Business Center

Expanding my Transportation Experience

By: Tess Ellender, Process Improvement Intern

September 5, 2019

Tess Ellender

While I was in college, I worked for the Louisiana Transportation Research Center writing literature reviews, producing a quarterly newsletter, and obtaining research material. Time after time, I found a large portion of the research I was reading came from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). From states away, I admired CDOT’s transportation technology efforts, their hard work in keeping the roads in good condition, and the dedication to continuous improvement. Therefore, I jumped on the opportunity to join the Office of Process Improvement as a Process Improvement Intern.

My background is in Industrial Engineering, which focuses heavily on continuous improvement using methodical tools like ISO 9000, 5S, Six Sigma, and much more. Working with the Office of Process Improvement has allowed me to expand my improvement knowledge to be more people-oriented by using change management. I’ve accomplished many things during my time here, including working on a Lean Construction project, managing part of the Lean Everyday Ideas program, mentoring Every Day Counts champions, attending Roadeos around the state, and even learning how to design roads to make them more pedestrian-friendly. What these projects have in common is needing change management to succeed. This office has taught me what my engineering degree could not - the value of effectively enacting change by utilizing clear, open communication.

Through developing my soft skills and learning how to better communicate, I have developed invaluable relationships with people throughout CDOT. I know that I have met people here who will be lifelong mentors, I have met engineers that I know I can go to for advice and help even after my time at CDOT is over, I have met amazing friends, and I know that I have learned how to communicate effectively with people who do not have the same background as me. When I pass through the Eisenhower Tunnel, I know I have had conversations with the people who work there. When I see executives at press conferences, I know that I have had meetings with them where my voice mattered. I have talked to front line workers in Durango, and supervisors in Grand Junction and all of this makes Colorado feel a little more like home.

Now, I’m off to work for Coastal Drilling East in Golden, CO to work as a Project Engineer. I am excited to take what I’ve learned during my time at this internship to help my new team foster an environment of continuous improvement, change management, and effective communication.

How Do I Hire Interns?

Learn about how to utilize CDOT’s internship program in your division by referencing the CDOT Collegiate Internship Handbook.