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Michelle Bowling, 39Vice president, sales–logisticsWatco
Nominator’s quote: “With Michelle’s leadership, our sales cycle for closing a rail logistics customer went from six-to-12 months to only weeks.” — Lynda Patterson, Watco Cos.
Education: B.A. in corporate financial management, St. Mary’s University; MBA in strategic leadership, Southern Methodist University.
Job responsibilities: Team is responsible for rail-car and intermodal logistics, with a strong focus on freight management, demurrage, storage mitigation and asset management. Create comprehensive supply-chain solutions for customers.
Career path: Started as an intern at BNSF Railway Co. for two summers, spending one in the equipment group and the other in the internal audit group. Received an offer to come back full time as a management trainee. Joined Watco in 2017 to help grow its intermodal service offerings.
How did you get into the railroad industry? I was awarded a scholarship by BNSF during my sophomore year of college, which got me my internships there. I had never connected the dots with railroading being an actual career until I got the call from the dean of the business school suggesting I apply for the scholarship.
What is the best career advice you’ve received? While on the demurrage team at BNSF, General Director Jim Cherry would always say, “Let the facts tell the story.” Presenting the facts helps get past emotions when you are trying to get a buy-in on a project, when you’re taking accountability for a mistake or when you’re delivering a tough message to a customer.
What advice would you give to a new railroader? Learn all you can about operations. Take any opportunity you find to soak it all up to get that firsthand experience. You will be more successful in every role if you understand how something works before you try to create solutions. Also, learn from every boss — the good and the bad — so you can learn how to lead and how not to lead.
What was your very first job? The McDonald’s drive-thru.
Describe a fun fact about yourself. I dream of becoming a mascot someday. I once got to dress up as Pearl, one of the mascots for a large scholarship event that takes place at St. Mary’s University. My arm was her tongue and I waved people into the merchandise store on the side of the street.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? We have a big, blended family of four kids — Hayden, 17, Belle, 12, Ice, 10, and Sammy, 3 — so our free time is spent mostly driving them around to baseball, softball and soccer games. We also spend our free time camping and fishing at Lake Texoma.
How has the pandemic changed your views of your career and life in general? We were all reminded that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. My responsibilities mean that I have to balance customer meetings alongside volunteer work and my kids’ practices and games. The pandemic also gave me the opportunity to reflect long and hard on my career path and make sure I really loved what I was doing.