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Eric Zornes ‘11

Eric Zornes
Eric Zornes tested the waters in several industries before finding his niche in the railroad. Six years in the Navy preceded many more years punctuated by periods of time working with computers, in the grocery industry, even a stint as a journeyman iron-worker.

In 2002, he took a job with the railroad and found his future.

Zornes’s path to success is unusual, but not unheard of. Pushing 50, he made a decision to pursue a college degree: a Bachelor of Science in Business from the University of Redlands.

“I call it reverse-engineering my life,” Zornes said. “I had the experience, and I went back for the education. It’s never too late.”

Zornes chose the University of Redlands on the recommendation of many in the industry. “It’s a good school with a good reputation,” he said. Today, he’s glad he added “college student” to his eclectic list of experiences. The knowledge and expertise he gained through his studies has helped him to advance in his career.

“As you start to understand business, business cycles and economics, and everything else that goes into the hard-numbers game of business, then obviously strategies start to make more sense,” he explained. “If you’re on the outside looking in, you ask, ‘Why are you doing that?’”

Now, with a better understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes, Zornes can communicate the reasons why to others. “I can explain it from a business perspective, whereas before I was strictly a layman,” he said. “I can put it into the context of how decisions help our company maintain its competitive advantage.”

Zornes, a member of the university’s Whitehead Leadership Society, said the assistance network inherent in the School of Business was a huge asset. “It started with the ability to seek a tutor if needed, and then as we grew as a cohort or gathered as class, we started assisting one another. If somebody was struggling with something, there was somebody else there to help.

“We all had little pieces of the puzzle,” Zornes said. “Without that core group, there would have been a lot of people who would have struggled more.”

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