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Linda Hernandez, 36 Industrial development manager Kansas City Southern
Nominator’s quote: “Linda has been the primary driver to KCS' growth in the Mexican energy sector, as well as a tireless champion for her customers, an avid student of the Mexican business environment and an extraordinary team leader. As such, she was entrusted with the task of formulating our sales strategy for the opening of the Mexican energy market.” — David Eaton, Kansas City Southern
Why did you go into railroading? One of my high school teachers referred me to a sales position at Kansas City Southern de Mexico. It seemed like a great opportunity because Kansas City Southern uniquely owns Class I rail operations in Mexico and the United States, and sales positions in Mexican railroad companies were uncommon — and thus more personally challenging to attain. Taking a chance on a position in the rail industry has led to 11 rewarding years at KCS, which have been highly stimulating, challenging and, most importantly, fun.
Describe your education after high school. I am a perpetual student, always ready to learn something new to grow my knowledge and skills.
I received a bachelor’s degree in international commerce from the Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. While at KCSM, I attained my master’s degree in international management at the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico, one of my country’s leading institutions of higher education and important think tanks.
I’ve also benefited from many educational opportunities KCSM/KCS has offered, including a Leadership Plus certification and workshops on sales, managing people, negotiation and communications. In my new position as industrial development manager, I am studying real estate strategy.
How are you making a difference in the rail industry? In my current position, I initiated an industrial development team focusing on creating conditions to attract new customer facilities across all business units for KCSM. I also assist in the procurement of real estate and other properties that allows operational improvements necessary to drive KCSM/KCS revenue growth.
As chemical and petroleum sales manager, I assisted KCS in taking its first steps toward developing new business in the refined oil and gas markets in Mexico. This included introducing the Mexico rail industry to the Transload Distribution Association North America, resulting in the first Mexico chapter being created. I also created a support network within the 70 existing transload terminals in Mexico.
I’ve also represented KCS and its Mexico Energy Reform strategy as a conference speaker and panel moderator. These appearances have led to a greater industry understanding of the opportunities the reform measures have had and will have in Mexico and the U.S.
What is an interesting fact about you? I was on the high school basketball team that won Mexico’s national championship. If you go to my high school today, you’ll see a banner in the auditorium that says, “6 L. Hernandez.” That’s me!
What was your very first job? I was a trainee at Logistica Integral en Transportacion, a third-party logistics and rail terminal company. I started off getting coffee and making copies. When I was graduated, the company offered me a full-time job, which led to a position as a sales executive on the management and financial team.
What is your philosophy toward life and your career? Maintain equilibrium. This has allowed me to do all the things I love in life: being at home as a mom and a wife, spending time with my friends, working out, continuing my education, succeeding in my job and traveling for business.
What is your advice to new railroaders who want to advance their careers? Boldly defy expectations. When I started in the Mexican rail industry, I was a 24-year-old who looked like a teenager. Many times, customers, government officials and others with whom I met did not believe I was capable of handling meetings. But, they soon learned that I was. I’m happy that KCSM/KCS stood behind me and trusted and empowered me so that I could do my job. What will be the biggest trend to affect railroading over the next decade? Automation. I expect to see advanced technology continue into all parts of the rail industry in order to lower costs and increase return on investment, to accelerate the information flow between origins and destinations, and to improve rail efficiency, safety and security.