Jessica Kappel: Stepping up to a large challenge
Growing up in a Chicago suburb, Jessica Kappel enjoyed working on cars with her father. These days, Kappel is responsible for keeping much larger vehicles on the “road.”
As a mechanical supervisor at Norfolk Southern’s Roanoke Locomotive Shop, Kappel supervises employees who work on locomotive power assemblies and air compressors. When she was hired in June after completing the company’s yearlong management trainee program, she was the shop’s only female supervisor.
Initially, Kappel said she worried about how the shop’s male employees would react to a female supervisor.
“I was really nervous that they would not respect me, but it’s worked out really well. They don’t treat me any differently,” she said, adding that co-workers have appreciated her willingness to ask questions. “I was out on the floor shadowing employees to fully understand the shop. They respected that I wanted to learn what they were doing rather than just supervise them without knowing what they were doing.”
Kappel, who graduated from Purdue University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology, had a lot to learn about locomotives. “I had never seen a locomotive up close,” she said.
Because of a lifelong love of cars, Kappel had intended to pursue a career in the automotive industry. She shifted gears after the 2008 economic downturn left automakers in financial straits. Still desiring a career in transportation, Kappel turned her focus to trains.
Kappel found what she was looking for after attending a job fair at Purdue and speaking to an NS human resources representative about mechanical engineering jobs on the railroad.
“I have always been interested in moving parts, and I wanted to do something different day to day and not just sit behind a desk,” she said. “I wanted to get my hands dirty.”