In middle school, Chris Oswald didn’t foresee a future in aviation, or even a transportation career in general. Back then, he was just one of those kids who had a knack for designing and building things.
“Thinking back to junior high school or high school, I don’t think I would’ve known that I would be arriving in transportation,” he told Fast Forward. “But I think I did know that I wanted to do something where I was building or designing something.”
But looking back, he said, it's not surprising that his interests led to a career in transportation engineering.
“I think a lot of folks in transportation, at least on the engineering side which is where I got in, really have that thought.”
Today, Oswald works on multi-billion dollar airport planning, policy, and design projects—such as spearheading the design of a new runway at the St. Louis airport. He says that as a transportation engineer, he gets to see his ideas come to life.
“I think it’s really satisfying to see what you put on paper—the ideas that you come up with—being converted into something real and tangible, and something that people touch.”
Oswald also says he sees a lot of students who might have that same knack for engineering, even if they might not realize it yet.
He explains that the kid in junior high who enjoys computer games like Minecraft or games where the player has to design or plan something is the same type of person who would enjoy being a transportation engineer. Both of these activities involve creating something. That’s what a person does as a transportation engineer.
He noted that even though he wasn’t a math person at first, that didn’t stop him from pursuing engineering.
“I’ll be the first to say I was not great in math. When I was in junior high it was the last thing I wanted to do. ... [B]ut over time you really realize how important it is.”
Finding teachers and mentors to help him along the way was one of the keys, Oswald said, to getting to where he is today.
“I think sticking with it. Finding mentors that are in STEM fields is certainly so critical on the aviation side, and probably all modes if you’re going in for engineering or design.”
He urges students who enjoy engineering-related activities—even video games like Minecraft—to consider what they might be able to accomplish in a transportation career, where they can see their own ideas come to life in a way that impacts people every day.
“We’re really connecting families. I always think of that as a big reason I got involved,” he said. “People is what it’s about, and I think that’s really what makes transportation such an exciting field—such a necessary thing that we all touch.”
Be sure to check out Mr. Oswald’s video to learn more!