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25 Under 40: Part 3 of 4

Written by Railway Age Staff
Shutterstock/ Kikujiarm

Shutterstock/ Kikujiarm

RAILWAY AGE, FEBRUARY 2024 ISSUE: Railway Age is proud to recognize 25 ‘Fast Trackers’ Under 40 in 2024.

Railway Age is honoring 25 “Fast Trackers” for this year’s 25 Under 40 awards program.

Established in 2016, our annual awards are presented to top North American railroaders under the age of 40 for making an impact in their respective fields or within their companies in the United States, Canada and Mexico. They represent freight and passenger railroads, as well as the supply and consultant/contractor and government communities. Candidates, who had to be under the age of 40 as of  Jan. 1, 2024, were judged on criteria that included industry experience and education, leadership skills, industry contributions, and community service involvement.

Shutterstock/ Monton Tiemrak

“The field was strong, which bodes well for the future,” said Michigan State Center for Railway & Education Director Nick Little, program judge. “This year, there was a noticeable reduction in IT people as these skills clearly become assimilated into the more traditional roles. Many nominees talked about internal and external cooperation and cross-functional leadership qualities. I continue to be amazed by the contributions these young people have made in their careers alongside maintaining quality of life. Ten of the 25 are female, which says a lot about the quality of women in rail today. The range of backgrounds and skills range from locomotive engineer to civil engineer and from project leader to operations manager, and everything in between.”

Michigan State Center for Railway Research & Education Director Nick Little

While in high school in Britain, Nick Little started his career with clerical and operating internships at Plymouth on British Rail’s Western Region in the early 1970s. He won a scholarship program with the British Railways Board that gave him a supply management degree plus training in all aspects of BR’s organization. Little then spent 15 years with BR in many locations, including Derby and London. In 1995, Little came to Michigan State University, initially for one year on  loan to work on a research program, but he stayed to follow his passion of helping to develop future generations of railway industry expert managers and leaders with deep business knowledge and experience. He took charge of MSU’s Railway Management Certificate Program at the Broad College of Business in 2013.

Grace Olsen, General Director Mechanical Engineering & Quality – Mechanical, Union Pacific Railroad

Olsen got her start at UP 13 years ago in the Operations Management Training program. In her latest role, she is responsible for the reliability of the 8,000 locomotives and 270,000 cars traveling on the Class I’s network and the 60,000 cars it owns and leases. Her team provides support for locomotive and car facilities for material, technology and logistics and work on ESG initiatives. Olsen is a proponent of collaboration between field operations for car and locomotive. She served previously as General Director Locomotive and Quality, working on UP’s hybrid locomotive and battery-charging technology development and helping to drive locomotive manufacturers to test and approve higher biofuel blend limits. While Olsen was Senior Manager for Denver’s locomotive facility, UP decided to close the 200-person shop. She engaged internal partners to develop an action plan to support impacted employees, arranged résumé building and interview skills workshops, and worked with HR to attract area businesses to interview employees. In 2022, Olsen was recognized with the UP Chairman’s Environmental Award.

Sean Pengelly, Engineer – Projects & Development, Lake State Railway Company

Pengelly has become the leader in maintaining Lake State Railway Company’s (LSRC) relationships with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Office of Rail, and the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) CRISI Grant administrators. His has led business development efforts on LSRC for several customers and projects and his leadership has also developed relationships with customers new to rail. Pengelly has taken on key roles in relation to CRISI funded projects on LSRC. These roles have ranged from project development to material procurement, contractor bidding, and grant reporting. Many of these roles were not otherwise present at LSRC and Pengelly helped to create the tools and resources to carry the projects forward. Pengelly serves on a Transportation Research Board (TSB) committee, as well as a committee for the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA). He also supports field visits of the Michigan State University Railway Management Program to LSRC and coordinates and advises on Michigan Technological University senior design projects on LSRC.

Cinthya Melissa Guillén Pinales, Superintendent Sr. Control & Operation, CPKC

In her first four months as General Manager in CPKC’s Operations Center at Monterrey, in charge of the Mexican network operation, Pinales has led a 10% sequential improvement in network velocity and a 14% sequential improvement in system dwell from Q3 to Q4, and redefined the roles and responsibilities through organizational changes in the department. Pinales’s other contributions to the railroad include launching Bulletin 8, a safety initiative that helped employees and contractors understand and follow procedures and rules while driving productivity. As North Regional Superintendent for the Intermodal Terminal and Salinas Victoria in 2022, she led the onboarding of more than 100 employees while training supervisors. Pinales also implemented an OTS program at the terminal by formulating tests, incident reports and conducting analysis for employee performance. Pinales is eager to participate in programs that empower and motivate women in the industry, and her goal has always been to surpass expectations. She hopes to one day become CEO.

Dr. Anish Poudel, Principal Investigator II-NDE, MxV Rail

Dr. Poudel has led the industry’s research efforts in the area of Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) through programs with the Association of American Railroads (AAR), FRA, Transport Canada and industry suppliers. He regularly leads multi-disciplinary teams to investigate the applicability of NDE technologies to various industry challenges, often serving as a conduit to bring together rail industry stakeholders and NDE experts. Collaborating with this robust network, Dr. Poudel has identified emerging technologies for tackling some of the most technically difficult problems facing the rail industry, such as couplant-free internal inspection of wheel rims and accurate depth measurement of rail surface cracking. His logical approach to inspection performance evaluation provides clear, objective results that allow proper assessment of the merits of various inspection methods. Dr. Poudel has held leadership roles in the American Society of Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) for more than a decade, culminating with his seat on the ASNT Board of Directors from 2019 to 2023. 

Dan Rice, Senior Director of Product Management, Wabtec Corporation

Rice has developed an expertise on the development of Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brake systems. He is a contributing member of the team that qualified ECP brake systems in passenger rail in North America, including specifications for American Public Transportation Authority (APTA) and he is a member of the Train Braking Modernization Working Group for the FRA’s Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC). Rice is also a contributing member for the AAR Wireless Communications Committee Next Generation EOT/HOT (End of Train and Head of Train devices). He is currently a Senior Director for Product Management at Wabtec, which gives him the ability to touch everything involved in the company’s ECP, FastBrake, event/video recorders, EOT and HOT devices, Bach-Simpson, and Q-Tron product lines. In this role, Rice leads the strategic planning effort for responsible products, including creating the multi-generational product strategy aligned to deliver overall growth of the portfolio, and manages, coordinates and coaches product managers to handle all aspects of the product life cycle, among other responsibilities.

Martin Ritter, President & CEO, Stadler, US Inc.

Ritter is responsible for setting up a manufacturing location in 2017 for Stadler US, Inc., and growing the company to almost 500 employees. He helped manufacture the first true EMU Bilevel (Caltrain), the first H2 train for the U.S. (San Bernardino County Transportation Authority) and the first Battery Trainset together with Utah State University. Ritter is open minded to new technologies and ways of doing business, which he says, allows the company to run more efficiently, effectively and add value to the end customer instead of just internal stakeholders. He constantly encourages people to move beyond what they thought their own limits possible and in 2019, he set up a youth apprenticeship program that takes three years and graduates the students with an AAS degree. More than 10% of the production workforce is part of the education program. Ritter’s goal is to bring more jobs to the U.S. and transform the way America moves through innovations, top quality and on-time delivery.  In 2020, Ritter was named one of Utah Business magazine’s Forty Under 40 winners.

Click here to read Part 1 of 4

Click here to read Part 2 of 4

Click here to read Part 4 of 4

For more on the Railway Age Fast Trackers 25 Under 40 program, read:

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