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NRC Chairman’s Column: Mentors Can Make All the Difference in Building a Successful Career

Written by Joe Daloisio, Chairman, National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC)
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Joe Daloisio Chairman, National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC)
Courtesy of NRC

ATLANTA - Railway Track & Structures, May 2024: Have you ever looked back on your life and asked yourself, “How did I get here?” If you have, I’m willing to bet you can attribute your success to at least one person who taught, guided, influenced or encouraged you. In an industry that is all about people, where would any of us be without these mentors? 

Have you ever looked back on your life and asked yourself, “How did I get here?” If you have, I’m willing to bet you can attribute your success to at least one person who taught, guided, influenced or encouraged you. In an industry that is all about people, where would any of us be without these mentors? 

Mentors are invaluable role models who will share insights and advice they’ve learned along their career path. Oftentimes more experienced and successful, mentors will walk alongside you and provide advice, guidance, encouragement and even a kick in the pants to help you succeed in your professional or personal life. 

As a third-generation railroader, I have been blessed to have many indispensable mentors and role models in the family business and throughout my life. My grandfather, Joe Sr., built track as a track gang foreman on the Erie Railroad and later established Railroad Construction Co. My father, Joe Jr., and my aunts, uncles, and cousins all followed along the same track. 

I started working in the family business during high school and, over the years, have held nearly every job. Although Joe Sr. died 30 years before I was born, he influenced me by his strong work ethic and the culture he established. Joe Jr. built on that foundation and passed on the practice of learning the business from the ground up. Both men led by example, but Joe Jr. wasn’t shy about offering direction too. He was always willing to answer questions and include me in discussions about the proper way of doing business, serving customers, and how to cultivate capable and loyal employees. 

On-the-job interactions with my father, our field supers and foremen, and other managers inspired me and gave me a head start. The benefits of watching, listening to, and interacting with senior leaders in the workplace are irreplaceable. Likewise, making an effort every day to lead by example and mentor those around us will leave each day better than when we started it. With so much remote working today, I fear that both young and more senior professionals miss the benefits of connecting in the workplace and the potential long-term advantages. 

Our industry is ready-made for these mentor-mentee relationships. And the NRC, an association of aspiring and leading industry professionals, provides fertile ground for both finding and being a mentor. It all starts with attending NRC events, from the annual conference to the railroad equipment auction and Railroad Day on Capitol Hill. These events are structured to encourage connections. There’s no doubt about it, there is plenty of business conducted at these events, but there is also valuable relationship-building with discussions about networking and teaming, and methods and strategies.

My exposure to both formal and informal mentors expanded when I made the smart decision to take my involvement in the NRC to the next level. I became an NRC Board member and joined with other like-minded professionals from across our industry. It has been invigorating to work together, to brainstorm, and to pool our capabilities in efforts that strengthen our industry. 

My work on the Board and on many committees gave me the opportunity to learn from the great people around me, but also to be a mentor and share my knowledge and experience. Board members and prior board presidents, including but not limited to Mike Choat, Jim Hansen, and Steve Bolte, have been incredible mentors to me. The give and take of interacting with mentors and mentees has made my personal and professional life infinitely more successful and satisfying.

If you’re looking for a way to learn from seasoned professionals, give back, and boost your career, look to the NRC. Please reach out to me, other NRC Board members or the NRC staff for advice on how to get involved. But just get involved!

“We aren’t just in this industry. We are this industry!”

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