District 8's Nathan Reis's career in transportation seems like a natural choice, given his family ties to PennDOT.
Born and raised in the Williamsport area, his mom, Denise Reis, was the CADD (Computer Aided Design and Drafting) manager at PennDOT District 3, headquartered in Montoursville, Lycoming County.
"Just growing up – (attending) Bring Your Child to Work Day – I had experiences at PennDOT at all ages," Nathan said. "I had a lot of connection to PennDOT and the civil engineering world."
It wasn't exactly what he first envisioned doing, however. He initially considered a career as a lawyer.
"Growing up I was always told I would make a great lawyer because I liked to talk and argue and always had to be right," he said.
Academically, Nathan was also good at mathematics, so when his junior year of high school rolled around and he began focusing on career choices, he chose civil engineering.
He attended Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, graduating in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. While in college he interned at District 3, working as an Engineering, Scientific, Technical Intern (ESTI) first in the survey unit, then in bridge inspection, and finally, bridge design.
His experience as a youth and in college, including his summer internships, cemented his belief that a career in transportation, specifically PennDOT, was the right path. Following graduation, he applied for a job at District 8 and was hired almost immediately.
"I got a job at PennDOT right out of the gate," Nathan said. "I started out in 2016 as a CET (Civil Engineer Trainee) and did a full year rotation."
In October of 2017, he started working in District 8's Safety Management Section as a Civil Engineer – Transportation, which he held until being appointed to the dual role as Safety Section Supervisor/Safety Engineer. He actually held the latter position in an 'acting' capacity before being appointed to the permanent position.
As Safety Section Supervisor, Nathan oversees traffic engineering and safety studies related to things like speed limits, truck restrictions and so forth. He said he enjoys that aspect of his work, but his role as Safety Engineer is the most interesting and rewarding.
That part of the job entails selecting safety improvement projects for available Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funding. These types of projects include roundabouts, traffic signals, high tension median cable guide rail and high friction surface treatments. He also manages the district's Highway Safety Plan, an annual plan submitted to Central Office that details how the district intends to reduce crashes and traffic fatalities.
Nathan said the rewards come from developing projects that achieve the goal of reducing crashes and fatalities.
"It's really rewarding to go back and see what we did making a difference," he said, adding that his ultimate goal is zero traffic fatalities.
"I'm trying to put hospitals out of business, as far as traffic injuries and fatalities," he said. "No one wants to get the news that a family member was injured or died as a result of a vehicle crash."
"I enjoy my job," he said. "It's busy, it can be stressful, but at the end of the day, we're making an impact. I think that it's an important job."
He notes that his work is a team effort. Although only in his mid-20's, Nathan supervises a team of seven employees.
"My staff is fantastic," he said. "They make my job so much easier."
He also counts the Traffic Engineers who he has worked with for being great mentors and leaders. Former Traffic Engineer Jason Bewley, and current boss Chris Flad are always "willing to help me grow as an engineer," Nathan said. Each has been generous in sharing their experience and knowledge, he said.
He said he appreciates and supports the department's continued focus on highway safety.
"I want to flesh it out and make it a good program," he said. "There's so much emphasis now on safety. We want to stop people from being hurt or killed in crashes."