‘Women in Rail’: Top HR Execs, Recruiters to Tackle Career Development

Written by RT&S Staff
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The 2023 Railway Age / RT&S Women in Rail event, to be held Nov. 2 in Chicago, will feature a panel of human resources and recruitment executives discussing changes in freight and passenger rail recruitment, retention, and career development from their perspectives at AmtrakWatcoRailWorks and Industrial Search Partners.

Moderated by Railway Age and RT&S staff members, the panel will also cover inclusion and career growth opportunities in the railroad industry. Additionally, speakers will share how companies are supporting the well-being of women today—from productivity, work/life balance, networking and community building to mental welfare and effects from the COVID-19 pandemic—and how they are addressing challenges for women in the workplace.

Tackling these topics will be Rachael Peterson of Watco, Robert Grasty of Amtrak, Danielle Kandybowicz of RailWorks, and Jason Ward of Industrial Search Partners.

Meet Rachael Peterson

Rachael Peterson headshot

Watco Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer Rachael Peterson champions a supportive environment that sets up employees for success. She came on board in 2006 and has held several roles at the Pittsburg, Kans.-transportation and logistics provider, which celebrates 40 years of service this year.

Prior to joining Watco, Peterson worked in healthcare recruiting at St. John’s Hospital in Joplin, Mo., and at J.B. Hunt Transport in Lowell, Ark., as a Manager of Professional and Organizational Development. She was named as one of Railway Age’s 2021 “20 Under 40” Honorees and to the 2022 Top 100 list of human resources professionals by OnCon. Peterson is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management, Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology, and the Association for Talent Development, and she is on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Railroad (AAR) Superintendents.

Meet Robert Grasty

Robert Grasty headshot

Since June 2023, Robert Grasty has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer for Amtrak, directly overseeing the Amtrak Human Resources Centers of Expertise and HR strategic planning to advance the company’s expansion initiatives.

Grasty joined Amtrak in June 2022 as Senior Vice President, HR Strategy and Solutions Delivery, focusing on advancing the intercity passenger railroad’s People Strategy to invest in talent, strengthen culture and advance technology. This included implementation of enterprise-wide change management programs and HR transformation projects.

Grasty also led HR initiatives in support of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which has provided Amtrak with a transformative level of funding to improve existing service and advance vital infrastructure projects and fleet acquisitions. This investment dovetails with a company vision to expand passenger rail services to more Americans and has accelerated a need for employees across a variety of disciplines.

Over the past 25 years, Grasty has also cultivated HR competencies in strategy and branding, culture transformation, full life-cycle talent management, talent acquisition, performance management, organizational design, executive coaching, total rewards, and diversity and inclusion.

Meet Danielle Kandybowicz

Danielle Kandybowicz is Vice President of Human Resources at RailWorks, where she oversees all HR and HRIS (Human Resources Information System) activities across the U.S. and Canada. Her expertise includes talent and workforce development, HR strategic planning, compliance, HR systems testing and implementation, compensation, employee engagement, and performance management. 

With more than 10 years of industry experience, Kandybowicz joined RailWorks in 2013 and has held various HR roles throughout her tenure at the company—most notably leading the recruiting department. She began her career in HR as a recruiter for an IT service management company within the financial industry. Kandybowicz holds a master’s degree in school counseling from Long Island University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Sacred Heart University. 

Meet Jason Ward

Jason Ward headshot

Jason Ward, Founder and Managing Partner of Industrial Search Partners, has more than three decades of international business experience. He focuses on assignments across the industrial and transportation market segments, including heavy manufacturing, processing and converting operations, electronics, all modes of asset-based transportation and 3PL, intermodal logistics, supply chain and more.

Ward recruits executives within all functions, including CEOs, Presidents, and senior-level positions in operations, marketing, sales, finance, regulatory compliance, and HR, within both domestic and international markets.  He also recruits for clients at the Board of Directors level.

Ward’s prior experience includes leading the industrial practice at RSR Partners, holding the role of Senior Client Partner at Korn/Ferry International, and acting as U.S. Commercial Manager for a prominent European-based owner of a fleet of modern double-hull super tankers.

About Railway Age / RT&S Women in Rail 2023

The Railway Age / RT&S Women in Rail 2023 conference, presented at the Union League Club of Chicago on Nov. 2, will not only provide an opportunity to network with a diverse group of women and their allies, but also allow for attendees to participate in discussions on how railroaders can maintain the momentum of inclusion, build strong support networks, and take advantage of ever-broadening career opportunities.

Additional Speakers

In addition to HR, session topics will include ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) and mentorship, as well as advice on advancing current skillsets to match evolving technologies. View the full program.

Speakers will engage in informal “fireside chat” style conversations, offering their candid thoughts on each subject.

Women in Rail Awards

Railway Age and Railway Track & Structures have recognized the growth in leadership and engineering roles for women railroaders since 2017 and 2021, respectively, with Railway Age’s Women in Rail and RT&S’ Women in Railroad Engineering awards. In fact, past honorees Cherita Hunter Jones, Group Manager Performance Excellence, Norfolk Southern; Staci Moody-Gilbert, Vice President, BMWED-International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Jacqueline Patterson, Vice President and Co-Founder, Zephyr UAS, Inc.; and CleLeatha Shaw, Manager–Crew Dispatching, Metra will participate in a panel covering those programs, offering industry insights and discussing their career journeys. 

Supporting Organizations

In addition to its speakers, the Railway Age / RT&S Women in Rail 2023 conference is supported by the following sponsors: CSX (gold)Industrial Search Partners (gold)CN (luncheon)Edna A. Rice Executive Recruiters (case study)Amsted Digital Solutions (bronze)Anacostia Rail Holdings (bronze)BNSF (bronze)TrinityRail (bronze)Watco (morning coffee break)RailWorks (afternoon coffee break), the League of Railway Women, and the National Association of Railway Business Women.

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