Rail pros offer students inside career advice

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Carmen Garozzo, national practice leader for the railgroup for Bergmann Associates, talks during a forum as part of Railroad Night at Michigan Technological University Tuesday night.

HOUGHTON — Michigan Technological University students thinking about pursuing a career in the rail industry got to hear about it from industry insiders Tuesday night.

The Michigan Tech Rail Transportation Program (RTP) and Railroad Engineering and Activities Club (REAC) held the 13th annual Railroad Night Tuesday.

A panel of 10 railroad representatives, including some Tech alums, answered moderator and student questions Tuesday.

Some questions delved into what jobs were open in the rail industry for specific majors. Others were more general, such as one about what the panelists would have liked to do in college that would have helped their career.

Daniel Pullen of Kiewit/Mass Electric Transportation in Omaha, did a summer internship and continued to work through his senior year. He recommended going into the field and getting hands-on experience as early as possible.

“If you’re a freshman out there, and you’re looking for a place to work for the summer, it doesn’t have to absolutely fit in the industry you want to get in, but get out there, start working with your hands, get a job where you can do some general labor or whatever,” he said. “But I would encourage you to get out there and work.”

The group was also asked about the most important characteristic for successful incoming candidates. Traits like a passion for the job, flexibility and communications skills ranked high.

“You can be the best technical person in the world, but if you can’t explain to your client why something’s an issue or how they can resolve it and have them understand in basic terms what you’re trying to solve, you’re never going to get anywhere,” said Carrie Desmond of the New York-based WSP USA.

A dinner followed the panel with a keynote speech by Kevin Riddett, president and CEO of RailWorks Corporation.

Activities continue Wednesday with a student expo from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Companies will have tables and demonstrations set up along the campus mall.