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Sean Cronin, 39 Senior director, mechanical capital projects Metra
Nominator’s quote: “In Sean’s 18 years working in the railroad industry, he has risen through the ranks and turned a job into an exceptional career, mastering positions in mechanical operations and capital projects. Sean now possesses a unique combination of skills and experience essential to the department’s success.” — Kevin McCann, Metra
What is your educational background? I have a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Describe your current job and responsibilities. My current position oversees all the capital programs undertaken by Metra’s mechanical department, including new rolling stock vehicle procurements, rolling stock overhauls, both internal and external, and vehicle modification programs. My position also oversees the mechanical rolling stock engineering group and the mechanical quality group.
Describe your career path. After college in 2003, I was hired by Metra as a quality control specialist. After a few years in that role, in 2005 I moved to the field where I was a general foreman and then car superintendent at Metra’s Western Avenue shop. In 2009, I accepted a position at Amtrak in the Chicago 16th Street Locomotive Shop as a general foreman. While at Amtrak, I also served in roles as fleet engineer of diesel locomotives and senior manager of equipment engineering diesel locomotives. In 2016, I came back to Metra as a department head of EMU and car programs, and in 2018 I was promoted to my current position.
How or why did you get into the railroad industry? When I was finishing up college, I was interviewing, but had no particular preference as far as what industry I wanted to enter. After five months of job searching and not hearing much, I received two offers in the same week, Metra and a local engineering firm. I chose Metra and the railroad, because it seemed to offer a more stable environment, and in hindsight, it was a very good choice.
What is the best career advice you’ve received? Family comes first, everything else is secondary.
What advice would you give to a new railroader? First, listen and learn from everyone you interact with. There is great knowledge all around you. Do not take any interactions for granted. I have learned from so many different people with so many different backgrounds.
Second, speak up if you have ideas. One way we get better is through change and new ideas.
What was your very first job? I was a dishwasher at a local butcher shop near my home.
Describe a fun fact about yourself. I have always been fascinated by weather. I read any articles I can about weather, and I enjoy the background and science behind weather phenomena.
Do you have any hobbies? I am a runner. Most of my spare time is spent hanging out with my wife and four children.
What is the biggest challenge the rail industry now faces or will face? Three months ago, my answer would have been dramatically different. Now, it is to gain a better understanding and try to be proactive to the ever changing new reality we are in, where people’s lives and daily habits may be constantly variable for a period of time. The next few years are going to require us to take a lot of risks, but out of this time of challenge and turmoil, I believe a lot of great innovation will come forth and strengthen public transit in the long term.