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Olivia Daily, 37 Assistant vice president of network and system design Kansas City Southern Railway
Nominantor’s quote: “Olivia is critical to the success of KCS as we implement precision scheduled railroading. … When you think of all that Olivia has accomplished in just her 37 years, it’s pretty amazing. She aspires to become a C-suite [executive] for KCS and, based on her past 10 years at KCS and within the industry, there is no doubt that she’ll make it.” — Mike Naatz, KCS
What is your educational background? Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering from Kansas State University.
Describe your current job and responsibilities. In the AVP network design role, I am responsible for coordinating, planning and implementing the design of the train plan the Kansas City Southern operates on a daily basis. I lead the service design team, consisting of seven people in two countries, two cities and across two languages. We are on the forefront of every aspect of our business: the marketing needs, resource balance and creating operational efficiency. A balance that is often hard to strike.
Communication with various parties, across two languages is paramount and a constant effort.
In addition to all of this, I’ve been instrumental in pursuing new analytical and planning tools for KCS to enhance the way we plan our network. There is never a dull moment!
Briefly describe your career path. Upon graduation from Kansas State University, I went to work for YRC Freight, then Yellow Freight. I worked as an industrial engineer there for five years, learning key early career skills in teamwork, drive and follow through.
I joined KCS in 2010 as an asset management analyst where I was introduced to all things railroad; which I knew almost literally nothing about. It was a learning experience from the start, and that has not stopped. The people surrounding me encouraged me to pursue a service design role not too long after joining KCS. It was a match that fit me very well.
Since that transition to service design, I’ve held a variety of service design or related roles, performing capacity planning and measurements, as well as most recently leading the international service design team.
How did you get into the railroad industry? During my time at Yellow, I had the opportunity to work for a manager who invested in me and ultimately helped me discover and acquire the opportunity to join the KCS team. He provided me with the opportunity to get my foot in the door at KCS, and the rest is history. Since then, I’ve learned a great deal, and capitalized on the opportunities I’ve been presented.
What is the best career advice you’ve received? My mom has always taught me to be kind and respectful, because “you never know who you might work for one day … or who might work for you.” Her point being that things change, sometimes fast. So, I try to keep relationships constructive and respectful. To this point it has served me well.
What advice would you give to a new railroader? I’d advise them to learn the network. The key things that make your railroad unique, the business, the trains, the physical needs of the railroad, as well as the people who make it happen each day. Relationships, in addition to my skills and knowledge, have been an integral part of my success in life and in my career. Also, ask tons of questions; no one is ever going to frown on someone trying to learn.
What was your very first job? My very first job was working as a sales associate at the Gap Inc. in Wichita.
Describe a fun fact about yourself. I lived in the Caribbean for about five years of my childhood. This is where my love for the Spanish language started, and I believe this has shaped the person I have become. It provided me with resilience, drive and perspective that I believe nothing else would have.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I like to spend time with my family. When we can, my husband and I like to travel and play golf, and we always love being with our kids. In addition, any time I can be at the beach, I’m happy; that’s my happy place. Even when it’s raining! Annual family trips to Florida are always a bright spot for me.
What is the biggest challenge the rail industry now faces or will face? I think one of the largest challenges in front of us right now is to evolve our business with technology. The railroads have historically been some later adopters of technology, so the next 10 years will be instrumental in the evolution of the railroad to keep up with the markets we serve and to harness the data we will generate and need to consume.
Technology will bring change on all fronts, so adapting to these changes will require all hands on deck and continuous change in how we approach problems and changes in the marketplace.