Every Position is a Learning Opportunity
Posted October 6, 2017 09:00 AM CDT
A 20-year railroad veteran, Tami Johnsen’s newest role at Union Pacific is overseeing dispatchers in Omaha’s Harriman Dispatching Center as general superintendent.
Tami Johnsen learned several valuable lessons from her father. Among them, never leave a job until you have another secured, and success isn’t reliant on gender, but hard work. Johnsen took these lessons to heart, becoming the third female field service unit superintendent in Union Pacific’s 155-year history.
Recently promoted to general superintendent of the Harriman Dispatching Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Johnsen now manages dispatchers who coordinate train movement across Union Pacific’s 12,000-mile Northern Region.
A third generation railroader, she began her Union Pacific career at age 20 as a train dispatcher, coordinating the movement of trains. She briefly served as corridor manager, overseeing dispatchers, before moving into Operations and Union Pacific’s Leadership Development Program.
“It’s important to understand other peoples’ jobs, their goals and objectives,” Johnsen said. “If you can do that, you understand the entire railroad better."
Upon completing the Leadership Development Program, Johnsen was assigned manager yard operations (MYO) in Sioux City, Iowa, the first female to hold the role in Sioux City. It also was her first time working “in the field,” being outdoors in the elements to oversee train crew employees and daily train movement. Johnsen admits being nervous, but says after holding several different field positions in Sioux City and Council Bluffs, Iowa, it’s now in her blood.
“I like the challenge of tackling new situations every day,” she said.
That’s why she wasn’t afraid to make another move. Johnsen spent a year supervising trains hauling time-sensitive packages for one of the world’s largest shippers, learning to focus on the customers’ needs and efficient problem-solving. She then transitioned to the intermodal group, which oversees movement of containers carrying everyday goods, such as clothing, electronics and appliances.
“I’m so thankful I had the chance to cross-functionally train in different departments,” Johnsen said. “People should never be afraid to completely change jobs – even move laterally or down – all it can do is help you grow as a leader.”
She was promoted to Council Bluffs Service Unit superintendent in March 2017, after spending much of her life and career working in and around the area. Superintendents are responsible for all train activity and personnel in their service unit, which covers a specific geographic area.
“Every employee means something to me, they are cared for and valued,” Johnsen said.
In her current role as general superintendent, Johnsen says her most important responsibility is employee engagement. She spends much of her time listening to employee concerns and looking for ways to mitigate risk and streamline their work.
“You learn from every situation,” Johnsen said. “My dad taught me not to be afraid of new things, but to push forward. I think that’s helped me at the railroad and life in general.”
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