Podcast: Platform Chats

 



Come “roll with AREMA” as we chat with Members from every aspect of the Association.  Each episode will contain entertaining and informative stories from our members about their time in the association and how it has advanced their careers.   

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Host

Walt Bleser, PE currently serves as President of ARE Corporation and remains Principal of Unabridged Structures, LLC.  Prior to this role he was the President of SENSR Monitoring Technologies, LLC. He has over twenty years in the North American railway vertical working with every Class I railroad, major commuter railroad and several transit agencies. Named a Progressive Railroading Rising Stars Top 20 under 40 in 2013 and again an honorable mention by Railway Age for Top 20 under 40 in 2019. He has done everything from design and inspection of structures to implementing technology that makes railroads more efficient through the use of structural health monitoring systems and cloud based bridge asset management programs.  Walt is an active participant in AREMA, currently serving as a Director, Structures Functional Group on the Board of Directors.  He is the previous Chair of Committee 7, Timber Structures, and a subcommittee chairman of Committee 10, Structures Maintenance & Construction, aiding in the production of the organization’s Bridge Management Best Practices.

Guests

Season 2, Episode 10 - 

Gary Babcoke
Project Engineer-West Lake Corridor
Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District

Bryan Schlake
Assistant Teaching Professor
Penn State Altoona

Are you a student looking to find your career path? While you may not have even considered railroading, let us put it on your radar.  Many of the engineering (yes, even civil), technical, and communications fields apply to the railroading industry and there are resources available to students to help them find their way. In this episode, Walt Bleser chats with Bryan Schlake an Assistant Teaching Professor at Penn State-Altoona, and recent Penn State-Altoona graduate Gary Babcoke now a Project Engineer with NICTD. Both are mechanical engineers who have extensive experience navigating the AREMA Student Program, from attending a Conference to applying for scholarships, to forming a Student Chapter, and now working in the railroad industry - they have tried it all. Their stories are a testament to making the most of your resources and taking advantage of every opportunity when starting your career in rail.

Season 2, Episode 9 -

Beth Caruso, IOM, CAE
Executive Director/CEO
AREMA

Desirée Knight, CAE, CMP, DES
Senior Director, Education and Meetings
AREMA

The AREMA 2022 Annual Conference & Expo has come and gone, but not without talking to the two major players in making sure the event goes off without a hitch.  On this episode, we talk to AREMA staff, Beth Caruso, IOM, CAE, Executive Director and CEO, and Desiree Knight, CAE, CMP, DES, Senior Director, Education and Meetings to hear the ins and outs of the Annual Conference. How long does it take to plan these things? Did they love the music as much as everyone else? What was it like to be back in person? You’ll learn the answer to these questions and other fun facts, including if they have a favorite Presentation of the Conference in this episode. For the record, no attendees were arrested while in Denver…we think.


Season 2, Episode 8 -

Mike Freeman, PE

Director, Structures Design
UP

Joe Bamert, III, PE
Manager, Engineering Track Systems
Norfolk Southern Railway

The AREMA 2022 Annual Conference & Expo is almost here! On this episode, Walt chats with two members who play key roles in the success of the event. Mike Freeman, PE (Union Pacific) is President of the AREMA Board of Governors and Joe Bamert, PE (Norfolk Southern Corporation) serves as chair of the Conference Operating Committee which provides valuable volunteers for the Conference. The trio talk about some of the exciting changes planned for the first in-person Conference in two years and dish on some of the "behind the scenes" things they’ve learned from their years of involvement with the event. Gain an insider's perspective on Conference before the event in Denver!

Season 2, Episode 7 - 

Frank Miller, III, PE
Vice President, Senior Project Manager-Director of Track Design, Transit & Rail
AECOM

Kevin Hicks, PE
Freight Market Sector Leader
TranSystems

On this episode, Walt chats with Frank Miller, PE (AECOM), and Kevin Hicks, PE (TranSystems) two outgoing members of the Functional Group Board of Directors, the group that manages the technical committee operations for AREMA. Between them, they have over 60 years of experience in committee work and committee leadership. They’ll discuss the ability to drive the industry through committee membership and the importance of having a voice. They’ll also discuss the role of a Functional Group Vice President in AREMA, the importance of what they do, and their path to leadership. There are many opportunities within AREMA for those who are willing. They’ll also answer the question “Is Committee leadership relevant?” Spoiler: the answer is yes and never underestimating the value of a good library.
Season 2, Episode 6 -

Bill Riehl

Chief Engineer Structures
Genesee & Wyoming

Will Riehl
Territory Sales Engineer
Atlantic Track Turnout

It’s a family affair on this episode as host Walt Bleser chats with two generations of AREMA members about the different paths they took to a career in civil engineering. William “Bill” Riehl, III, Chief Engineer Structures, Genesee & Wyoming has over 35 years of experience in the rail industry, and his son William “Will” Riehl, IV, Territory Sales Engineer, Atlantic Track Turnout is days away from completing his first year. Father and son share more than a love of model trains, they both offer a unique perspective on the industry and finding a career in rail outside of the traditional path. They'll also discuss the importance of networking in a relationship-based industry like rail and discovering how much business happens outside of work hours. And we'll answer the question, what exactly is the sound of money? It’s an episode that is sure to bridge the generational gap.
Season 2, Episode 5 - Michele Malski, MBA
Founder and President
Succession Planning for Railroads Investing in the Next Generation (SPRING)

