By chance, Roberts got involved in the transportation industry after answering an ad for a job at Bombardier Transportation in 1986.
As she has worked over the past 24 years to build her own career in communications, Maryanne Roberts has used her strong writing and communication skills, as well as her sense of fairness and diplomacy, to create greater visibility of public transportation — especially high-speed rail — in the U.S.
By chance, Roberts got involved in the transportation industry after answering an ad for a job at Bombardier Transportation in 1986. "I had been working for a public relations firm and was looking for something new and different," she recalls. Roberts started at Bombardier as a communications coordinator and stayed for nine years. She then went to work at Amtrak for seven years and returned to Bombardier seven years ago.
Roberts had always been drawn to public transportation, particularly trains. "We would take the train in the summer from Boston to Flagstaff, Ariz., to visit my grandmother. I think that's how my interest began," she says.
Between earning an undergraduate degree in communication studies, and an MBA with a concentration in marketing from the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, Roberts began her career in communications working for the university as a public information officer. Following graduate school, she realized her aspiration to move to New York City and work in communications. Her first job there was with a brokerage firm in the sales department. She then worked for a public relations firm in New York as an account coordinator.
As a woman in a male-dominated industry, Roberts was in the minority at many events when she first embarked on her transportation career. What really helped, she says, was joining the New York chapter of the Women in Transportation Seminar (WTS).
One of the members, Jane Hollinshead, who worked for Long Island Railroad at the time, approached her about being the corresponding secretary. She met the movers and shakers in New York transportation and a lot of women in the industry. "I immediately had this huge network of contacts and it was great. I have to thank Jane, the one who really got me involved. I recommend that organization, especially for women entering the industry," Roberts adds.
Working in an industry that makes a difference is important to Roberts. "Especially nowadays, with gas prices the way they are and environmental issues, it's a good place to work. I feel like I'm doing something positive," she explains.
Roberts loves being able to promote Bombardier and its activities in the U.S. and seeing the company gain more visibility as a result. There has been a lot of recent attention on high-speed rail in this country, she points out. She is also enthusiastic about the fact that interest in passenger rail has increased, presenting more opportunities to share information about Bombardier.
However, what she finds most rewarding is seeing the end product and people riding it. "I can go to one of our factories and see people building something. I get a lot of satisfaction out of being in a city anywhere in the world...in a subway full of thousands of people and see that little builders' plaque at the end of the car that says 'Made by Bombardier.'"
Last January, Roberts became the U.S. spokesperson for Bombardier Transportation. She also handles marketing communications, including management of company literature, Websites, trade shows, conferences, advertising, and relations with the general media as well as with trade magazines. "I am always looking to learn something new, so that fit the bill," she says.
Currently, Roberts is creating a new Website that will showcase Bombardier's extensive presence in the U.S. and raise its overall visibility in the media.