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Sean O'Neill
Sean O'Neill, Central Artery/Tunnel Project, Boston  

Public information officer: Light at the end of it

Name

Sean O' Neill

Position

Senior Editor for Public Information, Central Artery/Tunnel Project, Boston

  BOSTON'S 'BIG DIG'
The $14 billion Central Artery/Tunnel Project is scheduled for completion in 2004. Officials say it's to be 70-percent complete in September. The road-expansion and tunnel plan is Boston's new drive to dig its way out of an old traffic problem: The six-lane Central Artery's traffic load has grown from 75,000 vehicles per day when it opened in 1959 to some 190,000 vehicles per day now.
Source: Central Artery/Tunnel Web site

  TELL US ABOUT YOUR DAY
Let us know if you'd like your day profiled. Click here.
Years in position

Almost three.

Age

30 (a Virgo)

Education

Not a bad thing. I'm a big supporter of education, just look at my grad school loans. Northeastern University, BS in History and Communications; Emerson College, MA in Marketing and Public Relations.

What does your job entail?

Proactive public outreach through all media and responding to daily issues in the media relating to the Central Artery Project.

What's the most important thing you do in a day at work?

Working as part of a team anticipating events and stories, then creating a coherent plan to guide and react to daily occurrences.

First job

A local news distribution agent, I would take a Huffy to work. After years in the community media business, an opportunity presented itself to work for a major corporation called McDonald's at their local headquarters. My first job after college was as a fisherman in Ireland. The job market in Boston in 1992 was not the best.

"Your work should have a high level of quality, self respect and intelligence. Laugh, have some fun. Life can be tough. Make sure you get paid what you're worth. Then go home. Family and friends are very important."
Achieved first position

Through hard work and dedication to my craft.

What are your hours?

Sixty minutes. I don't like that metric stuff.

What's the first thing you do when you get to work?

Check in with the world. Review ongoing issues, confirm completed tasks and get ready for the next set of issues/adventures.

Where do you usually have lunch?

On the go, at my desk, or not at all.

And what do you eat?

Smoked trout and onion. Really. Just had it today. Not bad, just don't talk to me. Mint, anyone?

What time of day do things get tense in your job?

Around morning, day, basically after the night. Seriously, I love what I do, tense and/or crazy are good things.

If you're having a good day at work, what usually makes it that way?

When people open their minds and realize how lucky we are to living in this country during these brief moments in time and say, "Hey. This is amazing." Really, those days are far and wide between, but look around America, we're pretty lucky."

  MESSAGE BOARDS
  • After downsizing, are you the one left doing three jobs?


  • Do you get support when you point out discrimination at work?


  • How much work do you take home?

    In reference to Bartleby, "I prefer not to." (That's the "Bartleby the Scrivener" by Herman Melville, as published in 1853 -- Bartleby answers requests for work at his job on Wall Street with the pat phrase, "I prefer not to.") Your work should have a high level of quality, self respect and intelligence. Laugh, have some fun. Life can be tough. Make sure you get paid what you're worth. Then go home. Family and friends are very important.

    What does your job contribute to society?

    The creation of a better understanding between all humankind. OK, not really ... Letting people get an accurate sense of the largest public works project in United States history. The learning from this project will benefit everyone in America and throughout the world. Just wait and see.

    Do you expect to finish your working life in this career?

    Public relations, media relations, is a career that contains many different paths. I'll take a few.

    "I think of the bread lines in the '30s -- and today we're all on a no-carbo diet. A different time, a different place, we really would have some issues. Then, I go to work and grab a bagel."
    If you could have two more careers, what would they be?

    A Swiss Guard, and/or the Cookie Monster puppet guy.

    What's an unforgivable trait in a colleague?

    If someone I worked with had an unforgivable trait (which is a pretty strong statement, I would add), either I'd not be working with them or they would not be working with me.

    Who's your workplace hero?

    My friend in the mailroom early in his life was challenged, but he is always here, detail-orientated, works very hard and a proud man -- a true hero.

    What do you do to deal with job stress?

    Recede into the deepest corners of my mind and become extremely angry I learned that from an angry Buddhist. But seriously, running is good for the head and heart.

    What are you reading these days?

    "King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero" by David Remmick; "Patton: A Genius for War" by Carlo d'Este; and "The Meaning of it All: Thoughts of a Citizen Scientist" by Richard Phillips Feynman.

    When you have one of those days when you think you can't face the job again, what gets you out the door and off to work?

    I think of the bread lines in the '30s -- and today we're all on a no-carbo diet. A different time, a different place, we really would have some issues. Then, I go to work and grab a bagel.

    "Remember, we had a couple of people across the Charles River develop a little thing called the Internet. So please be patient with us, we'll all see light at the end of the tunnel."
    What's the biggest challenge in this position so far?

    Fighting a preconceived public perception, which is fueled by the media, that a public project like Centeral Artery/Tunnel Project (the "Big Dig") is some kind of deliberate twisting of the public trust.

    How do you overcome that perception?

    Keep our message open and honest. Let the public see what we are accomplishing, like through our Web site, www.bigdig.com -- take a look. Also, reminding locals that Massachusetts has some of the oldest infrastructure in the United States and we need this project to compete nationally and internationally. Letting the rest of the country know how they will benefit from this project because of the latest innovations we are developing in "super construction."

    Remember, we had a couple of people across the Charles River develop a little thing called the Internet. So please be patient with us, we'll all see light at the end of the tunnel.

    Interview by Shayla Thiel


     

    RELATED STORIES:
    Tunnel will quench Big Apple's thirst
    June 12, 1998

    RELATED SITES:
    Boston's Central Artery/Tunnel Project
    Massachusetts Highway Department


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