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General Director of Process Improvement Union Pacific Railroad
By Daniel Niepow, Associate Editor
An MBA graduate from Harvard Business School, Jessica Moore admits she never envisioned working in the rail industry. Despite that, she maintains an open mind about her career path.
“If you spend too much time trying to dictate where you want to end up in life, you’re really going to miss opportunities,” says Moore, who earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Wellesley College in 2003.
It was that flexibility that led her to Union Pacific Railroad, where she now works as general director of process improvement. In 2009, she moved to Omaha, Neb., after her husband landed a job at the railroad. The two met at Harvard while they were both pursuing MBA degrees. Moore worked in corporate strategy for a publishing company in the interim for about a year before securing her post at the Class I.
She didn’t have any rail experience when she joined UP in 2011, but that didn’t deter her from tackling some of the industry’s most challenging issues, such as managing key elements of UP’s positive train control (PTC) program. Moore's group was responsible for cost control, financial reporting, program management and continuous improvement for UP’s $2 billion PTC plan, says Lynn Kelly, the Class I’s vice president of supply and continuous improvement. During this time, Moore also voluntarily completed a pilot program for certification in continuous improvement, which required additional work outside regular hours.After two years in PTC and a stint in marketing and sales, Moore joined UP’s Continuous Improvement Department in early 2015, where she spearheads the UP Way program for UP’s Southern Region. The initiative, aimed at standardizing processes and reducing waste, is modeled after the “lean” method of manufacturing, which Toyota pioneered, she says.
“Moore set specific objectives that drove accountability and performance to enhance the [continuous improvement] team’s performance,” Kelley wrote in her Rising Stars nomination for Moore.
As the industry faces retirements en masse, standardizing the railroad’s processes is of foremost importance, says Moore, adding that she aims to do so in a sustainable and easily transferable way.
“The last generation of railroaders had 30 years to get to where they’re at, and this generation doesn’t have that time,” she says. “We have to quickly come in and compensate.”
When asked about her ideas for recruiting the next generation of railroaders, Moore recalls speaking to a group of young women in the financial industry about careers in rail.
Her pitch to them? “There’s something really exciting about being in a company where you’re really owning your work product. You’re part of building something — you’re not just there in an advisory role — and I think people don’t realize how impactful that can be.”
Rising Stars 2015 Award Winners:
Francois Belanger, CN
Todd Blaylock, HNTB Corp.
Jonathan Chastek, Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co.
Oliver Dolder, Railtech Welding & Equipment
John Riley Edwards, RailTEC, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Stefan Loeb, Watco Cos. LLC
Jessica Moore, Union Pacific Railroad
Amanda Nightingale, King County Metro Transit
Celia Ann Pfleckl, Amtrak
Charles Rennick, Providence & Worcester Railroad Co.
Kaleigh Reyes, GE Transportation
Rebecca Reyes-Alicea, Federal Railroad Administration
Bruno Riendeau, VIA Rail Canada Inc.
Curtis Shogren, CSX Transportation
Alanna Strohecker, AECOM
Keith Tarkalson, Stacy & Witbeck
Brett Urquhart, Rocla Concrete Tie Inc.
Tara Vesey, Dakota Gasification Co.
Lexie Walker, Metra
Adam Weiskittel, BNSF Railway Co.