Hazmat Program Manager, CP
Darlene Nagy knows just how rare it is these days to spend an entire 35-year career at the same company.
Even more remarkable: she very nearly chose an entirely different career path.
Darlene went to school for early childhood education, wanting to work with children with special needs and learning exceptionalities.
But for Darlene, who was born and raised on a Prairie built and powered by rail, a summer job turned into a rewarding career where she still is learning every day.
“There were very few – almost no – women on trains when I joined. At that time, rail companies were just getting into the computer age, and they needed people who could get new systems adapted,” Darlene recalls.
It turns out the processes, psychology, and perspectives of her educational training would serve her well as a rail trainer and supervisor. She was promoted quickly and was given more and more responsibilities.
But two events in the early-90s would shape who she was to become.
In 1990, her mother was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer which she was still battling when Darlene’s then-husband (also a railroader) was gravely injured in a yard mishap in which he lost parts of both feet.
“Navigating those health challenges, I developed a lot of negotiating skills and a stronger, more assertive personality,” she says. “I didn’t put up with garbage, but I was also able to listen to medical teams. And we all came to agreements together.”
Those skills would serve her professionally, as she moved into customer service and operational leadership roles, and eventually into the hazardous materials area of CP’s business.
“I have found it is good to push yourself, to learn new things, to put yourself in positions when you’re out of your comfort zone,” she says.
That spirit also helps her coach, calm, motivate, and focus ‘haz-mat’ officers when they arrive at incidents and work on “high-risk, high-stakes” responses. (Darlene is based at CP headquarters in Calgary.)
Darlene is proud to be called into all sorts of discussions that aren’t directly related to her work because of the extent of her expertise and deep knowledge of the diverse facets of CP’s business.
While she admits “we still don’t have the numbers (of women railroaders) we need…we need to respect that we’ve come a long way. And if you are bright, intelligent, etc., you can go anywhere.”
When not at work, you will likely find Darlene skiing in the nearby Rocky Mountains, hiking with her dog (a German shepherd-lab mix), gardening, or simply enjoying time with her two grown sons.
She also recently found a new way to support kids’ education: by painting rocks that are used by a pre-school teacher friend for various in-class games or lessons.
A teacher at heart who’s also continuously learning – CP’s safety teams are clearly in good hands.
Get to know all of our panelist for the Women In Rail event here.