Oct. 14, 2022
I've understood for a long time that planning is a multidisciplinary field, providing a bridge between the subjects of land use, transportation, sustainability, and more. However, only recently did I realize that I could apply my planning background to a role many might consider pretty nontraditional.
After working in the public sector for four years, I joined Uber in 2021 as part of their growing transit team. I quickly realized that I was not the only planner working at Uber and that our common skills were extremely valuable in the tech space. Then, a year ago, I obtained my AICP certification, a move that has been fundamental in sharpening my skills and helping me stay connected to the planning profession.
I also volunteer as a representative on APA's Student Representatives Council (SRC) Executive Committee. From that seat, I get to see the many career paths that students and emerging professionals take. Additionally, I serve as the SRC's liaison to the AICP Commission, which allows me to advocate for new professionals who are also looking to become certified.
I get a lot of questions from students about the "right" way to become a planner. The truth is, I went into my planning program knowing I wanted to work in transportation and assuming that meant a government agency or consulting firm. I would have never imagined that I'd be where I am today — working in tech, while helping transit agencies find solutions to their mobility needs. That's the beauty of planning. Your career journey can take many different routes.
In making certification a milestone aspect of my personal career journey I'm realizing I have several new strengths: I am a better advocate, a stronger analyst, and a professional who is guided by a compass of proven best practices. In the past year, I have noticed a tremendous difference in the way I view myself, my career, and my skills as a planner.
I recognize, however, that gaining experience is only half the battle. As an emerging planner, feeling confident in your abilities and judgment is key to making your voice heard and making an impact in the communities that you serve. In my work, I often collaborate with local transportation agency planners, and I find that my AICP certification brings credibility to my professional contributions. It is especially valuable in my nontraditional role, where it helps build trust and demonstrates that I recognize the challenges that planners face. It also reflects that I actively maintain my planning education and that I abide by the professional code of ethics.
I recently spoke with SRC Chair Kohl Malo, AICP, who also works in the private sector as a planner with Renaissance Planning. He reminded me that the AICP certification can also offer guidance in decision making. "Sometimes even really good data, whether from the models or from public engagement, can get really messy. That's when planners are most needed, and it's also the time to lean on our certification." I agree. Being AICP-certified reminds us that we have the tools and training, and that even if we are emerging planners, we are well qualified for the jobs we do.
As planners, we put significant time and effort into our careers. In the short year since I became certified, I have been consistently reminded of why I wanted AICP certification to be part of my professional path, and why I'm grateful that I achieved it.