As March continues on, we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month. This week we are highlighting the Commissioner of the Boston Transportation Department, Gina Fiandaca. As a resident of East Boston, Commissioner Fiandaca has dedicated her career to public service. Learn more about Commissioner Fiandaca’s career and who inspires her most.
What is your background, and how did you come to work in your field?
My background is firmly in public service, although I went to business school. I started working for the Transportation Department when I was in College at Suffolk University and worked my way into systems development, revenue collection and enforcement technology while earning a MBA at Boston University.
What inspired you to pursue your career?
I come from a long line of public servants; my father was a Clerk Magistrate and I, along with many of my six siblings, followed his footsteps into public service. When I started with the Transportation Department in college I never envisioned that I would be here decades later. The lure, however, of such a fast-paced environment and the opportunity to truly make a difference on such a large scale draws you in! The transportation arena is constantly changing and every day presents new challenges. I was fortunate to work under some of the most talented and dedicated managers who believed that it was truly an honor to serve the public and help people, as trite as that may sound. Even all these years later, I am inspired by the people I work with and the people we serve.
What advice would you give young women starting out in the public service field?
Step-up! This advice holds for anyone in so many circumstances but this is particularly true for women. By this I am referring to the Science of Achievement: How do you convert your dream into reality? Of course the fastest way to do that is NOT to learn by your own experience! If you have a career goal, the best thing to do is to find a role model who has already achieved what you want, or a version thereof, or a similar version, and then to figure out what did they do to do it faster and better than anyone else. The science of achievement is critical to saying, "how do I create a magnificent life? Life on your terms?" But you also want to give people what they need; and what they need is to be fulfilled. Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure in life. There is nothing worse than making everyone else happy and neglecting yourself. That's not a gift to yourself, your spirit or to anyone else in your life.
So the second skill is to master the Art of Fulfillment. It's not a science; it's an art. What is going to fulfill you is different from what is going to fulfill someone else. No matter how much you achieve or how much people like you, or how much money you have, if you don't keep growing, you're not going to feel fulfilled or successful. Progress = Happiness. A lot of people achieve lofty goals, but it's not the goal that makes you happy, it's who you become in the pursuit of that goal. What you get won't make you happy, Who you become will make you happy. True happiness is simply making the decision to to have a great life and the only way to have a great life is to decide, in absolute terms, to find beauty in anything that happens in your life. Ultimately, you decide that life is too short for any other decision!
What female figures have influenced you the most? Why?
My mother, Lucy has definitely influenced me the most. My mother is 93 years old and the most inspirational woman I know. I often think of why that is, and I have to conclude that she set the example for me in finding beauty in everything in life. It's her optimistic outlook, compassion for helping anyone - family, neighbors, strangers in the grocery store, and every animal on the planet, and her incredible resilience that I treasure. My mother instilled in me, along with my four sisters, a strong desire achieve whatever we set our sights on. She taught us to be kind and compassionate and to help others, and that those attributes go hand in hand with personal success. I believe she is happiest when she is helping others and she is a living example that the key to fulfillment on any level, is finding beauty around you.
What do you believe is the most pressing environmental issue of our time?
Transportation is certainly one of the most pressing environmental issues facing us right now. However, transportation and the environment are contradictory in nature since transportation conveys substantial socioeconomic benefits, but at the same time transportation is impacting environmental systems, often adversely. From one side, transportation activities support increasing mobility demands for individuals and economic benefits of freight transport, while at the same time these activities are associated with growing levels of environmental risks. This has reached a point where transportation is a dominant source of the emission of many environmental pollutants and has significant adverse effects on the environment. These impacts can directly impact the environment, for which the consequences of transportation related activities on the environment are generally clear and easily understood. For instance, noise and carbon monoxide emissions are known to have direct harmful effects. Second, are indirect impacts or the side effects of transportation activities on the environment. These often come with a higher risk than direct impacts, but are more difficult to draw a direct relationship with. This may include particulates generated by internal combustion engines and the link of these pollutants to respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
Finally, if we take into consideration how all of these risk factors and pollutants add up over time, very often the affect on our ecosystem is cumulative and complex. Climate change is an example of this: with complex causes and consequences, this is the cumulative effect of many adverse behaviors and actions. And unfortunately transportation plays a key role here.
What actions do you suggest women take today to get involved and make impact in their communities?
I think women already make a huge impact in today's society but I think we as women need to know that it’s okay to stand up and speak out. We need to empower each other. Empowering women as economic, political, and social actors can change policy choices and make institutions more representative of a range of voices. We need to ask men to stand along side us and help to close the gender gap. I feel right now that we are on the right road. We have a voice and should use it.