In December, Business Analyst Nik Bronder and Director Agency and Customer Service Mike Martinez graduated from the Michigan State University Certificate Course in Railway Management. The program welcomes mid-level or senior management railway employees or industry suppliers who show potential for growth and leadership development.
The Belt Railway of Chicago tries to send two employees each year. The program offers weeklong sessions at various locations once a month for four months. Participants receive classroom and field experiences, as well as opportunities to hear from various industry leaders.
In September, participants gathered in Washington, District of Columbia, for their first session. They visited the Amtrak Consolidated National Operations Center and the agencies responsible for railroad regulations including the FRA, TSA and NTSB, and met with railroad lobbyists.
Pueblo, Colorado, hosted the October session. Outside of presentations, participants visited a track manufacturing plant and Transportation Technology Center Inc. TTCI provides testing and evaluations for railroad equipment before it enters production.
November’s session was in Chicago. Students toured the Chicago Transportation Coordination Office, UPS Center, TTX’s headquarters and the federal reserve — and Belt Railway, where Martinez gave a presentation on leadership. They visited the hump and learned how the Belt was created, its rolling stock and how ownership works.
For the group’s final session in December, participants toured General Motors’ Grand River Assembly Plant in Lansing, Michigan. With auto business levels rising on many railroads, the tour provided an insight into how the industry needs to be served and how the rail industry fits into that service.
The course ended with group presentations on subjects that led into further questions and dialogue with classmates. The groups were carefully selected by the program leaders at the initial session. Throughout the course, group members did research on their topics. Bronder’s group addressed the rail industry and customer service. Martinez’s team spoke about the volatility of coal, oil and grain.
“We were from all over the country,” he said. “We tapped into different team members for different insight during the process.”
Newer to the industry, Bronder appreciated the broad exposure and networking the program provided.
Aside from the course honing leadership skills, Martinez appreciated that it confirmed his professional insight.
“It was fascinating to see CEOs or FRA colleagues speaking the same language as myself,” he said. “You realize that this industry is small.”