Since her college days, Vasti Amaro has quickly climbed up the ranks in the transportation industry, starting with her first job as an information clerk for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa, Fla.
As a dedicated athlete growing up, Amaro planned on getting a degree in sports coaching or kinesiology, and even began her attendance at Paul Quinn University in Texas on a basketball scholarship. After moving back home to Tampa, obtaining the job with HART was natural, since Amaro was an avid transit user growing up. "I knew their transit system from front to back," she says.
After starting the entry-level job, the now 19-year transportation veteran decided to get her bachelor's degree in business management from the University of Phoenix, with the intention of staying in transportation. It only took a year before HART promoted Amaro to a supervisor position in customer service. In total, she worked at HART for eight years, managing the customer service department, and eventually, paratransit operations.
From there, Amaro transferred to the private sector where she's been for the last 11 years. Before coming to Tectrans in 2011, she was at Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), where she helped start up its paratransit contract in 2000. Later, she pioneered several systems for the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, where she managed a consolidated rental car center shuttle, the light rail connector, and employee and long-term parking shuttles.
Tectrans — a private transportation company providing maintenance and operations solutions across the country — is only Amaro's third employer. She attributes part of her growth to former managers. "In all my transitions it has been my previous boss or mentor that reached out to me," she says. For example, Tectrans CEO Mike Griffus was also her previous boss and brought her over not long after he started at the end of 2010.
"He recognized that I was able to lead an entire region, move it toward where the company was heading, and gain new business through the network of people I have in the transportation community," she explains.
Amaro's network is fairly extensive thanks to her role as an international board member for the Women's Transportation Seminar (WTS), whose mission is to transform the transportation industry through the advancement of women. According to Amaro, WTS has been working with transportation administrators on programs, including the federal STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program and WTS's "Transportation You," which aims to provide equal opportunity for young women of diverse backgrounds in the industry and sets up a mentor program among other activities.
While she reports that she has never personally experienced discrimination as a woman in her career, she says the higher up she gets in the organization chart — where the presence of women becomes less common — the more resistance she experiences in the industry. But, like Amaro's personality traits, she says as long as women are results-oriented and confident they shouldn't have any problem moving up in their transit careers.
Aside from servicing the various needs of different communities in her position at Tectrans — and starting up company sports teams to build staff camaraderie — Amaro enjoys the mentoring role she takes on through WTS.
"I try to make sure that the individuals I'm mentoring understand that you have to feel confident in what you're doing," she says, "and that assertiveness has to come out in your work so people will believe in you."