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Learning to adapt a key to NS success

McClellan, Shunte 9.03.2013.01


Change can be daunting, but Shunte McClellan embraces it – and that has served her well at Norfolk Southern.

McClellan, systems engineer in locomotive maintenance, graduated from Clemson University in 2003 with a degree in electrical engineering. During a college job fair, she learned about career opportunities at NS. McClellan was intrigued by the management trainee program because she would be able to jump straight into a management job and still work alongside employees in the field.

During her 10 years at NS, McClellan has held a number of positions, mainly in the Mechanical Department, working on both the locomotive and the car sides of the department. During her first four years, she worked as a mechanical supervisor in Columbus, Ohio, a general foreman in the Bellevue, Ohio, car shop, and a senior general foreman in Baltimore, Md.

In 2007, McClellan accepted a position as assistant manager training at NS’ Technical Training Center in McDonough, Ga., where her focus was to ensure that the Management Trainee and Operations Supervisor Training programs were relevant and up-to-date with current operations.

Two years later, McClellan returned to the Mechanical Department as engineer LEAN production systems at Enola Locomotive Shop. While there, she worked on projects to reduce waste and increase efficiency while completing green-belt and black-belt training for Six Sigma, a process-improvement strategy.

“When I learn something, even if I can’t see the value right away, I force myself to figure out how to apply it,” said McClellan. “Eventually, the value reveals itself.”

McClellan moved to Atlanta in early 2013 to take her current position. In this job and as co-chair of the locomotive reliability team, McClellan develops processes to improve locomotive quality and performance. Now, during problem-solving sessions with members of the SD70 Locomotive Reliability Team, McClellan uses key principles of “NSight,” a new Mechanical Department initiative designed to improve shop operating efficiencies.

“With each transition, I have been forced to adapt, learn quickly, and develop connections with people to help me make the right decisions,” she said. “I have established a strong foundation for the Mechanical Department and for the company as a whole.”

McClellan attributes her success at NS to her ability to effectively communicate with co-workers. She believes it is important to build trust and empower people you work with. “We can’t run the railroad by ourselves,” she said. “You have to trust others and they have to trust you.”

McClellan encourages employees to identify their weaknesses and work to strengthen them.

“No one is born good at something – it takes work,” she said. “Treat yourself as the most valuable commodity you have, and never underestimate the importance of your position.”