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Max Lafferty Named 2023 “Rising Star”

Congratulations are in order to Max Lafferty, Vice President of Rail Testing for Herzog Services, Inc, for being named a 2023 Progressive Railroading Rising Star! We couldn’t be more thrilled and proud of Max’s well-deserved recognition in the rail industry. His passion for his work shines through in everything he takes on, and it’s no surprise that he has been acknowledged for this honor. Read more about Max in the interview below.

Max Lafferty, 35
Vice President of Rail Testing
Herzog Services, Inc.


Nominator’s quote: “Max’s biggest contribution to the rail industry is his relentless pursuit to seek out more efficient, innovative and effective rail-flaw detection technologies and operational processes. He is committed to keeping the railroads — along with the communities through which freight and passenger trains travel — safe, all while providing exceptional customer service.” — Troy Elbert, Herzog Services Inc.

Education: University of Central Missouri, M.S. in occupational management. I started as a double major in economics and finance as an undergraduate. As I looked for a more pragmatic field of study, I gravitated toward the field of safety sciences to look toward a promising career where I could work outside.

Job responsibilities: Oversee the day-to-day operations of all tasks relating to the core service HSI offers the railways: ultrasonic testing of rails.

Career path: I had an incredible four-year internship opportunity with the U.S. Air Force coming right out of university at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and Hill AFB in Utah. During this time, I was able to learn among some of our country’s best on what it takes to safely operate in airbases around the world in the specialty fields of flight, weapons and ground safety. From there, I got exposure to the heavy civil sector working at the Comanche 3 power plant managing the safety program of a major upgrade in the coal yard. Upon completion of this assignment, I relocated to Utah to work at CH2M Hill to help execute the safety objectives at the Lake Side 2 Power Project.

How did you get into the rail industry? I embarked on a personal journey in my mid-to-late 20s where I pursued another key passion: snowboarding. I followed the weather forecasts along the Rocky Mountain Range and ranges farther west to find the best conditions to ride in. After two exciting winter seasons, I received call from a friend who worked at Herzog and said, “I’ve got the perfect position for you since you like to travel.” Shortly afterward, I joined Herzog as a field safety officer looking after the safety program across the United States and Canada.

What is the best career advice you’ve received so far? Own your mistakes. No BCD: blame, complain or defend. BCD has never solved a problem, never achieved a goal and never improved a relationship.

What advice would you give to a new railroader? Surround yourself with others who want to be the best.

What was your first job? When I turned 16, my first official job was scooping ice cream and making what we called “concretes” at Custard’s Last Stand. We served super premium ice cream that’s similar to the homemade stuff. I recall studying and memorizing the entire ice cream menu and all the combination of ingredients to make sure that Day 1 the team could rely on me to be fast and efficient.

Share a fun fact about yourself. As of May 15, I’ve run outside at least 1 mile for 500 days with no days off. With the help of a group of friends, we created the “Measly Mile Mafia.” The rule is simple: Run every day and post your progress to the group. Upon completion of the 365-day mark earlier this year, the Facebook group totals have amassed a total of 17,000 miles run and over 800 pounds lost. It has been tremendously rewarding listening to people break through their own limits of what they thought was possible. We’ve got over 250 members online from all walks of life all staying accountable and getting after it each day.

If you could have dinner with anyone alive in the world, who would it be and why? It’d have to be with Jon Rahm and joining the exclusive “Champions Dinner” at Augusta National in 2024. The last two dinners hosted by Hideki Matsuyama and Scottie Scheffler show the incredible range of food to be offered.

Beyond the excellent food, sitting in a roomful of past [PGA] champions would be an incredible honor. The room would be filled with professionals who are working continuously on their craft to get better than they were yesterday. Ben Hogan said, “I have never played a round when I didn’t learn something new about the game.” That’s how I feel about working at Herzog: Not a day goes by when I’m not fascinated by something new.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career and why? The entire Herzog family and the extended members of it, which we call Herzogians. From Bill Herzog to the late Stan Herzog, when you work at Herzog, you not only see and hear what we believe, you also can feel what our beliefs are. I get to work with railroad professionals who want to be the best versions of themselves every day. Who doesn’t want to work with people who want to win? There’s a reason Herzog has been around for 53 years. Our goal is to continue getting the job done so there will always be a Herzog.

Describe a major obstacle in your career and how you surmounted it. Earlier in my career, I learned the importance of what we call at Herzog the “power of the team.” In my 20s, I focused more on doing all the work myself because it was how I was wired. It didn’t take long to realize that no one person has all the answers and there is great power in seeking guidance and collaborating with others. This gradual realization of humility with the obvious limitations of trying to do most of the work unlocked a whole new set of exciting challenges to learn how to effectively lead teams.