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Seth Friend, 31 Plant manager CSX Corp.
Nominator’s quote: “Seth has become a strong contributor to railroad safety and efficiency. He implemented new work progression and manpower utilization technology practices that have established his shop as the CSX standard for efficient operations.” — Jamie Boychuk, CSX
What is your educational background? I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland.
Describe your current job and responsibilities. I am a plant manager for CSX at the locomotive shop in Cumberland, Maryland, where I have shared responsibility over the day-to-day floor level operation. I work with my peers to oversee the daily job assignments of the shop's 98 employees to keep them safe. We also plan the work progression to ensure quality repairs on the impaired locomotives that arrive at the shop. I work with my colleagues both at Cumberland, and across the CSX network, to provide a plan to power the trains leaving the Cumberland terminal. Lastly, I am a mentor for two managers that report directly to me, helping them set goals and objectives to help them progress in their career.
Describe your career path. During college I held an intern position with GE Transportation as a field technical adviser. During this time I was stationed at the CSX Cumberland Locomotive Shop. At the conclusion of interning with GE, I was hired by CSX as a mechanical management trainee. I spent time training at the CSX mechanical facilities in Atlanta and Waycross, Georgia, and Avon, Indiana. I was then assigned to the Cumberland Locomotive Shop as a supervisor. Next, I was promoted to the role of service center manager at Cumberland, and have since transitioned into the role as plant manager.
How did you get into the railroad industry? As I was finishing my mechanical engineering degree I was looking to work in a field that provided stability, but also was challenging and always looking to implement new technology. I found all of these things in CSX. The railroads are a pillar of American society: Without railroad companies such as CSX to haul goods from location to location, the American system could not operate.
Also, interning with GE showed me not just how much technology and development there currently is in locomotives and the railroad infrastructure, but how much untapped potential remains. Modern Tier 4 locomotives are engineering marvels and the implementation of technology such as distributed power shows that the rail industry isn’t resting on its laurels, we are actively engaging in new technological endeavors.
What is the best career advice you’ve received? The best career advice came from one of my mentors, Keith Stafford, when he told me, “Being able to make people realize there are real, measurable consequences to their actions is one of the hidden keys of management.”
What advice would you give to a new railroader? I would tell any new railroader to never get complacent and to always ask what their next avenue of development will be.
What was your very first job? My first job was working at a place called Bill’s Marine where I was a dock attendant, renting and maintaining boats.
Describe a fun fact about yourself. I love going to concerts. My favorite musician is Bruce Springsteen; I have seen him perform live nine times.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I am an avid outdoorsman. I enjoy hunting and fishing in my spare time. Also, I own two classic cars and spend time with my father maintaining our 1968 Camaro.
What is the biggest challenge the rail industry now faces or will face? I feel the biggest challenge we will face will be maintaining our competitive edge over competing transportation modes with falling fuel prices. I feel that we will need to continue to hone in on our operating ratios and keep utilizing the proven principles of precision scheduled railroading to keep our edge.