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Rail News: People
Rising Stars 2019: Cathrin Banks
Cathrin Banks, 34
Maryland and Delaware Railroad Co.
Nominator’s quote: Progressive Railroading’s editorial staff nominated Banks for the Rising Stars Award for being one of the youngest women in the United States to be put in charge of running a railroad.
Why did you pursue a career in the rail industry?
After graduating from law school, I began practicing as a trial attorney, mostly doing plaintiff’s work in medical malpractice and catastrophic injury cases. I loved being in a courtroom, but after several years, I found that the antagonistic nature of litigation was wearing me down. Around the same time, my step-dad had been counsel for the Maryland and Delaware Railroad Co. (MDDE) for almost 40 years, and was looking to retire. He asked me if I was interested in taking over, and I jumped at the chance.
It didn’t take me long to fall in love with railroading. I enjoyed learning about the intricacies of the railroad business and all of the industries we serve, and found my fellow railroaders to be a fantastic group of people to work with. Along with my enthusiasm, my role with MDDE quickly grew from “just” handling the legal work to working on virtually all aspects of the business.
Describe your education after high school.
I attended University of Maryland College Park and obtained a bachelor’s degree in government and politics in 2007. Thereafter I attended the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and obtained my law degree in 2010.
How are you making a difference in the rail industry?
I hope to bring a fresh perspective and to grow business in creative new ways. I think there is a perception of the railroad industry as a staid old institution that has been around for hundreds of years. While it has obviously enjoyed a long history, railroading also is a vibrant, dynamic industry full of innovation and ideas. Just because a railroad has done something a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean there can’t be very valuable conversations around finding new ways, new approaches.
I think there is a balance to be had between using tried and true techniques, and finding new methods that might be safer, more efficient, more creative. I hope to have more of those conversations and to bring that balance to my organization and the industry as a whole.
What is an interesting, unusual or little known fact about you?
I was born in Germany and have dual citizenship. I am also a certified yoga teacher.
What was your very first job?
Working as a hostess at our local Ruby Tuesday’s the summer after I turned 15.
What is your philosophy toward life and/or your career?
One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Arthur Rubinstein: “I have found that if you love life, life will love you right back.” My interpretation of this is that if you work hard, trust the universe, and most importantly, keep a positive attitude, then good things will come your way. I have found this to be true for both career and life as a whole. I think it’s important to approach new opportunities, situations and people with openness and a willingness to try. You may not always succeed, but you will always learn something and grow from the experience.
What is your advice to new railroaders who want to advance their careers?
Do not be intimidated by the people who have been in the industry for longer than you. There always will be people who have more experience or more knowledge, but if you trust your instincts, you can figure it out as you go. And also, find a good mentor.
What do you think will be the biggest trend to affect railroading over the next decade?
Precision scheduled railroading (PSR) and its implementation across the Class Is is going to have a major impact on our industry as a whole. It will be very interesting to see how the remaining Class Is unroll their PSR strategies and how this filters down to short lines and shippers.
I also think the growth of intermodal traffic will be significant, and it will be interesting to see whether, and to what extent, short lines are able to participate in those opportunities.
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