Accepting the PTOE Challenge

Joe Duggan, Communications

January 06, 2021

Kara Kosiski values variety in her daily work. The opportunity to tackle a wide range of challenges is one of the top reasons she enjoys being a Traffic/Technology engineer at Olsson.

Whether she’s preparing a traffic impact study for a new mixed-use development, designing for a city-wide signal and communications system upgrade, or helping municipalities plan maintenance of their intelligent transportation systems, her daily routine stays fresh and interesting.

“It’s concrete enough in that there are standards and guidelines,” she said. “But there’s also the technology side of it, where a lot of things are evolving and ever-changing. I really enjoy that.”

She enjoys it so much, she pursued certification as a Professional Traffic Operations Engineer (PTOE). Kara recently learned the extra work paid off when she was awarded the PTOE certification after passing the required examination.

With her accomplishment, she joined 15 engineers at Olsson who have also received the PTOE certification, which represents “a powerful demonstration of requisite knowledge, skill, and ability in the specialized application of traffic operations engineering,” according to the Transportation Professional Certification Board.

“I think it brings value to Olsson’s clients to show them we are well-versed in the industry standards,” she said. “We’re committed to taking the extra step to have the best qualification to work on their projects.”

Kara joined Olsson as an intern in 2013 and she considered applying for openings on the Traffic/Technology or Road/Bridge teams. One of the reasons she went with the Traffic/Technology team was because she wanted to get back to her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Looking back, she made the right call by trusting her instinct.

“Everything always works out how it’s supposed to,” she said. “Traffic and technology really ended up being a perfect fit for me.”

Working alongside colleagues who are supportive and willing to share their knowledge of the profession has been invaluable. As Kara gained more experience and skill, she set her sights on earning her professional engineer certification. She passed the PE exam in 2019.

Unlike the PE exam, applicants are not allowed to bring their own references to the PTOE exam. But since it covered the specialized information Kara uses in her daily work, she felt the PTOE test was less stressful than the PE exam.

“It was all from memory, no references,” she said. “That was the tricky part of the PTOE exam.”

She felt “relief” upon learning she had passed the test. But after she exhaled, her thoughts turned once again to professional development.

“It put me in a good mood, but also in a good spot to say, ‘What’s next?’”

While Kara figures out the answer to that question, she knows her daily work at Olsson will keep things interesting.