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Nominator's quote: "Committed to diversity and inclusion and with a priority goal to help KCS recruit more women into operations, [Carmen] is channeling the successes she has achieved into helping others do the same." — Jeffrey Songer, KCS
Education: Attended Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, Louisiana, A.S. in electronics technology, B.S. in electronics engineering technology; Louisiana Tech University, M.S. in engineering management.
Job responsibilities: As signal project engineer, responsible for managing and coordinating all phases of signal engineering and construction for capital, capacity and industry projects; participating in conceptual development and overseeing organization, scheduling and implementation tasks. Duties include project estimating, material management, construction management, database management and financial reporting.
As part of departmental succession planning, also serves as an inventory management trainee.
Career path: In graduate school, landed first engineering job at CenturyLink, a telecommunications company, responsible for managing outside plant material database. In February 2014, became a project engineer with KCS. Managed state grade crossing surface projects for four years. Moved into current position in 2018.
How did you get into the railroad industry? When I decided to pursue career opportunities outside of telecom, my primary goal was to join an industry that offered variety and stability. I realized that the rail industry had a wide number of roles available in the sector which could increase my chances of finding a position that would suit my skill set and background. Like any other sector, rail goes through hardships, but it is a quintessential industry that is here to stay.
What is the best career advice you've received? Having a strong network adds to your value as an employee. In other words, the more people I can reach out to for help and to offer help, the more valuable I become.
What advice would you give to a new railroader? Seek mentorship. A mentor will provide a resource of solutions to some of the challenges you face based on their own experiences. Having someone in your life who has blazed the trail before you who is willing to share wisdom can be very valuable.
What was your very first job? A cashier at McDonald’s while in high school.
Describe a fun fact about yourself: I am a YouTube content creator. My beauty and hair channel currently has over 22,000 subscribers and more than 2.8 million views.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I am a newlywed and a mother to a young, energetic son. Most of my spare time is consumed with family outings and activities. I’m also big on self care and like to clear my mind with a good workout session at the gym at least four days a week.
What is the rail industry's biggest challenge? Improving diversity. The national shortage of people entering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields means the railroad industry must compete with other transportation modes to recruit and retain workers to fill positions left open by retirees. This has forced companies to recognize the need to take a more aggressive approach in their commitments to diversity.
Now more than ever, the industry must cast a wider net to find and attract new talent to railroading, including women, minorities and others historically underrepresented in the workforce.