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Rail News Home People

July 2021

Rail News: People

Rising Stars 2021: Marcus Parrott

Marcus Parrott


Marcus Parrott, 38
General director of signal engineering
BNSF Railway Co.

Nominator's quote: "Marcus drives results through the teams he leads by communicating a compelling vision and purpose. He consistently supports and engages team members, demonstrating leadership that motivates others to achieve their potential while supporting the organization's objectives. His leadership, strategic thinking, planning and drive have helped him successfully lead diverse teams with measurable results." — Alison Cooper, BNSF

Education: Dual degree program resulting in a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a B.S. in general science from Morehouse College.

Job responsibilities: Support signal design, estimating, research and development for BNSF. The work supports over 32,000 route miles and spans a spectrum, including everything from typical wayside design and safety check to strategic technology deployments.

Career path: Started engineering career at General Electric Healthcare. Also spent time in GE corporate audit staff. Transitioned to BNSF Railway, serving in various signal maintenance and construction roles with increasing responsibility.

How did you get into the railroad industry? When I left GE, I was strongly considering teaching seventh-through-ninth grade math and science. While waiting to teach full time at the start of the next school year, I taught as a substitute. At about the moment I realized teaching might not be the best choice for me, a friend with BNSF encouraged me to consider joining the company. Eleven years later, I can still say it was a great choice. The brief time that I spent in the classroom gave me a tremendous amount of respect for the important work our educators do. While I do not teach, I experience vicariously through my wife, who is a teacher.

What is the best career advice you've received? Do the job you are in well, and other opportunities will follow.

What advice would you give to a new railroader? Commit to learning something every day, and never underestimate your impact. Know that railroading is a challenging calling, but equally rewarding.

What was your very first job? I was a high school intern with Chicago Public Schools HQ.

Describe a fun fact about yourself. Always a planner, I once wanted to be an astronaut as a young kid, but changed my mind because I did not know what steps were required to become one. I am happy to report that I am now a bit more persistent in my search for answers, and I am quite comfortable remaining on Earth at this time.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I enjoy running and listening to live music, especially jazz.

What is the rail industry's biggest challenge? The industry's continued challenge will be to adapt and innovate with technology in light of future demand; automation in competing modalities; and broadening environmental objectives.

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