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Rail News Home Union Pacific Railroad

June 2013



Rail News: Union Pacific Railroad

Information technology leadership and the drivers of Next at Union Pacific



By Pat Foran, Editor

In late April, I spent a day at Union Pacific Railroad headquarters, listening to and learning from UP information technology leaders, including Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Lynden Tennison. What were the IT department's key projects and challenges? To what extent is IT embedded in the Class I's organizational soul? What makes IT the driver of "next" at UP? Tennison and his team graciously peeled back the organizational layers and framed their work in a business context, which is what I aimed to relay in this month's cover story.

The IT teamers I met with in Omaha also discussed their work and workplace with personal and professional zeal. The word "culture" didn't come up much, but it was a word I kept thinking of. "Leadership" was another.

A week before my visit, Tennison received the "Technology Leader of the Year" award from the AIM Institute, a regional not-for-profit consortium of businesses, colleges, secondary schools and economic

development partners. The institute selected Tennison "for his national recognition as an IT leader [and] an ability to implement numerous technologies while adapting to ever-changing business conditions," according to a video clip on the institute's website. AIM also noted his entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to employee development.

"[Tennison] has a vision, he puts a challenging objective on the table, and the team does everything they can do to get behind that and accomplish it," as Jordan Turner, director of UP's user experience team, put it in the AIM video clip. "He's also very accepting of new and innovative ideas to solve problems."

Tennison isn't just accepting of those ideas; he's counting on them, he told me. Idea generation is critical to a better IT team and a better UP. Challenge people, give them a voice, and they'll help you map out that path to what's next. And if they know their voices will be heard, they're more likely to continue sharing ideas.

Finding and keeping top talent is a priority for every railroad IT department; at UP, up to 50 percent of the IT team will retire within 10 years. By offering opportunities for employees to design and develop software and hardware, and to be heard, Tennison believes UP is on the (or at least a) right recruit-and-retain path. I do, too. It takes leadership to leverage technology and nurture talent. As the drivers of next at UP, Tennison and his IT leadership team are leveraging and nurturing, big time.

 

 

Pat Foran, Editor

 


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