With a master’s degree in urban planning from University of Pennsylvania, Diana Mendes was initially interested in natural resource preservation and urban environments. Early on in her career, Mendes worked on a number of large-scale, comprehensive land-use plans for municipalities, counties, and states. This included planning for the expansion of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Metrorail system and one of the first plans in Maryland to save the Chesapeake Bay.
“It was in these early experiences when I had my first ‘transit moment,’” says Mendes. “I really saw how important transit was in impacting the built-in environment and protecting resources.”
Another poignant moment in Mendes’ career was in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. She was part of a team contracted by the Federal Transit Administration to help rebuild the transit service in lower Manhattan. It was a chance to help the region restore a sense of normalcy.
“That was the first time where I felt like all my work experience over the years was being put to a very important use beyond that which I could do in a normal career,” says Mendes. “Being able to contribute and leave things better than people had hoped for was extremely meaningful.”
ROLE FOCUS. Mendes joined HNTB a little over a year ago. She is focused on managing all of the firm’s Mid-Atlantic transportation business, from Pennsylvania to South Carolina to West Virginia, and everything in between.
“One of the things I get excited about the most is helping people achieve their visions of success,” says Mendes. “We get to work with clients to solve some of their most important and complex problems.”
KEY PROJECT. She is currently engaged in construction management for the extension of the LYNX Blue Line in Charlotte, N.C. The new line is gearing up to open next year — Mendes and her team ensure that the project remains on budget and on time.
“It’s an amazing experience to deliver large-scale transit improvements and help communities be successful from investment in public transportation,” says Mendes. “All while contributing to the betterment of how we live and use our environment.”
INVOLVEMENT. For the last 17 years, Mendes has also been working as an instructor for the National Transit Institute (NTI). NTI is funded by the Federal Transit Administration and is housed at Rutgers University in New Jersey. While NTI offers an array of different courses for affiliates of the transit field, Mendes co-teaches an advanced course in environmental justice.
“It’s an important topic in the times we live in now,” says Mendes. “It’s very gratifying to work with professionals throughout the country to help them think about new ways to address equity during the planning, development, and operation of transit systems.”
Whether it is for clients or other industry professionals, Mendes is committed to enhancing the state of professional development in general. According to Mendes, the biggest problem any manager or leader will face today is attracting and retaining talent as well as promoting workforce development. She views professional development training, such as courses through NTI, as an opportunity to inspire people in the field.
MOTIVATION. Part of Mendes’ industry success can be attributed to her altruistic approach, as she describes her commitment to helping others excel as a motivating principle.
“It helps me do extra research and take on that extra technical training to learn more about the circumstances that our clients are addressing as they try to do a good job serving their communities,” says Mendes.
On her days off, one could find Mendes in a barn. She is a long-time equestrian who started out exchanging farm work for riding lessons at the age of 10. She also enjoys kayaking and is especially partial to trips along the Chesapeake Bay.