Veterans at Amtrak: Jenny

More than 3,000 Amtrak employees are veterans or active members of the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard and Reserves. You'll find veterans throughout all parts of America's Railroad, from front-line roles to management. Today we sit down with Jenny Burg, Navy veteran and Senior Director of the Program Management Office, and chat about what makes Amtrak a great place for veterans.

Veterans at Amtrak: Jenny

More than 3,000 Amtrak employees are veterans or active members of the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard and Reserves. You'll find veterans throughout all parts of America's Railroad, from front-line roles to management. Today we sit down with Jenny Burg, Navy veteran and Senior Director of the Program Management Office, and chat about what makes Amtrak a great place for veterans.

What is your position at Amtrak, and what do you do?

My official job title is Senior Director, Program Management Office. I manage a team of talented and creative professionals who have three primary objectives: set company-wide standards for Project Management, train Amtrak Project Managers to follow One Amtrak Way for managing projects, and develop tools that help our Senior Leaders understand how our projects are performing against the plan.

What is project management, and why is it so important at Amtrak?

Project management is the industry standard methodology for planning, organizing and managing the effort to accomplish a successful outcome. At Amtrak project examples can include efforts to acquire, design, build and maintain stations, railroad track, equipment and IT systems.

Amtrak’s project portfolio is much larger than most Fortune 500 companies. Our projects have a direct impact on our ability to move our customers across the country. Using a standard project management methodology helps our project managers do their jobs. It also provides our Senior Leaders with insight into how our projects are performing against the plan. This allows them to make appropriate decisions and adjustments to ensure that our customers arrive to their destination in comfort and on time.

What did you do in the military?

I joined the Navy in 1993. After basic training I went to the Naval Hospital Corps school, where I was trained to be a combat medic. Eventually, my career progressed, and I was given an opportunity to attend Naval School of Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD, where I trained as a Medical Laboratory Technologist.  After my training I was stationed at the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, FL, where I worked in the medical laboratory and did diagnostic testing, which helps doctors understand how to diagnose and treat patients. By the end of my enlistment, I achieved a rank of Petty Officer 3rd Class.

What was it like for you to transition into a "civilian role"?

Because I spent my military career in the medical field, I gravitated to healthcare industry. I landed a job with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, managing health insurance benefits for large companies. At the time, my husband and I had two young children, so, like most veterans, I was looking for a company that offered good benefits and learning opportunities. After a few years, I got into project management, which got me to Amtrak. 

The most challenging part of the transition was figuring out how to advance my career in the corporate world. In the military, enlisted rank advancement follows a pre-defined process; however, in the private sector every industry has unique career progression aspects. So, unless you have a mentor to guide you through your chosen career path, advancement can be a challenge.

Are there any things that you learned in the military that help you to be successful at Amtrak now?

As a former medic, I am trained to always ensure safety of those around me. I can usually spot risky or unsafe situations well before most people. In my civilian career as a Project Manager, I harnessed this skill to assess and manage risks for various projects. Eventually, my superiors caught on to this and I was often assigned to high risk projects because I knew how to stay calm under pressure and proactively manage risks before they turned into crisis.  

At Amtrak, a big part of my job requires understanding project performance data, and how it should be measured. I learned how to interpret and measure data when I worked in the medical laboratory. For example, when your doctor orders bloodwork, he/she relies on the medical laboratory to measure your test results against other data points, which determine if you are outside of normal range. Medical laboratory work taught me to respect data and use it to diagnose potential problems and measure success.

Do you work with other veterans on a regular basis at Amtrak?

Yes. I work with many veterans here at Amtrak. We can generally spot each other across the room because veterans walk, talk and conduct themselves in a certain way. So, there is always a sense of camaraderie. We all know how to work under pressure and how to spot risky situations, so when I have conversations with my veteran colleagues, they automatically understand my point of view.

PUT YOUR MILITARY EXPERIENCE ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Amtrak has a long history of providing career opportunities to veterans as well as active military members. We value the leadership, reliability and dedication that the armed forces bring to our team. Your ability to adapt to a dynamic environment, your dedication and focus to safety and your experience gained while on military duty directly relates to a variety of operational and non-operational career opportunities at Amtrak.

PUT YOUR MILITARY EXPERIENCE ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Amtrak has a long history of providing career opportunities to veterans as well as active military members. We value the leadership, reliability and dedication that the armed forces bring to our team. Your ability to adapt to a dynamic environment, your dedication and focus to safety and your experience gained while on military duty directly relates to a variety of operational and non-operational career opportunities at Amtrak.

What is your favorite part about working for Amtrak?

I love working at Amtrak because I feel a sense of belonging to a community of dedicated professionals, who really know their job and care about this company’s success.

What accomplishment of yours while working for Amtrak has made you the most proud?

I started at Amtrak in May of 2017, and in a short period of time I stood up a new business function. My accomplishments could not have happened without my team’s amazing work.  In the last year we introduced new company policy, developed project management standards and trained more than 400 Amtrak employees. Additionally, we also developed a dynamic digital dashboard which compiles data about Amtrak’s projects and measures their performance against the plan.

Why do you think Amtrak is a good company for veterans to work for?

Amtrak has a good structure to support veterans and help them through their unique transition challenges. We have veterans at every level, including vice presidents.  If you are a veteran looking for a company that “gets it”, this is the place to be.

What advice would you give to a veteran looking for a job at Amtrak?

Use your military training to showcase your skills. We are always looking for people who are disciplined, accountable and safety-conscious. Veterans are uniquely positioned to fit this profile, so don’t be afraid to highlight these qualities on your resume and talk about these skills in your job interview.

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