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Rail News Home People

July 2022

Rail News: People

Rising Stars 2022: Clifton Ellis

Clifton Ellis


Clifton Ellis, 38
General director of marketing and sales, metals and ores
Union Pacific Railroad

Nominator’s quote: “Clifton has done an exceptional job bringing very creative ideas to deploy mutually beneficial efficiencies that ultimately support customer growth.” — Amanda Treiber, Union Pacific Railroad

Education: B.A. in business administration in management, Jackson State University. MBA, California State University-Fullerton.

Job responsibilities: Developing and leading the marketing and sales team’s commercial and customer strategies to promote growth and customer centricity for UP’s metals and ores markets. Also, coaching a diverse team of marketing and sales professionals in various U.S. locations.

Career path: Served six years in the U.S. Air Force in air transportation logistics, then started at UP in the marketing and sales department managing paper and chemicals customers. Transitioned to shipment quality manager covering UP’s western region. Most recently held various marketing and sales director roles in Houston covering sand, metals and construction.

How did you get into the railroad industry? I connected and interviewed with a UP colleague and Jackson State alum who was recruiting potential new hires on campus. After a candid discussion, I traveled to Omaha, Nebraska, where I met rail professionals and discovered the industry. Since then, my colleague has served as a mentor and friend since we met more than 15 years ago.

What is the best career advice you’ve received? Be very intentional about establishing solid relationships throughout your organization, because those connections will pay dividends throughout your career.

What advice would you give to a new railroader? My life motto: “Get comfortable being uncomfortable,” because that is where the growth occurs.

What was your very first job? As a plumber for my late father’s business back when I was 14. Digging sewer lines during the Mississippi summers was fun.

Describe a fun fact about yourself. I’m the second-oldest of eight siblings, so I learned to eat rather quickly.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? If I am not spending time with my family, my free time is consumed by something fitness-related, like CrossFit, Spartan Race or Tough Mudder. Health is wealth.

How has the pandemic changed your views of your career and life in general? While my career is part of my life, the pandemic certainly served as a reminder of just how precious life is in general. It has resulted in me intentionally being more present and expressive with family, friends and colleagues. It has also resulted in me being more apt to do things I enjoy as I feel the urge, as opposed to delaying them.

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