Michael J. Ward
Michael J. Ward is chairman and chief executive officer of CSX Corporation, one of the nation’s premier transportation and logistics companies. Over his 39-year career, Mr. Ward has headed CSX’s operations, coal sales and marketing, and finance departments. Under Mr. Ward’s leadership, the company continues to achieve record safety performance while providing vital services to customers and posting strong financial results for shareholders. The company’s commitment to safety and preparing its network for increasing freight demand is demonstrated by its planned 2016 capital investment of $2.4 billion and its long-term plan to invest approximately 16 to 17 percent of its revenues back into its core business to support growth. A native of Baltimore, Md., Mr. Ward’s commitment to personal philanthropy and corporate citizenship has been recognized with City Year’s prestigious Lifetime of Idealism Award. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland in 1972, and received a master’s degree in business administration from the Harvard Business School in 1976. Mr. Ward is a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of American Railroads, and also serves on the boards of Ashland Inc., City Year, United Way of Northeast Florida, and Hubbard House. His other business affiliations include The Florida Council of 100 and The Business Roundtable. CSX, based in Jacksonville, Florida, is a 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. Its 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.
CSX Corporation, together with its subsidiaries based in Jacksonville, Fla., is one of the nation’s leading transportation suppliers. The company’s rail and intermodal businesses provide rail-based transportation services including traditional rail service and the transport of intermodal containers and trailers.
Overall, the CSX Transportation network encompasses about 21,000 route miles of track in 23 states, the District of Columbia and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Our transportation network serves some of the largest population centers in the nation. Nearly two-thirds of Americans live within CSX’s service territory.
CSX serves major markets in the eastern United States and has access to over 70 ocean, river and lake port terminals along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.
CSX moves a broad portfolio of products across the country in a way that minimizes the effect on the environment, takes traffic off an already congested highway system, and minimizes fuel consumption and transportation costs
The benefits of science and technology have become so pervasive that we often barely notice them. In our business of moving freight, computers routinely tell us the status of shipments, the mechanical condition of our locomotives and rail cars, and help us move 1,200 trains a day safely and reliably across 21,000 miles of track.
Yet our heavy and increasing reliance on technology has not created a commensurate desire among young people to study the disciplines essential to its development. As a consequence, our nation is facing a well-documented shortage of candidates to fill the growing number of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs.
It’s tempting to place responsibility for solving this challenge on our education system, and, indeed, our schools and educators are on the front lines of the solution. But the truth is that all facets of our society, including corporate America, have a shared responsibility to close the “STEM gap” between the skills required in the contemporary workplace and the candidates who possess them.
CSX has a unique historical perspective on this issue. From the founding of America’s first railroad, our industry has been solving major engineering and technology challenges in every era along the timeline of industrial development. The game-changing technologies and engineering breakthroughs of past generations were often awe-inspiring in scale, from steam locomotives to feats of infrastructure engineering.
Today’s technological advances, by contrast, are often embedded on tiny computer chips and driven by invisible algorithms. They’re harder to see, and for most people, harder to comprehend. But that doesn’t make them any less exciting. Conveying that excitement to young people lies as much with the companies who will employ them as with the schools who will educate them.
At CSX, our technology organization is attracting the next generation of job candidates by creating an inclusive work environment and making the connection between our IT systems and their benefits to railroad operations. We do that by sending our technology teams into the field to meet, observe and interact with the people using their systems. This practice, along with our company’s strong diversity programs, has contributed to CSX being named to IDG Computerworld’s list of the “100 Best Places to Work in IT” for the past three years.
Taking that approach a step further, we can change the perceptions of our nation’s young people and excite their imagination by inspiring, engaging and demonstrating the tremendous value and potential of STEM careers. Business leaders have an obligation to provide clear and meaningful support of initiatives that introduce STEM subjects earlier and more prominently in general curricula. We need to make STEM subjects — and creative ways of teaching them — as essential to a well-rounded education as English or history, rather than a specialized discipline available only to those who have innate abilities.
We must also communicate more effectively that not every student needs to pursue a STEM-related field to benefit from a better understanding of STEM subjects. A good example at CSX is our employees who operate some of the most technologically advanced locomotives in the world. Our engineers don’t write the algorithms that instantaneously process terrain, speed, train length and weight data to reduce fuel consumption and support safe operations. But a basic understanding of such a system enables them to work effectively as a partner in the human-machine interface.
Our instructors at the CSX Railroad Education and Development Institute have found that applicants for jobs as train crew members, or for mechanical and rail maintenance positions, are much better prepared to succeed when they’re familiar with STEM disciplines. They may not require the same level of STEM skills as our analysts who use computer modeling to optimize network capacity, civil engineers who design tracks, or mechanical engineers who enhance locomotive and railcar designs. But by understanding, in a general way, the technology systems and force dynamics behind the equipment they operate, repair and maintain, all front-line employees are able to work more safely and maximize productivity.
The potential benefits of improved STEM education extend far beyond the workplace. Improving our citizens’ familiarity with probabilities and statistics, for example, would enable us as an informed society to make better decisions about how to allocate tax dollars to deliver greater rewards in areas ranging from transportation safety and homeland security to healthcare and environmental protection.
We live in an increasingly complex world, and the amount of data available to us is exploding. But without providing our young people with an education that enables them to use data to better understand their world, our technological advances cannot deliver their full potential to improve the health, safety and financial security of our nation and its people. As we emphasize the need to enhance STEM education to fill technology jobs in the modern workforce, we cannot overlook the broader societal benefits of an increased emphasis on STEM subjects at all levels of the education system.
Our nation’s STEM challenge, in addition to filling STEM-related jobs, is to create a STEM-literate society that is prepared to meet all the challenges of a technology-driven future. CSX is committed to being a leading partner in the solutions that will take us there.