Sylvia Kendra

“You spend many, many hours each day at work. Be sure you pick an area that you're going to enjoy.”

Home: Washington, DC

UT Dallas Degree: Master of Public Affairs
Profession: Program Manager, Smithsonian Institution (Office of Engineering Design and Construction)

My Work

After graduating from UT Dallas, my first job was as the Geographic Information Services (GIS) Manager for the city of Richardson, Texas, whre I led the implementation of the city's GIS program that is in use today. I was responsible for establishing standard operating procedures for the new division, developing long range plans, and hiring staff, interns and contractors. With the help of a small but strong technical team, we established approximately 120 city map layers for 27 square miles of city space (~30,000 parcels) and created numerous user-specific GIS programs that were designed to improve work functions in areas such as public works, emergency response operations, building inspections, tax assessment, and health code inspections. I was fortunate to have the support of inspiring leaders that encouraged my ideas and initiatives and allowed me the creative freedom necessary to implement something brand-new for the city.

In 2004, I took a position with the Smithsonian Institution, Office of Engineering, Design and Construction (OEDC) as part of the original team that established the current GIS program for facilities. Similar to my efforts in Richardson, this was a ground-up initiative, but with very different goals and challenges. Our early efforts included reconciling and standardizing the Smithsonian's floor plans and publishing the information online for other Smithsonian staff to view and use. Our efforts in this area continue and have broadened to include the latest facilities technology such as geodatabase development for facilities, Building Information Modeling, and digital document management.

My current responsibilities with the Smithsonian include management and administration of the Electronic Document Management program, managing over one million digital facilities records, and providing leadership and strategic analysis on organizational and technology challenges - we are always looking for ways to enable efficient and effective processes.

The Value of My Degree

My MPA from UT Dallas has been very valuable throughout my career. I think my true education began in graduate school - UT Dallas' classes had the perfect balance of practical application and theory.

While I was a student at UT Dallas, I held two internship positions that also proved highly valuable to my current profession. The first was with the Texas Department of Transportation, and the second was with the city of Richardson. My classes were well aligned with my internship assignments and I was able to use work assignments as class projects. This helped me hone my skills at school and at work, and eventually helped me land my first management job right out of graduate school.

I still apply techniques I learned at UT Dallas especially when working on projects related to policy development or complex analysis - and of course, GIS.

My EPPS Success

My success at school had a lot to do with UT Dallas' structure: the small classes, the supportive instructors, and the flexibility of class schedules that allowed me to work and go to school full-time; all contributed to my success in EPPS.

Advice for EPPS Students

It's a competitive market and you'll do best by following your strengths and excelling in things that you are truly interested in doing. Once you start working, you'll realize that you spend many, many hours each day at work. Be sure you pick an area that you're going to enjoy, something that will make you jump out of bed in the morning, ready to get to work! Always give 110 percent and don't be afraid to fail; keep trying new things; keep one eye on the horizon to determine what the next challenge is coming up the road. When you learn something new, say in a training class, go to work the next day and use your new skill. Apply what you learn so it sinks in!

Other Interests

I'm a life-long learner. I love to travel and experience new locations, new people, and new cultures. Being in DC, I'm fortunate to be surrounded by fantastic entertainment and great restaurants. I attend concerts, plays, and museums. I listen to books on my iPod. And I love spending time with my close friends and family.


Posted December 2011