For Shondra Neumeister, learning is lifelong. “There’s so much out there in the world I can’t even begin to scratch the surface,” says one of New Jersey Transit’s Emergency Management Planners. Though Shondra has spent many years in her field and has a master’s degree in civil engineering, she isn’t done making discoveries. Enriching her outlook through unique cultural, philosophical, and emotional experiences fuels her to pursue her passion for people and communities—and making them a little safer each day.
Shondra sees the world as a web of connections. From the teams with whom she faces hard tasks head-on, to the families who welcome them home at the end of the night, to the people and communities who depend on her work in times of crisis, she sees value in building relationships. She fosters dynamic teams by pairing learning and teaching with her extensive training in emergency management and engineering.
Aside from her role in New Jersey, Shondra also runs two businesses. She provides emergency training and exercises to a variety of first responders as well as professional engineering and emergency preparedness and response services to water and wastewater utilities. She set out to get a degree in environmental law, but during her pre-law engineering studies she found an interest in public health and water systems. After the attacks of September 11th, she entered unfamiliar territory. Essential guidance and training had not been developed and shared to address this critical infrastructure during an emergency. Through her involvement with the American Water Works Association, she helped develop and deliver better training for professionals in the field. She also assisted with the creation and updating of standards and best practices which have been applied in other industries and are still used today.
One of the biggest hurdles she faces is slotting together people with different experiences and maturity levels. As new employees join the team, they bring different ideas, whereas seasoned employees may feel more comfortable sticking with the tried-and-true methods they know. This means people may not communicate the same way or on the same level. Shondra encourages people to step away from their phones and emails and have one-on-one conversations early and often. Clearing up miscommunications instead of letting them fester helps build trust both among the team and between the team and the public. She also invites others to spend time together outside of work so they can connect without the stress of the job. “We learn about each other through those social interactions,” Shondra says. “It helps us understand how to work with each other better in the professional setting.”
The network of connections isn’t limited to the team but extends to the community and the clients she and her colleagues serve. Bringing collective insights together to address a problem helps them keep up with what’s going on around them. “We can’t give clients a good product unless we understand who they are and where they come from. You must have a diverse group to effectively work together.”
For more information on Shondra and her services, visit her website at https://www.setechnicalsolutions.com/.