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Sarah Yrkoski, 39General director, workforce resourcesUnion Pacific Railroad
Nominator’s quote: “Her team knows that Sarah will ‘try anything once,’ and in that spirit, the team has made significant process improvements to their work, sourcing methodologies, interviewing and selection practices.” — Amanda Treiber, Union Pacific Railroad
Education: B.A. in marketing, Creighton University.
Job responsibilities: Ensure human resource (HR) strategies align with organizational goals and are appropriately passed on across departments. Work closely with department leaders and internal HR subject-matter experts to implement programs and policies in a way that supports, engages and retains UP’s workforce.
How did you get into the railroad industry? About 10 years ago, I was looking for an opportunity to work in a larger organization, and a colleague suggested Union Pacific. I was hesitant based on preconceived opinions about working at the railroad. However, I have never looked back since joining and continue to be amazed by the opportunities to grow professionally.
What is the best career advice you’ve received? “The perfect time is never going to arrive; sometimes you just need to take a leap of faith.” It is easy to wait for a sign or a tap on the shoulder, but if you want to truly advance at your own pace, then you need to take charge of your own path.
What advice would you give to a new railroader? Take the time to understand our industry and the impacts it has on businesses and communities. Seeing the bigger picture gives my day-to-day work more meaning. We are all responsible for keeping the trains moving safely, no matter what department we work in.
What was your very first job? In college, I worked at a clothing store at the mall. Not only did I spend most of my paycheck before even leaving the store, I quickly learned that I did not enjoy folding clothes all day.
Describe a fun fact about yourself. I come from a tall family (I’m 6’2”) and was fortunate to play volleyball throughout college. Looking back, I’m grateful for the tough lessons I learned playing on a team and sometimes sitting on the bench. Going through those experiences in a competitive environment has definitely shaped my work ethic and personal drive in the workplace.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I have two boys who participate in several activities, and any spare time is spent cheering them on or hauling them around. When we are not doing that, my husband and I enjoy hiking in the mountains and have goals to travel to all the national parks.
How has the pandemic changed your view of career and life in general? The pandemic put a lot of things into perspective, but mostly served as a reminder to prioritize appropriately and focus on the things that matter most to you as an individual. I appreciated that it forced my family to slow down and value our time together.