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Rail News Home People

September 2020

Rail News: People

From the Editor: Rising Stars 2020 — of voice and vision


This month, we present the Rising Stars Class of 2020 — 25 individuals under the age of 40 who are making a difference in the North American rail industry. The profiles were written by Senior Associate Editor Julie Sneider and Associate Editor Vesna Brajkovic. 

Honored during a July 30 virtual ceremony, this year’s class — our eighth — is, as ever, an eclectic group. They represent, and reflect, this industry. They’re also helping to guide it. The 2020 class is interested in the rail world, yes, but also in the world around them. They know rail’s role in it. They know that rail is a bridge, that rail connects dots. These Rising Stars also know that they connect them, too.

One of the things that struck me about this group, from reading their stories and listening to them at the July 30 event, is how engaged they seem to be — in their work and in the moment. How present they are during this unprecedented time. How words like “coordinate” and “collaborate” and “communicate” fit them to a T. Just like “connect” does. 

In an age when it is so, so easy to send messages, and so, so easy not to receive them, these Rising Stars are message senders and receivers I’d want on my team. 

Brandon Whitaker, Union Pacific Railroad’s senior manager of telecom field operations, talks about the need to “create value by being able to see the big picture,” which requires “understanding the particulars of the other positions around you and how they each contribute to the interrelated whole.”

To Sean Cronin, Metra’s senior director of mechanical capital projects, it’s about listening and learning “from everyone you interact with.” It’s also about sharing your thoughts. “One way we get better is through change and new ideas,” he says.

Particularly in an “established industry” such as rail, says Lacy Kreger, BNSF Railway Co.’s director of economic development strategic programs.

“It is important for the new generation of railroaders to remember that their voice matters,” she says.

Because it does — perhaps now more than ever, given what may (or may not) lie ahead. 

Congratulations to the Rising Stars Class of 2020. Thank you so much for seeing. For listening. For learning. For speaking up. For remembering. For knowing.

Also, we’ve got bonus Rising Stars coverage: What are the industry’s biggest challenges? The Class of 2020 weighs in on the subject in an online-only article. Visit


Browse articles on Rising Stars Brandon Whitaker Sean Cronin Lacy Kreger

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.