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August 2020

Rail News: People

Rising Stars 2020: Harrison Wadsworth

Harrison Wadsworth


Harrison Wadsworth, 33
Director, government affairs
Siemens Corp.

Nominator’s quote: “Harrison is a strong representative of every aspect of the Siemens Mobility business. We see a very strong future for Harrison as a rising leader in our industry. Given his work in both passenger and freight rail, combined with a focus on digitalization and cybersecurity, he is well-positioned to continue to grow as a young leader.” — Elizabeth Cho, Siemens Mobility

What is your educational background?
B.A. in political science, The Johns Hopkins University 2008
M.A. in government, The Johns Hopkins University 2016

Describe your current job and responsibilities.
I am director of government affairs for Siemens Corp., representing our mobility business. I work with our company’s leadership to use the government affairs function to inform and complement our business strategy. This involves working on sophisticated business and public policy issues, with the goal of finding the nexus between the company's long-term interests and national policy objectives. 

I am successful when I can act as a trusted adviser to both my own colleagues and government leaders, thus creating opportunities for policy leadership on issues affecting core markets. I can also be effective by advising our company on the likely timing and impact of forthcoming government actions. Additionally, I represent Siemens through leadership roles at associations like the Railway Supply Institute, the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and BSA-The Software Alliance.

Describe your career path.
I studied political science and got a minor in music in college. I quickly learned that music would be my hobby, not my career, so I did several internships in Washington, D.C., during the summers and one full semester in a congressional office. I then worked for a member of Congress from my home state for a few years, eventually working on transportation matters. 

Next, I worked at the AAR as a legislative assistant and later as a manager of congressional affairs. I learned all about the business and economics of railroading, and the unique regulatory system under which the carriers operate. I also got to work with and learn from some of the most talented government affairs professionals in Washington.

I worked at the AAR for a total of six years. During that time, I completed a graduate school program at night and on weekends. In my last semester, I was hired by Siemens to work on transportation, digitalization and cybersecurity topics. Over the past four years at Siemens, I have also been fortunate to learn all about manufacturing, digital technology and business. I’ve gotten to work on everything from positive train control, to the development of light-rail systems and intercity passenger rail, and even cybersecurity for the operational technologies that make critical infrastructure systems run.

How did you end up in the railroad industry?
I was looking for a change and saw an advertisement in one of the Capitol Hill newspapers for the job at AAR. I always thought trains were fascinating but didn’t know much about them. Growing up, I took guitar lessons at a studio that was across the street from the train station in Gaithersburg, Maryland, so I would often watch the CSX, Amtrak and MARC trains go by while waiting for my mom to pick me up. I knew intuitively that railroading was an essential industry to the economy, so trains would be around for a long time. I thought my interest in the intersection between government and business, combined with working in one of the first industries to be regulated would be an interesting career path.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?
You are always going to be measured by your results, not your effort.

What advice would you give to a new railroader?
First, be humble and try to listen more: Someone with more experience than you can teach you something in five minutes that took them 20 years to learn. Second, always try to find ways to help people with their challenges with no expectation of anything in return. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can build an abundance cycle based on mutual support and success this way.

What was your very first job?
I worked at an ice cream shop. I earned minimum wage and I was highly motivated to get tips. I learned a lot about customer service and the importance of encouraging everyone to get sprinkles.

Describe a fun fact about yourself.
A few years ago, I competed in powerlifting and earned a bronze medal at a competition. My wife Lisa also competed and took the silver. I think this makes us a D.C. Power Couple.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
If I’m not working, you’ll find me outdoors in the woods or on the water. I’ve had this passion my whole life. My love of the outdoors and railroading intersected a few years ago. I am an Eagle Scout and helped update the railroading merit badge curriculum when I worked at the AAR. My wife Lisa and I have two sons, ages 1 and 3. Going on outdoor adventures with them is my absolute favorite thing to do. We have a working dog and love spending time training her in the spring and summer. I also really enjoy lifting weights and hope to one day get back to competing in powerlifting.

What is the biggest challenge the rail industry now faces or will face?
Looking ahead a few years, our greatest challenge will be modernizing the regulatory approach to be more performance- and outcome-driven and less prescriptive. We can see it coming now: a new wave of digital technological disruption, combined with increased competition from other modes utilizing new business models, added to the need to achieve even greater levels of safety and operational efficiency. It won’t be easy: Our industry has had a tough time accepting paradigm shifts in the past, but renewed focus on leveraging the power of high technologies to deliver results makes me optimistic about the future of railroading.


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