Kathleen Brandt is president of CSX Technology. She directs the information technology capabilities of CSX Corporation, a premier North American transportation company based in Jacksonville, Fla., that provides rail, intermodal and rail-to-truck transload services across a broad array of markets.
As the corporation’s Chief Information Officer, Ms. Brandt supports CSX’s strategic objectives through technology and information, and delivers tools and data to maximize excellent service and operational efficiency.
Ms. Brandt joined CSX Technology in 1985 as a software developer, and progressed through positions of increasing responsibility. In 2004, she was appointed assistant vice president-applications development, overseeing creation of innovative systems that supported significant and sustained improvements in safety, customer service and efficiency.
She partners extensively with all business functions to provide access to critical information and data, which increases the productive use of rail assets including locomotives and rail cars, enables field-based employees with mobile tools, and provides customers with enhanced visibility and management of their shipments.
Ms. Brandt holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer information systems and a Master of Business Administration, both from Jacksonville University. She is on the Board of Directors of Railinc, Northeast Florida Regional STEM2 Hub, and Dreams Come True. She also serves on the executive advisory board of the Jacksonville University Davis College of Business.
CSX Technology provides technology and information to maximize the safety, service and efficiency of CSX Corporation. CSX, which is based in Jacksonville, Fla., is a publicly traded premier transportation company. It provides rail, intermodal and rail-to-truck transload services and solutions to customers across a broad array of markets, including energy, industrial, construction, agricultural, and consumer products.
For nearly 190 years, CSX has played a critical role in the nation’s economic expansion and industrial development. As a North American leader in the industry, CSX’s rail network stretches across 23 states and two Canadian provinces. The network connects every major metropolitan area in the eastern United States, where nearly two-thirds of the nation’s population resides. It also links more than 240 short-line railroads and more than 70 ocean, river, and lake ports with major population centers and farming towns alike.
Technology has been part of virtually every major advance among railroads in the last half century, from the first introduction of computers in the late 1950s, to today’s sophisticated IT networks that support safety, efficiency and customer requirements. Every day, more than 1,300 trains operate over CSX’s 21,000-mile network, and their movement is supported by the company’s information technology systems.
As the IT provider for CSX, which serves the eastern U.S., where nearly two-thirds of the nation’s population resides, CSX Technology is constantly seeking talented employees to fill jobs that support CSX’s 24/7 operations.
Yet, we often find that candidates know very little about America’s railroads, though we’ve been around for nearly 190 years, moving freight that includes grain, automobiles and orange juice, and contributing to economic strength by efficiently moving materials from factories and marine ports to distribution centers and retail stores.
The issue is one of perceptions, and our challenge is to demonstrate the relevance of railroads, not only for the connectivity they offer, but their ability to move freight over privately funded networks that relieve the burden on our highways, and doing so with unparalleled fuel efficiency.
We do that with advertising and branding, social media engagement, and community involvement. We also do college campus recruiting that underscores our ability to move a ton of freight 483 miles on a gallon of fuel, and by describing the technology opportunities we offer in a fast-paced and rewarding workplace. In these and other forums, we’re able to demonstrate the vital role railroads fill, and the exciting technology work we’re doing in everything from network scheduling algorithms and predictive asset health analytics to unmanned aerial vehicles and energy savings initiatives.
In many ways, this challenge of perceptions — and misperceptions — is the same one faced by the nation as we struggle to attract more young people to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. Over the past decade, STEM jobs have grown three times faster than non-STEM jobs, and this momentum will continue, increasing the number of available jobs that will go unfilled unless we find ways to make STEM education and vocations more appealing and accessible.
At CSX Technology, we’re attracting highly qualified individuals to meet our expanding and advanced IT needs in two primary ways.
One, we strive to create a work environment for a diverse and engaged workforce, where everyone has the opportunity to leverage and grow skillsets while doing work that truly makes a difference. We recognize that people are our competitive edge, and creating a rewarding environment that encourages a range of perspectives is key to fostering innovation. To that end, our recruiting efforts champion diversity, which helps us reflect the values and perspectives of the communities in which we operate.
Two, we provide our employees with training opportunities, and offer both technical and leadership career paths. Additionally, we are building a pipeline of talent by expanding our college graduate programs and offering internships. CSX Technology encourages our employees to learn our core business by spending time with the men and women who run our railroad every day. These experiences enable us to deliver value-added IT tools and solutions to an intricate railroad and its many customers.
But our ultimate success, and our nation’s strength, hinges on a continued supply of qualified employees skilled in the STEM disciplines. All of us share a responsibility in that regard. CSX is joining other business leaders in its headquarters region for a Northeast Florida STEM hub focused on accelerating the growth of education and careers in STEM fields. We also are exploring national partnerships that will help our organization attract, develop and retain current and future STEM talent. As one of the senior executives who comprise CSX’s Executive Inclusion Council, an advisory group that helps ensure alignment of the company’s diversity, inclusion and engagement strategies with business priorities, I work with my colleagues to identify and leverage opportunities to attract great candidates and make CSX an employer of choice.
Is the approach working? You bet. In the past three years, we have been named to IDG Computerworld’s list of the “100 Best Places to Work in IT.” By having great talent, ensuring a diverse and engaged work environment, and making the connection between IT jobs and the success of the company, we’re changing perceptions – demonstrating the value of STEM disciplines and how they can translate directly into fulfilling careers here at CSX and other places.
On a broader scale, the same strategy can increase the number of young people who pursue STEM studies and eventually STEM careers. We must, as employers, parents, communities and as a nation, do a better job of making the connection between the technological advances of the contemporary world and the scientists and engineers who make them happen. If we inspire, engage and educate young people to the reality and opportunity of STEM careers, we can change their perceptions and strengthen our nation’s future.