EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story appeared in the Dec. 25 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
As chief information officer of transportation company Watco Cos., Andy Cordischi listens to customers and co-workers to understand their needs and improve the company’s systems and workflow. The company follows a servant-leadership model, with the executives at the bottom, instead of at the top, like an inverted pyramid.
“We’re just here to be conduits to make them successful,” he said. “If they’re successful serving our customers, we’ll be successful with the company.”
Cordischi, 49, was named to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class in 2007. At the time, he was director of technology and engineering for BNSF Logistics and went on to become vice president of solutions before leaving the company in 2014.
He said he loved working for BNSF but wanted a new challenge after working for the company for 12 years. At BNSF, he knew about Watco, which is based in Pittsburg, Kan., and others who worked there. In September 2014, he accepted the chief information officer position. He’s responsible for Watco’s IT footprint, including operations in Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United States.
The company has terminal, port and railroad operations and a partnership with The Greenbrier Cos. for mechanical services. Watco company Watco Transportation Services is one of the largest short line railroad holding companies in the United States with 37 short line railroads, more than 5,000 miles of track and 33 industrial switching locations. Its Terminal and Port Services division manages more than 80 terminals. Watco also offers brokerage services across all modes of transportation.
“It’s been a great three years here,” said Cordischi, who lives in Rogers, and splits his time between three offices: Pittsburg, Overland Park, Kan., and Springdale.
In 2018, he looks to leverage the digital information the company receives from customers to improve it. The company has used artificial intelligence to help sort through the information and apply it. Longer term, he looks to the completion of a new rail operations management system. The company started building the proprietary system this year, and it is expected to be completed over the next four to five years. Citing the vice president of applications on the project, Cordischi said, “We’re going to rebuild the car while driving down the road.”
Cordischi considers the highlight of his career seeing BNSF grow from a $12 million business with 12 employees to a $650 million company with 600 employees in his time there. “I’m really proud of the work we did at BNSF and to build that company,” he said. “I see that same thing happening here at Watco.”
He doesn’t attribute success to an achievement of one person but as a team effort. “Those are the things I get gratification out of, not individually how I accomplish something. It’s more [about] how does our team and our organization accomplish something, and how do I contribute to that team.”
He’s driven to situations in which he can assess and add value and likes to have fun while doing it. “When I’m having fun it makes it that much easier to go to work every day,” he explained.
Cordischi enjoys seeing the things accomplished through hard work and help to provide a better quality of life for his co-workers. “The word employee doesn’t exist,” he said. “Everybody’s a team member. No one team member is more important than any other team member.” Also, he said his family drives him.
He has two children and enjoys riding dirt bikes and playing golf with his 9-year-old son. His daughter is a sophomore at his alma mater, Indiana University, and she’s working to become a physiatrist. Cordischi earned his MBA from Webster University in 2008 and graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1993.
He moved to Northwest Arkansas to work for J.B. Hunt Logistics, where he worked from 1994 to 1998. He led a professional services consulting group with Clicklogistics from 1998 to 2002, when he started at BNSF Logistics.
Until this past year, he had participated in the World Series of Poker for 14 consecutive years. He is planning to resume that streak next year.