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Rail News: People
Rising Stars 2019: Terry Atkinson
Terry Atkinson, 39
General director of marketing and sales
Union Pacific Railroad
Nominator’s quote: “His team is responsible for leading several key initiatives to drive industry leading customer experience and develop creative solutions to promote growth in rail transportation. As a leader, Terry displays a high level of energy and selfless leadership by coaching and teaching his team members the key attributes of a successful and cohesive group. He has had several key accomplishments throughout his 13 years at Union Pacific.” — Beth Whited, Union Pacific Railroad
Why did you pursue a career in the rail industry?
I had an introduction to railroading as a grad student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and thought that it could be a smooth transition from my previous trucking background. I received a scholarship from Union Pacific during my second semester and a subsequent internship, which confirmed this industry was a good fit for me.
Describe your education after high school.
I attended the University of Kentucky and received a bachelor’s degree in business with a finance concentration. After working in trucking and air freight, I was inspired to learn more about transportation. I decided to go back to school at the University of Tennessee to pursue my master’s degree in logistics and transportation, which I completed in December 2004.
How are you making a difference in the rail industry?
By bringing a diverse set of skills to customer interactions, recruiting and developing the next generation of leaders and being an ambassador for the rail industry. Recently, I participated in the 2019 Railroad Day on Capitol Hill, where I was able to help lobby on behalf of our industry with our nation’s leaders. It was an impactful experience and a great opportunity to tell our collective story.
Describe an interesting, unusual or little known fact about you.
Although I don’t have the opportunity to do this much anymore, I love riding motorcycles.
What was your very first job?
As an early teenager, I was a parking lot attendant at the Kentucky State Fairgrounds, which was a great introduction to working with people and managing conflict.
What is your philosophy toward life and/or your career?
Focus on the things you can manage and do them well with passion. Don’t get too high on the highs and try not to get too low on the lows. There’s a lesson in every failed attempt.
What is your advice to new railroaders who want to advance their careers?
Make an impact and be passionate about the work that you do. Be open to alternatives. Be vocal about where you would like to see your career progressing.
What do you think will be the biggest trend to affect railroading over the next decade?
At a high level, the technology advancements that we are witnessing in our everyday lives. Whether we’ll be able to harness these advancements to make railroading more efficient, competitive and attractive to potential future employees will be one of the biggest trends that will impact our industry.
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