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How did you get into railroading? What's the most interesting project you've worked on so far in your career? Do you need a graduate degree to work in the industry? Does working for a railroad leave time for a personal life? Those questions were on the minds of potential railroaders who attended a "Meet the Next Generation" session held earlier this week during the Railway Interchange 2013 conference in Indianapolis.The session was hosted by the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association's (AREMA) Committee 24, which addresses education and training, and was sponsored by several railroads and transportation companies. The hour-long, standing-room-only session provided college students, recent graduates and young professionals the opportunity to hear from five panelists representing various rail industry jobs, whose post-college career experience spanned three to 10 years.Panelist Christopher Gonzalez talked about his industry experience since joining Union Pacific Railroad in June 2012. He started in UP's operations management program and since has been promoted to assistant manager of track maintenance for the Class I's Chicago service unit. During his time with the railroad, he has been involved with projects related to track shifts, diamond replacements and a hump yard relocation. Gonzalez praised the opportunities UP has offered him, including the formal coaching he's received from superiors as well as informal mentoring from many experienced railroaders who are nearing retirement."About 40 percent of our company is retiring in the next 10 years," Gonzalez told the students in the crowd. "So the career advancement opportunities [in the railroad industry] are there for you."The other featured panelists were Josh Bair, a senior track engineer for HNTB Corp.; Joanna Pardini, engineer-catenary design for Amtrak; Greg Reiman, bridges and structures supervisor for Norfolk Southern Railway; and Lauren Schroedter, a project engineer for Hanson Professional Services Inc.Attendees also heard from the AREMA leaders who pitched careers in railroading and membership in the association, which has increased the number of student chapters to 15 from five over the past year. Applications are pending for two additional chapters to join AREMA by year’s end.AREMA's 2012-13 President and Chairman James Carter, NS' chief engineer of bridges and structures, told the potential railroaders that railroading offers a "tough and demanding but very rewarding career.""It's been a lot of fun for me, but I envy you," said Carter, whose railroad career spans 40 years. "I believe the best of railroading is ahead of us."
â€¨The second biennial Railway Interchange conference combines exhibits, presentations and technical conferences for AREMA, the Railway Supply Institute, Coordinated Mechanical Associations, Railway Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association and Railway Systems Suppliers Inc. The next Railway Interchange is scheduled for 2015 in Minneapolis. — Julie Sneider