand, the industry will need more qualified workers in a wide range of areas, such as technology.
While being proud of his accomplishments, Melaniphy admits that there were moments of fear. In retrospect, he says he realizes that the most worthwhile opportunities came when he took a job or position that he felt was slightly beyond the reach of what he was used to doing, choosing to move forward despite being “scared to death.”
“Did I trip sometimes? Absolutely,” he said. But he says his skills as a manager developed more quickly during his “stumbles” than when he stayed within his comfort zone.
Melaniphy’s passion for the industry he described as “always on the move, always changing” is obvious. He is confident that students will love it too if they “take a chance, reach out, and get involved.”