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Babu Named WTS-DC Member of the Year

Neela Babu has made quite an impression on the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) during her relatively short time with the organization.

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©PHOTO COURTESY OF WTS-DC

Neela Babu

Babu, an asset management consultant for WSP USA clients in the Northeastern U.S., joined WTS-DC in 2016 and has been active with the organization's program logistics committee as its co-chair, where she was responsible for organizing and running chapter events. This month, she began her term as vice president of the D.C. chapter. And in December, she was honored by the organization with its member of the year award.

“I was quite surprised and honored to learn that I won the award for member of the year along with my program logistics committee co-chair, Brittney Gick of the Transportation Research Board,” Babu said.

She credited her involvement with WTS-DC and the program logistics committee in helping develop her network in the transportation field. “I now have a broad network of transportation companies and agencies in the region, which has supported my role at WSP,” Babu said. “I have seen our WSP clients at WTS events and have been able to continue engaging with them even after the project ended.”

At the awards event, Babu was joined by her colleague Cathy Connor, senior vice president and director of federal government affairs for WSP, who was honored with WTS-DC’s 40th Anniversary Advancement Award. The award was presented in recognition of Connor’s significant contributions to the transportation field in the region and service to the WTS-DC chapter.

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©PHOTO COURTESY OF WTS-DC

Neela Babu (right) is joined by fellow WTS Member of the Year recipient Brittney Gick (center) and WTS Past President Christine Vineis (left).

Babu and Connor received their awards at the WTS-DC 40th anniversary celebration on Dec. 5 at the National Museum for Women in the Arts.

Improving Assets

Since August 2015, Babu has worked with WSP public sector clients – mostly transit agencies – to help them more effectively manage their physical infrastructure assets.

“My role on projects is typically that of a technical analyst, which includes meeting with the client to understand their current approach to asset management, developing business process maps and conducting gap assessments to understand their asset management proficiency level,” Babu said.

One of her major projects in 2017 was for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “The agency is implementing an enterprise asset management program to improve management of its infrastructure assets,” Babu said. “This effort involves a new software system as well as changed business processes.”

She also worked extensively with Amtrak in 2016. “They sought to build upon the foundations already in place and define an improvement program that puts in place a robust asset management capability,” Babu said.

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©PHOTO COURTESY OF WTS-DC

Cathy Connor (center) received the WTS-DC 40th Anniversary Advancement Award from WTS-DC Past President Christine Vineis (left) and Executive Board Member Avital Barnea, who served as chapter president in 2016-17.

One thing she enjoys about her role at WSP is having the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with the same client. “We really get to know them well and understand the hurdles and pressure points they face when implementing improved asset management practices,” Babu said.

Fostering Collaboration

Originally from San Francisco, Babu earned a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from the University of California-Davis, then earned her master’s and doctorate in the same field from Cornell University.

Outside the office, Babu has been a volunteer for the Discovery Room at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, a hands-on room for kids under the age of 8. “This allowed me to introduce science topics to kids in a fun way,” she said.

Recently, Babu started volunteering with a ministry for the homeless run by the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church in downtown Washington, D.C. “The men’s and women’s locker rooms are opened to the underprivileged for showers and they are provided with hygiene products.”

She is grateful that her career path has led her to WSP.

“It amazes me how many experts we have in so many different areas of specialty all over the world,” Babu said. “This broad range of expertise helps us bolster our qualifications for proposals. These teams, formed by employees with diverse skill sets, speaks to our guiding principle: We foster collaboration in everything we do.”


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