Stefanie Seskin oversees parts of Boston government that have had some of the most notable effects on the city’s streets over the last decade.
Think bike lanes, BlueBikes, and neighborhood safe road initiatives. As the city’s active transportation director, Seskin’s job is to make walking and biking more attractive in traffic-choked Boston.
That means a lot of meetings across the city, but her home base is an office on the seventh floor of City Hall (a building, by the way, that she loves more than many residents).
A library of design guides and city plans
Seskin keeps a trove of relevant literature nearby, including traffic engineering guides, state bike lane advisories, the city’s contract for operation of the BlueBikes bike-rental system, and more. Among the most regularly referenced is the city’s transportation plan for 2030, the basis for most transportation decisions made in the city in recent years.
“I’ve kind of torn apart Go Boston 2030, trying to reference back to words and images from those plans to bring them through,” she says.
A Post-It organizing system
The city uses higher-tech ways to track projects, Seskin promises. But for her own planning purposes, she relies on a bunch of Post-It notes on her wall, color-coded by topic. (BlueBikes issues are on blue paper, of course, for example.) The notes are arranged in a four-square grid, with items that are more important on the left, and items that are more timely on the top. That means the items in the top left are likely to cause the most stress — though laying everything out at once also helps keep things in perspective.
“Just because something is urgent doesn’t mean it’s the only thing that’s important,” she says, adding that she adjusts the notes about once a week. “This way, I don’t have to depend on my own mind to remember all the things I need to do.”
A calendar that nods to her love of City Hall’s architecture
Seskin is an ardent fan of brutalism, the architectural style characterized by hulking, block-like structures that was popular in the mid-20th century. City Hall is considered a hallmark of the style and was well-regarded architecturally at the time it was built, even if today many people consider it an eyesore.
Not Seskin, who admires the style and has a wall calendar with brutalist designs to prove it. She says the design allows for easy changes in floor layouts at City Hall.
“I actually really love City Hall. It’s an icon,” she says. “We’re standing here and the walls don’t go all the way up and it’s extremely cold, but the building itself is really forward-thinking and adaptable.”
Old Hubway, err, BlueBikes ad
A prized possession is one of the early advertisements for the bike-share system, then called Hubway, that had been designed for a T bus when the system launched in 2011. The name change happened in 2018, out of a marketing agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, which has helped fund an expansion of the system into new neighborhoods. Seskin acknowledges she sometimes misses the Hubway name, but “being able to provide public bike share in a lot more neighborhoods was more appealing than retaining the name.”
A big paper airplane
A timeless symbol of slacking off is actually a work place collaboration tool on Seskin’s team. While Seskin has her own office, her colleagues mostly sit in an open-office setting. In theory, that means people are easy to reach and office discussions take off organically. But in practice, that means they often have headphones in as they try to focus on their work, she says. Paper airplanes, then, have become a way for colleagues to get each other’s attention without sneaking up on them.
“The paper airplane is just kind of a fun way to be like, hey, I’m looking for your attention,” Seskin says.
A shoe basket under her desk
Seskin practices what she preaches, walking or biking to work year-round. But the footwear it takes to power that kind of travel isn’t always perfect for office settings, so she keeps the office attire in a felt basket under her desk.
“I change my shoes every day when I get to work,” she says, explaining that sneakers, are “sometimes not right for the meetings I’m going to have that day.”