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Nominator's quote: "Stephani is focused on driving the advancement of technology platforms to enable UP to compete as the most efficient logistics provider. Her collaborative approach to leadership combined with her deep technical and business knowledge have allowed Stephani to engage with various other groups within information technology and across business units to identify opportunities to focus on incrementally delivering value, while maximizing the use of all resources." — Beth Whited, Union Pacific Railroad
Education: B.S. in electronics engineering from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Peter Kiewit Institute; MBA from University of Nebraska Omaha.
Job responsibilities: Imagines, collaborates and builds on Union Pacific's core enterprise technology platforms. As a principal product manager, designs complex technical features; leads onshore and offshore development teams; interacts with stakeholders and internal customers; and researches technologies and solutions.
Career path: Joined UP as a college intern in telecom engineering. Became a full-time network engineer and served in that role for several years, designing IP networks and building out connectivity to hundreds of yard locations to modernize UP operations and radio systems. Applied for an opportunity in information assurance; worked on security projects, including enterprise authentication and authorization solutions for several years.
From there, pursued a role as a business systems analyst designing complex features for UP's core logistics platform NetControl, including complex and critical safety train makeup/placement edit rules. Grew into various technology roles, including team lead, scrum master leading offshore teams, functional domain architect, enterprise architect and product manager.
How did you get into the railroad industry? It all started my sophomore year of college when a classmate who was interning at Union Pacific mentioned they were looking for engineering interns. My initial reaction was: "The railroad? Really? What would I do there?" I learned about the extent of UP's private telecom network and impressive engineering acumen, so I applied. The internship lasted through college, which led to a full-time job offer, and it has turned into an exciting and fulfilling career.
What is the best career advice you've received? Learn to recognize when a door has been opened, and be willing to take the risk and do the extra work to walk through it. You should feel uncertain and uncomfortable sometimes — that means you are pushing yourself and you are growing. This will enable you to deliver great outcomes.
What advice would you give to a new railroader? Get out and learn from others as quickly as you can. Learn about operations and see it firsthand. Understand the business, the challenges and constraints. Whatever your role, you will be more effective if you understand and appreciate the unique challenges and impressive logistics that go into operating the railroad.
What was your very first job? Working at CBS real estate offices filing paperwork and answering/routing phone calls during the summer.
Describe a fun fact about yourself. My family had a hobby Christmas tree farm while I was growing up. My siblings and I were the assistant groundskeepers planting seedlings, mowing, trimming, shearing and helping to sell them in the winter.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I enjoy getting outside with my husband and three daughters. Our daughters (ages 2, 4 and 6) love to find new places to hike and explore nature, climb trees, take walks, pick dandelions, etc. I also enjoy getting out for a solo run or a swim whenever I can squeeze in the time.
What is the rail industry's biggest challenge? From my vantage point, the biggest challenge we face is evolving our technologies to keep up with the pace at which the world, and specifically the logistics industry, is transforming digitally. Balancing legacy systems, processes and controls rooted in an extensive and rich history, while growing to leverage bleeding edge technology, is a real challenge. Our next generation of railroad workers and customers are digitally native and will demand a rich digital user experience. The transportation landscape is changing with autonomous technology and environmental considerations. We need to be ready.