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Building knowledge and collaboration

March 2020

Members of NS’ CrossTracks team are pictured with Georgia’s U.S. senators David Perdue, at left, and Kelly Loeffler, at right. From Perdue’s left are Kim Lyman; Jennifer Schilke; Brent Emerson; Latoya Moore; Ryan Mclain; Eric Peters; Steve Wasilenko; and Krista McClure. CrossTracks members not pictured: Caroline Weeks, Amanda Nesmith, and Drew Marrs.

NS’ CrossTracks career development program goes to Washington

There are many ways to reimagine possible at Norfolk Southern, including how we invest in developing our people. One of the ways we’re accomplishing this goal is through opportunities like the CrossTracks career-development program.

CrossTracks is a hands-on, highly engaging experience designed to provide participants exposure to the major functions of our company while allowing them to tailor the experience to their own needs and desires. A main objective is to provide an enterprise-wide experience for emerging leaders who have worked in a single department for most of their career. The aim is to broaden their knowledge of the company and build a larger and more collaborative internal network.

Well over 100 employees have completed CrossTracks since its launch more than a decade ago. Typically, the program consists of 12 participants at a time who engage in eight rotations over a two-year span. About once a quarter, the members get together for approximately a week to focus on one of NS’ departments. Ranging from in-depth looks at IT and transportation operations to government relations and beyond, each session offers an exceptional development opportunity.

During the first week of March, the CrossTracks members took part in “Railroad Day on the Hill” and spent several days learning from our government relations team. In addition to the many legislative issues discussed, they also were able to share rail industry concerns face-to-face with members of Congress and their staffs. CrossTracks member Drew Marrs, NS director government relations, led the effort.

“This immersion into our democracy vividly illustrates the many ways in which the railroad is involved in, or impacted by, the democratic process,” said Marrs. “It is an invaluable perspective for our leaders to hold as they make daily decisions during their career progression that impact our government or the communities in which we operate.”

Building relationships

Other members of the current CrossTracks crew expressed a similar sentiment about their time on Capitol Hill.

“It was an unforgettable experience,” said Latoya Moore, group manager network optimization. “I was able to get a full understanding of the government process and the impact decisions have on the rail industry.”

Ryan Mclain, senior director communications and signals, said the event provided an excellent opportunity to see how various departments interact and support each other.

“During Railroad Day, we had the privilege of seeing how our government relations team is distinctly in step with supporting our operations team and our other various support teams throughout the organization,” Mclain said. “We are building relationships that not only benefit us now, but will last into the future as the CrossTracks team leans into the reimagining of our organization.”

During their Washington immersion, CrossTracks participants also typically engage with legislative and executive branch officials from federal and state governments, discuss policy with the Association of American Railroads, and visit with senior administration officials from the Surface Transportation Board and the Federal Railroad Administration. In addition, they receive an overview of the rules and role of NS’ Good Government Fund and are updated on public-private partnership projects across our railroad’s system. This overview, Marrs said, helps give the CrossTracks team a new perspective on the opportunities and challenges facing our company and industry from third-party groups, regulators, and policymakers.

Fostering a culture of learning

While these activities fall within the responsibilities of government relations, the thoroughness of the visit is typical for the CrossTracks department rotations, said R.J. Ulrich, NS manager people development.

“My team is dedicated to reimagining possible when it comes to developing our people,” said Ulrich, who helps facilitate the CrossTracks program. “We’re committed to strategically providing exceptional developmental opportunities and resources to support the growth and development of our people, foster a culture of learning, and support Norfolk Southern’s business strategy.”

Developing and investing in our people is one of NS’ core principles. Our people remain our greatest asset, and by reimagining the ways in which we equip them to work together more effectively, Ulrich said, the possibilities are endless.