A Day in the Life of a Railroad Product Manager

Title: Railroad Product Manager
Education: MBA
Experience: 6 years

The railroad product manager is responsible for making sure that trains leave the station as full as possible and are operating at as profitably as possible. The product manager drives the creation and management of product strategy, and communicates that strategy to sales and other staff. Along with sales and account management staff, the product manager works with customers to develop specific offerings, making decisions on things like scheduling, pricing, and so on. “People who can make things happen, who get results, will do well in this position,” says an insider. “But to advance in any career with the railroad, you've got to be willing to go out into the field and learn the core business, railroad operations. And that can mean working long, unpredictable hours in a location where you'd really rather not be.”

7:00Arrive at work; check e-mail and voice mail. Learn about several issues that I'll need to address today.
7:30Go to work attacking the first issue: a customer who's complaining that they're not getting enough space allocated to them on our trains. Pull our contracts with the customer; review. Call account manager to learn more about the issue. Visit our pricing analyst and our revenue analyst, then make a recommendation to the account manager: We can't offer this customer any more space on our trains unless they agree to a rate increase.
9:30Look through operations reports to learn more about our shipping patterns, as part of ongoing analysis.
10:00A vice president calls me from a customer location to ask a question: The customer, who has special service requirements—in this case, the customer needs to ship dangerous materials—wants to know about capacity on one of our new lines. I go to our container planning folks to learn whether we have the capacity the customer wants, and at what pricing. I also contact operations folks in the field, to learn whether we can in fact handle the customer's special service requirements. Then I reply to the VP, telling him that we do have the capacity the customer needs, and filling him in on the pricing details.
12:00Lunch at my desk.
12:30Meet with my director and other team members, including an operations director and a reservations manager, to discuss why a train that morning had been far from full, and steps we can take to make sure that train performs better moving forward.
1:00Go to intermodal terminal to meet with an important customer who does a lot of business with us. Talk with the customer and with our people at the terminal to iron out the details of a new agreement with the customer. The customer's trucks already do 25 percent of their daily pick-up volume between midnight and 4 a.m. We're now going to give the customer unlimited access to the terminal between those hours, meaning its drivers will have shorter wait times for their pick-ups at the terminal, and that the customer will be able to offer speedier service to its own customers. In return, we reduce peak-time congestion at the terminal, and improve our 24/7 asset utilization.
4:00Head home from the terminal.
4:30Check e-mail from home to make sure nothing else has flared up. Continue work on some customer rate reviews, then finalize a customer communication about an upcoming storage rate increase.
6:30Send the customer communication to the customer service department for distribution to the relevant customers, then turn off the computer.


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