How did you get started in the rail industry?
I began my engineering career at Frederic R. Harris (a predecessor company of AECOM) in 2001 after graduating from Villanova University with a civil engineering degree. I was hired by the civil department but on my first day, was told that I would be working with the rail group "for a while." Well, I've never left the railroad industry and I couldn't be happier! Initially, I was a junior engineer working on the Norfolk Southern Pipe and Wire contract, reviewing utility installations on behalf of the railroad. I then moved onto the CSXT General Engineering contract, where I reviewed projects that had the potential to affect CSXT operations. I was also given the opportunity to participate in various marketing pursuits throughout the next few years which I loved.
Although I always loved trains as a young woman, predominately because I rode the Metro North train every day to high school while growing up in Yonkers, NY, I did not plan for the railroad industry to become my career. Early on when I became a member of the rail group, I was lucky enough to work with two gentlemen who were career railroaders, Roger Heebner and Robert Humbert. They truly fostered my love of the railroad and I am so appreciative. Not only did they show me how to be a railroader but they taught me so much that has made me successful in my career.
What do you love most about your job/the rail industry?
Over the course of my career, I also spent time working for both Wabtec Railway Electronics and BNSF as well as got my MBA. In 2010, I returned to AECOM to as Program Manager of the CSXT General Engineering Contract. Over the last ten years, I have taken on progressive roles with increasing responsibility within the AECOM Freight Rail organization. I have served as the CSXT Client Account Manager, the US Lead for Freight Rail and, in November of 2017, I became the AECOM Freight Rail Market Sector Lead for the Americas. My responsibility is to set the strategy and lead business development efforts with our Class I, regional railroad and shortline clients across North America. I am also closely tied to the execution of our railroad work which feeds my engineer's soul. I am honored to lead AECOM's great business and I look forward to the continual growth of the railroad industry.
With respect to what I love about the rail industry overall, the first is definitely the people. We have great people at AECOM, but our clients are fantastic, although demanding and so are many of our competitors. It is a relatively small industry, which fosters positive and rewarding long-term relationships and provides the opportunity to work with strong teams to execute projects and initiatives. The second thing I love about rail is the importance of the industry to the overall economy. My MBA degree and learning continues to support my love of this railroad aspect. I became an engineer to make a difference and contributing to the growth of the rail industry and by extension the larger economy is what has kept me engaged in this part of the transportation sector. In the past year, I was accepted onto the board of the American Railway Development Association (ARDA) and I am a member of the membership and policy committees of the NRC. I look forward to continuing to be an active leader in the various railroad associations to help support the industry I love.
What is it like being a woman in a primarily male dominated industry?
For women engineers, your journey as a minority in a male dominated industry begins in college. Today, I certainly see more women than there were 20 years ago, which is amazing, and I hope this trend continues. I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from rail professionals of both genders over my career. Now I feel the responsibility to share what a rewarding career the rail industry can offer to women. Mentoring and engaging younger women is critical during the early part of their careers. It is one of the best parts of my role at AECOM. Organizations dedicated to the advancement of women like WTS, League of Railway Women and Society of Women Engineers are also great places for women to connect, share experiences and mentor each other. I have made a point to seek out and network with some fantastic women in the rail industry which personally has been very rewarding. Overall, being a woman in a primarily male dominated industry is a great opportunity.
What do you find yourself doing most in your downtime? Hobbies outside of work?
I love spending time with my family: my husband, Mike and my children, Logan (8), Emma (5) and Abigail (3) and our extended family. When I am not raising future engineers, I enjoy learning about wine and cooking new dishes (I got married in Napa!), trying to increase my running distance and karaoke sessions with friends. I also volunteer my time on Villanova University's College of Engineering Advisory Council.
How do you define the "future" of rail? Where do you think the industry is headed?
The future of rail is promising. Obviously, in the short term with COVID 19, the rail industry has been affected as has every other industry. The railroads have weathered previous economic headwinds so they know what to do and I am confident the industry will be fine. In the short term, we're looking to support our rail clients respond the pandemic's challenges and opportunities. In the long term, the rail industry will only grow and innovate. I personally believe that technology will allow the rail industry to become more efficient and I'm excited to see how that plays out in the future. AECOM has strong digital transformation experience, working with all types of clients within the transportation sector and I'm looking forward to how AECOM can partner with our rail clients and other suppliers to drive efficiency in the industry.
Anything else you would like to add/share?
Inclusion and Diversity are embedded in our core values at AECOM and is a key driver of our success. We believe our innovation is enhanced by our ability to draw from a wealth of different backgrounds and experiences and allows us to better understand our clients and make lasting impacts in the communities where we live and work. Our AECOM rail group continues to focus on becoming more diverse and I know that we will accomplish that goal, not only for AECOM but for the industry as well.