The Unique Career Path That’s Made Me Successful — Without Sitting in an Office All Day

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Photo Courtesy of Union Pacific.

Photo Courtesy of Union Pacific.

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April 14, 2024 at 8:28AM UTC

Women don’t have to have office jobs to be successful. That’s the story Nekenya R. Moreland is passionate about sharing with her mentees and professional connections. Moreland has spent 13 years at Union Pacific Railroad growing a gratifying career, spending much of her time on the field and working with crews throughout Fort Worth, Texas. Thanks to several internal promotions, Moreland is now an Analyst Field Ops Support — and she uses her role to encourage other women of color to join the historic organization she’s proud to call home. 

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Recently, we spoke to Moreland about the key to landing internal promotions, the leadership skills that help her work with a variety of teams and crews, how she found a job she loves every day. 

How long have you been with your company? What about it made you first want to join? 

I’ve been with the company for 13 years. I was referred by a college friend. I thought it would be an interesting change from my business experience of Healthcare and Employee Benefits Insurance. I wanted to challenge myself to learn a different industry. 

Tell me about the roles that you’ve held at Union Pacific, as well as your current one. What about this role most excites you?

I started in 2006 in the Operations Management Trainee (OMT) Program. I was promoted twice within the Transportation Department to Manager Yard Operations (MYO) and Manager Terminal Operations (MTO). Now I serve as the ‘right hand’ to the General Manager of the Texoma Service Unit as an Analyst Field Ops Support.

This role excites me the most because I work hand-in-hand with the General Managers. I like being the glue that keeps everything in motion. I get to see how decisions are made and have a hand in implementing those decisions. Knowing I am playing a vital role within the group excites me. 

What programs or aspects of the culture at Union Pacific helped you advance your career? 

The OMT program, as well as the MTO School, helped me develop undeniable networks. For me, the most important relationship was with different crafts and with the crews. 70% of my job was learning what work is done and how it’s done. That is why it was imperative to treat the crews as my business partners and involve them in day-to-day decisions. Without the crews, I would have never gotten my work done in a safe and efficient manner.  

A lot of people believe that developing your career means changing companies, and not infrequently. What has enabled you to develop/advance your career without job hopping?

When I picture a career, it does not include multiple companies — it involves one company with many opportunities. Union Pacific is the perfect place for you to advance your career without moving companies. I have been able to advance my career by developing great relationships and telling people what I see for my career path.

How do you use your role as a female leader to bring up other women behind you? 

I have a push and a need to see more women and more women of color on the railroad. I use my role and my story to bring other women to Union Pacific. Women do not have to be stuck in an office to be successful. I was the only female transportation manager for six years in Ft. Worth Service Unit, and I am living proof you can do it and do it well. 

What advice do you have for women who believe jobs at Union Pacific aren’t ‘fit’ for women?

Come and talk to me and I can tell you why it’s a good fit. I will show you railroading careers are not just for men. I’ve had a young daughter — I’m a single parent — since the beginning of my career and I’ve spent time growing my career at every location in Ft. Worth. IT’S POSSIBLE.

Ultimately, what has led you to stay at your company?

I am proud to be a Union Pacific Employee. The railroad has allowed opportunities for myself and my family that other companies could not have given me. Union Pacific enables me to be part of history. I’ve been pleased to see my company execute historical events flawlessly, such as transport George Bush to his final resting place. 

What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?

One manager was a strong force in my career; he has given great advice and has been supportive throughout my career. He was a leader; he made sure we knew our downfalls and praised us for our successes.  He pushed us to be better and pushed me beyond my comfort zone. When my first safety incident occurred at my terminal, I was devastated.  He talked me through it, helped me regroup and pressed the importance of having thorough safety plans in place. 

Another manager was also very instrumental in my career. The support he gave me to be successful with servicing customers and ensuring freight moved properly was vital to my career as a transportation manager.

What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? 

The crew once told me: “You can either include us or tell us what you need. If you include us, then we will get it done safely and more efficiently.”

What is your no. 1 piece of advice for women who are looking to advance a career at Union Pacific? 

Listen, accept all people for the information they may have and relationship development goes a long way. Don’t wait for someone to advance your career; you advance it. You need to be your own promoter.


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