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Ashley Wieland, 33
National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association (NRC)
Nominator’s quote: “Since rejoining the association in the summer of 2019, Ashley has infused the organization with renewed energy, passion and focus.” — Matt Ginsberg, TGA Association Management Solutions LLC
What is your educational background?
B.A. in political science from the University of California Riverside
Describe your current job and responsibilities.
The NRC is a District-of-Columbia-based trade association that represents the interests of railway contractors and suppliers. As president, it is my job to work with our board, membership, industry leaders, Congress and regulators to achieve our mission of making railway construction and maintenance safer and stronger. We are a small staff and wear many hats, which is exactly why I love my job. I’ve found there is never a dull moment overseeing NRC operations, events, safety and other program activities as well as legislative and regulatory affairs.
Describe your career path.
My career began in Washington, D.C., in 2007 when I worked as an intern for my hometown congressman. After completing my undergraduate degree in California, I worked briefly as a paralegal, but still had the itch to get back to D.C. One day I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to D.C., and haven’t looked back.
I’ve been fortunate to gain broad-based government relations and association management experience working in various roles for a handful of construction and transportation-focused trade associations. Those job experiences have served me well and prepared me for my current leadership role with the NRC. I feel fortunate to have found my niche and passion working in support of the rail industry.
How did you get into the railroad industry?
When I came back to D.C., I was lucky to land a position with the NRC early in my career. While I have not always worked in rail, I have worked in transportation-related advocacy positions for nearly a decade which has provided a broad perspective and experience for my work at the NRC. I am glad I found my way back to the rail industry.
What is the best career advice you’ve received?
Work harder than everyone under you or above you. Nothing commands respect more than a good work ethic.
What advice would you give to a new railroader?
Find mentors in the industry who will teach and guide you. This advice has served me well, both in the past and in my current work with NRC board members, many of whom have worked in the rail industry for decades. These mentors have been invaluable to me. Along with that advice, I would add that as you progress in your career, don’t forget to give back. Be willing to mentor and encourage others along in their careers. That is one of the hallmarks of the NRC; it provides connections for rail professionals in all stages of their career.
What was your very first job?
When I was 16 years old, I worked at a frozen yogurt shop at the mall.
Describe a fun fact about yourself.
My dad’s family is from Ecuador and I’m a native Californian.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Outside of work you’ll find me spending time with my husband and our 2-year-old daughter. We love to travel together. Beyond that, I enjoy squeezing in time to practice yoga and the piano.
What is the biggest challenge the rail industry now faces or will face?
The most obvious and biggest challenge facing the rail industry — and all businesses and families around the world — is the coronavirus pandemic. The rail industry has stepped up to provide services and materials to keep our nation’s supply chain moving. I am incredibly proud to see how our industry has worked together to tackle a steep learning curve in a short amount of time.
Another key challenge facing the rail industry is securing and equipping a workforce to meet the future demands of railroads as well as passenger- and transit-rail systems. The industry continues to evolve and tackle new challenges in innovative ways, and will need to continue to develop new technologies in order to stay relevant and on the cutting-edge. I cannot think of a better or more dynamic industry in which to focus my career.