Véronique Lapalme
Engineer, Design and Construction, CN

Was getting into the industry your first career choice? If so, how did you get interested in transportation? If not, what attracted you to this sector?

At university, I studied mechanical engineering. I wanted most of all to work in a field where I could practice engineering. During my job search, I discovered that I could have this opportunity in a unique field, namely the railway industry. CN offered me the opportunity to work in the Design and Construction Department, a department that deals with construction projects in the railway right-of-way. What attracted me to this field was its unique aspect unknown to students, because railway know-how isn’t taught in schools. So employees in the railway sector develop a rare and highly sought-after expertise.

What or who surprises you in your occupation, in the sense that you didn’t expect to see these aspects (technology, culture, atmosphere, challenges, etc.) in the industry?

I am currently working as a project manager in CN’s Design and Construction Department. So I am involved in various constructions projects (new railways, railway bridge construction, etc.). This role lets me work with several departments, including the Track Department (responsible for track maintenance and construction) and the Signals and Communications Department (responsible for the railway signalling system). Safety and the quality of customer service are at the core of CN’s concerns. That means my biggest challenge is to find design solutions that make it possible for construction work to be done safely without interrupting rail service. So I have to make sure that all CN departments coordinate their efforts to plan organizing project works. This challenge is one that surprised me when I started my career at CN. But it’s a challenge that results in strong team spirit between departments to ensure the success of projects in the short time between train passages.

If you had to give advice to the next generation, what would you tell them to encourage them to choose the logistics and freight transport sector?

Don’t hesitate to choose an unknown field that presents challenges that are out of the ordinary. Persevere in finding solutions, ask questions, work as a team and use the resources at your disposal.

How do you see the future of your profession and the sector?

Freight transport is necessary in an international market like ours. Infrastructure projects are booming. Engineers are widely sought after to meet this demand.

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