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New CIO sees potential in drones for rail inspection

Clint Boulton | Oct. 5, 2015
Cindy Earhart became CIO of Norfolk Southern today. The 30-year company veteran of the freight train operator plans to beef up its automation software and experiment with drones to inspect rail lines.

"We're in a capital-intensive industry and trying to get as much as we can out of assets is important."

Listening, communication and data are crucial

The work ahead is challenging, but Earhart has been tested before. She says moving from accounting to new roles in IT and then HR helped her hone different skillsets because she was forced to rapidly learn and make decisions. For example, working in finance sharpened her awareness of operational budgets and timelines, both crucial duties for CIOs. Working in HR fortified her talent assessment chops, enabling her to quickly identify who in each organization had the depth and knowledge she needed to help make decisions. "Getting to know people and their capabilities and what they bring to the table is very important," Earhart says. "You become much more data-driven in your decision making when you are not necessarily the technical expert."

One critical skill Earhart says she has honed during her long tenure is the ability to listen to peers to acquire knowledge and form questions. These skills have helped her dive down deeper into areas that were previously foreign to her.

“A lot of the experience I’ve had over different areas in the company have prepared me to go a lot of different ways,” Earhart says.

 

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