From the Air Force to the Railroad: Tara Hogan’s Success Story
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When Tara Hogan was growing up in Texas, she wanted to be a basketball coach—a career in freight rail wasn’t on her radar. But after high school and six years of service in the U.S. Air Force, she finished her college degree, took on a few different jobs and went looking for her next gig. She found Union Pacific Railroad on a list of companies looking to employ military veterans and landed a job as an operations management trainee in 2006.
More than 15 years later, after stints in Nebraska, Louisiana and Kansas, Hogan serves as a general manager at Union Pacific in Fort Worth, Texas, leading a team of 1,700 people as she runs the freight rail service in an active—and essential—area of the country.
Starting out: In many ways, Hogan found that her experience in the military gave her the tools to succeed at Union Pacific.
- “Union Pacific is a 24/7 operation that runs 365 days a year, as the military does,” said Hogan. “In the military, there’s a structure and a sense of certainty, and there’s comfort to that; at Union Pacific, there’s the same kind of certainty and structure. There’s a language in the military, and a language at Union Pacific.”
- “For me, it was the place I could go that felt the most familiar…. It’s got the structure of the military but the flexibility of the civilian environment.”
Paying it forward: Today, Hogan isn’t only an outstanding representative of the railroad industry in her own right; she’s also a role model for others who might be interested in a career in the sector—including individuals from communities that are currently underrepresented.
- Through Union Pacific’s UPLift program, which pairs underrepresented employees with executive sponsors, Hogan is sponsoring a woman in Fort Worth, offering career advice and networking support.
- “It’s not a one-and-done mentor situation,” said Hogan. “I’ll be with her throughout her career, and I’ll watch her grow. Hopefully, she’ll be my boss someday.”
A supportive environment: As a woman in freight rail, Hogan is generally in the minority, even as Union Pacific works to double the number of women employed at the railroad. Still, Hogan’s experience has been positive, and she has always felt encouraged to gain skills and rise in the company.
- “Everybody I have come across has wanted to see me succeed,” said Hogan. “If somebody is willing and wanting to learn, there are a ton of people here who want to teach you and see you be successful.”
- “I never thought I’d be in this position. I didn’t aspire to it. But the company saw something and kept challenging me to see what I can do. It’s been a great experience for me.”
The bigger picture: Hogan’s success at Union Pacific is part of the company’s ambitious efforts to advance women throughout its operations.
- Its Careers on Track program—in partnership with The Manufacturing Institute—aims to increase the number of women in the manufacturing and transportation, distribution and logistics industries.
- The program is designed to inspire women and youth to pursue modern industry careers through workforce development and career solutions.
The last word: “You can learn anything you want to learn here, depending on what your job is,” said Hogan. “Manufacturing has changed with the times and become better. All the opportunities to learn and grow have become better. If you’re a hard worker and willing to learn, there’s no glass ceiling anymore.”