Does the railroad industry have an identity issue? How do employers rebrand post “The Great Resignation”? How can railroads of all types draw the best talent when faced with fierce competition from tech and other areas of transportation? In this episode, Walt tackles these questions with Michele Malski, founder of Succession Planning for Railroads Investing in the Next Generation (SPRING LLC). As a recruiter for railroads and a second-generation railroader herself, Michele has firsthand insight into what the next generation of railroaders is looking for in an employer. One tip: they don’t want your grandfather’s railroad. It’s important to show that you are more than just a company and look beyond traditional related degrees for the best candidates.  The rail industry has endured many recessions before and has a strong future ahead. It’s an episode sure to generate some questions so it's important to stay open-minded.
Season 2, Episode 4 -

Michael Franke, PE
Chair of the Hay Award Selection Committee
Senior Director, State Government Contracts (Ret)
Amtrak

Christopher Barkan, PhD
Professor
George Krambles Director - Rail Transportation and Engineering Center - RailTEC
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Matthew Fletcher, PE
Railway Market Principal
Hanson Professional Services, Inc.

Dr. William W. Hay was a railroader and educator who mentored generations of leaders in the rail industry and his influence is still felt today, over 20 years after his passing. But who was Dr. Hay? Why were those who knew him inspired to create the Dr. William W. Hay Award for Excellence in his honor? In this episode, host Walt Bleser sits down with Michael Franke, Chair of the Hay Award Selection Committee and a former student of Dr. Hay, Chris Barkan, PhD a Professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who still uses the textbook written by Dr. Hay as part of his curriculum, and Mat Fletcher of Hanson Professional Services Inc.  In 2020, Hanson won the Hay Award for their project, “Norfolk Southern’s Grand River Bridge Emergency Repairs in Brunswick, Missouri.” They discuss what made Dr. Hay so important to them, what the Selection Committee is looking for in a Hay Award-winning project, and the greater role previous winning projects have played in education. These guests all come from different backgrounds, but they do have one thing in common, the notable Dr. William. W. Hay.  All entries for the Dr. William W. Hay Award for Excellence are due by June 3.  
Season 2, Episode 3 - 

Cassandra Gouger, PE
Senior Director - Design
Union Pacific

Krista Keene, EIT, MSE, MBA, PMP
Senior Real Estate Development Manager - Utility Occupancies
Amtrak

It's Women’s History Month and on this episode, Walt interviews Cassandra Gouger (Union Pacific) and Krista Keene (Amtrak) as they reflect on the different paths and opportunities that led them both to a career in rail and leadership positions within AREMA. The group will touch on the history of women in rail, and the unique challenges women in the industry have faced since the 1960s. They’ll also discuss the importance of including diverse perspectives in the recruiting, hiring, and promoting processes. The industry has come a long way but there is still more work to be done and everyone can be an ally for diversity. From early education outreach to improving work/life, it's important to highlight and share the variety of career options available in the industry. Be it in the boardroom or on the track, no job in the railroad industry is off-limits.


Season 2, Episode 2 - 

Jaclyn Whelan, PE
Project Manager - Design
Conrail

Skylar Leach
Senior Engineer - Track Standards & Specifications
Amtrak

In this episode, Walt chats with Jaclyn Whelan (Conrail) and Skylar Leach (Amtrak) two young professionals who are eager to share their unique perspectives on joining the rail industry and AREMA. Along the way, they discuss their hopes for the future and the feeling of walking into a committee meeting alone for the first time. Yes, TikTok will be mentioned but don’t judge. These young professionals appreciate the railroad and are excited for what comes next. Meet the next generation of railroaders, these are two names you will surely hear in the future.

Season 2, Episode 1

Ashley Pate

AVP Business Development Manager
TranSystems

Ruth Brown, PE
Chief Engineer Bridges & Structures
Norfolk Southern Railway

Think you need years of experience to join a committee or that you must be an engineer? Then this episode is for you. Host Walt Bleser sits down with Committee 24 Chair Ashley Pate, AVP Business Development Manager, TranSystems and Committee 15 Vice Chair Ruth Brown, PE, Chief Engineer Bridges & Structures, Norfolk Southern Railway, two committee members and leaders, to debunk some of the myths surrounding Committee membership.  They each took a different path to AREMA and committee membership, but they have made the most of it and are happy to share their experiences. Don’t dwell on your fear of the unknown. If you try only one new thing this year, make it an AREMA committee. 


