From Draftsperson to the Deputy Secretary of the Highway Administration at PennDOT

In this episode, I talk to Melissa J. Batula, P.E., the Deputy Secretary for Highway Administration at PennDOT, about her amazing career journey from starting in the private sector to now being responsible for overseeing all of the roadways in Pennsylvania as well as the 9,000 people who work for the DOT.

Engineering Quotes:



Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask Melissa:

  • You spent many years in the private sector. What made you decide to transition over to public service?
  • What does your private sector experience bring to PennDOT?
  • You are the first woman to be appointed Deputy Secretary for Highway Administration at PennDOT. How has that experience influenced your career?
  • What are some of the current challenges and opportunities at PennDOT?

Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode:

  • When in a highly ranked position like Melissa is, you need a good network of people that you can trust and that can get the job done. There needs to be daily meetings conducted to ensure that everything stays on track and that any problems are dealt with as soon as they arise.
  • Quality communication among the different teams is vital to ensure that the correct decisions are made collectively.
  • If you are thinking of staying on the technical side of things, remember to keep your doors open to opportunity because you might find that you have grown to like the management and leadership side of things later on.
  • To help you with transitioning from technical to management and leadership, go to your professional comfort zone and use it to propel you into the new area. Use your technical skills to talk to people and you will excel, and use your strengths to start widening your skillset.
  • During times like the current pandemic, in the early stages, PennDOT had a singular focus on supporting life-sustaining operations, like trying to reduce the spread of the virus and support the medical community. They then worked on putting protocols in place to get the rest of the operations to be fully functional as soon as possible and in a safe manner.
  • Young women in civil engineering need more experienced and skilled women mentors to help them to be more confident in themselves and their abilities.
  • If you move over to the public sector, experience in the private sector will help you to see a fuller picture of the entire environment. It also helps you to understand the business side of things and what challenges the private sector firms face, and can help you to not become part of those challenges.
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More Details in This Episode…

About Melissa J. Batula, P.E.

PennDOTMelissa J. Batula, P.E., was appointed Deputy Secretary for Highway Administration in January 2020. As the first female to hold this position, Batula manages 9,000 dedicated staff members who share her commitment to serving the transportation needs of citizens across the Commonwealth. Her role includes overseeing investments in PennDOT assets, ensuring quality and safety across the department, and advancing innovative strategies to solve Pennsylvania’s 21st century transportation challenges. She is adept at building strong relationships with industry and government partners and is committed to guiding the department’s 11 district offices in successfully carrying out PennDOT’s mission.

Books Mentioned in This Episode:

The Pocket Ref

Pocket Ref


Women’s Transportation Seminar
LEAD Program
Connect with Melissa J. Batula, P.E. on LinkedIn
Engineering Management Institute Training

This Episode Is Brought to You by the Following Sponsors:


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To your success,

Anthony Fasano, P.E., LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success

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Originally posted 2020-11-18 14:30:06.

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