Episode 10 - Brian Lindamood, PE, SE
Vice President, Chief Engineer
Alaska Railroad

This episode, host Walt Bleser, PE, talks with Brian Lindamood, PE, SE, Vice President, Chief Engineer of Alaska Railroad.  A Past AREMA President and Committee Chair, Brian offers his unique perspective on the subject of winterization and what a railroad needs to do year-round to prepare.  Who best to discuss winterization with than a resident of Alaska? Permafrost, avalanches, lasers, and fewer snowblowers than you might think, this is an episode for those who love the ins and outs of engineering.


Episode 9 - 

Trent Hudak, PE

Director Engineering Services
BNSF Railway

Stacy Spaulding, CAE
Senior Director, Executive and Board Operations
AREMA

Have you ever wondered what it takes to present your project or idea at the AREMA Annual Conference? On this episode, host Walt Bleser sits down with two experts on the topic: Program Committee Chair and AREMA Senior Vice President, Trent Hudak, PE, Director Engineering Services, BNSF Railway, and Program Committee Staff Liaison Stacy Spaulding, CAE, Senior Director, Executive and Board Operations for AREMA. The trio discusses what the Program Committee looks for in papers such as new technologies and groundbreaking solutions to old problems. They also consider what it takes to present during the General Session and the importance of inclusivity and the diversity of ideas.  If you want to know how best to position your paper for success, you won’t want to miss this episode.


Episode 8 -

Josh Giegel

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder
Virgin Hyperloop

Sarah Quick
Director Regulatory Affairs
Virgin Hyperloop

The wait is over. On this episode, host Walt Bleser talks with Josh Giegel, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, and Sarah Quick, Director of Regulatory Affairs, both of Virgin Hyperloop, about the exciting future of hyperloop and the role AREMA could play in that future. Along the way, they’ll discuss the importance of safety and safety regulations in the development of hyperloop, the importance of sharing knowledge in the rail industry, and the similarities and differences between hyperloop and the railroad. Leave your thoughts of pneumatic bank tubes behind, this is a discussion of an innovative option for a safe, sustainable future in passenger transportation.  This is the opportunity for seamless movement at super high speeds and yes, there will be bathrooms.


Episode 7 - Vic Babin
AREMA President - 2020-2021
Chief Engineering Officer (Ret)
NICTD South Shore Line

This episode, Walt sits down with AREMA President Vic Babin as they talk a little about the past and a lot about the promising future of the rail industry. Along the way they’ll touch on the upcoming AREMA 2021 Virtual Conference, the silver tsunami, and Super Mario Brothers.

Episode 6 - 

Mike Weber
Signal Engineer
Modern Railway Systems

Jerry Specht
Director of Signal Engineering
BNSF Railway

Join our host Walt Bleser as he sits down with Mike Weber, Signal Engineer at Modern Railway Systems, and Jerry Specht, Director of Signal Engineering at BNSF Railway.  The three discuss AREMA’s newest Committee 35 – Information Technology.  They take a dive into the future of AREMA, new technology in the industry, and the goals of Committee 35.  You won’t want to miss this episode.


Episode 5 - Gio DiDomenico, PE, P. Eng
Track Engineer
Kiewit Engineering Group, Inc.

On this episode of the podcast, Host Walt Bleser sits down with Gio DiDomenico, Track Engineer, Kiewit. They discuss Gio’s path from AREMA Student Chapter member to Young Professional supporter for AREMA. Along the way they debate the benefits of Colorado living and the importance of engaging young railway professionals early in their career. It’s a lively episode you won’t want to miss.

Episode 4 -

Kari Harris

Manager, Environmental Impact
CN

Leo Thorbecke
Vice President
TRC Companies

On this episode, Bleser sits down with Kari Harris, Manager, Environmental Impact, CN and Leo Thorbecke, Vice President, TRC Companies, leaders of Committee 13 - Environmental. They discuss Committee 13's role at AREMA, the challenges and opportunities found in a small committee, and how they're looking to help expand the rail industry. Environmental is more than just permits. Find out why on this episode.

Episode 3 – Steve Hill, PE
Principal
XRDS Consulting

Steve Hill has over 50 years of experience in the rail industry in track and bridge engineering and construction. With a career that has taken him all over the globe, Steve reflects on his experiences with AREMA, the lessons he's learned, and the future of the industry.

Episode 2 - Erika Bruhnke
Vice President, Training Services
RailPros

Erika Bruhnke joined AREMA within the last five years and has quickly become a vital and engaged member. She is active on a Technical Committee and is working hard to give back to the industry. On this episode, she discusses her unique career path into the railway industry and how getting involved in AREMA helped her grow her network and continue her education.

Episode 1 - Ed Sparks, PE
AREMA Past President - 2020-2021
Assistant Chief Engineer of Structures
CSX Transportation

Host Walt Bleser, PE discusses the history of AREMA with Past President Ed Sparks, PE and how the Association helps with a career in the railroad industry.

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