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Ms. Fix-it

By Matt Adams

Yolanda Gong had been awaiting this challenge all day. As fellow competitors looked on, she took a pipette and carefully removed lubricant from a jet engine, then injected it into a handheld machine to analyze its viscosity, a process that aircraft maintenance technicians use to gauge an engine's health. She moved quickly with a steady hand and steely confidence, and if you watched her closely, you would have caught a glimpse of who she was, back in a laboratory in another life, when she was living someone else's dream.

Each participant was allotted 15 minutes, which was 11 minutes and 44 seconds longer than Gong needed. It was the fastest time recorded at last spring's Aerospace Maintenance Competition – which draws civilian, military and student technicians from all over the country, all vying for coveted bragging rights – where she captained the team from West Los Angeles College. The oil analysis was just one event in which she and her teammates competed over the course of three days, during which Gong impressed a lot of people, including the members of United's all-female "Chix Fix" team, who were also there.

"When I saw her on stage receiving awards, I knew Yolanda would make a good addition to the United team, not to mention a strong competitor for Chix Fix," says United's San Francisco-based Airframe Overhaul and Repair Managing Director Bonnie Turner. "Her professionalism and talent caught my attention that day, and I've been thrilled to have her as a technician."

In September, after earning her airframe and powerplant license, Gong was hired by United to work at its San Francisco maintenance base as an Aircraft Interior Repair Tech. To Gong, meeting Turner and the women of Chix Fix was serendipity; a chance encounter that led to a life-changing opportunity. But that's not entirely true. She might have been in the right place at the right time, but make no mistake – her success is a byproduct of effort and ability. She's doing what she was meant to do, though it took her traveling an unconventional path to get to this place of self-realization.

Growing up, Gong's mother and father steered her toward a more genteel career. In their minds, she would become a doctor or a lawyer. In other words, something "suitable for a woman," a notion that rankled their mechanically-inclined daughter. In the end, Gong settled on medicine for many of the same reasons she would eventually move into aircraft maintenance.

"I was interested in how the body works," she says. "I like systems and puzzles, looking at causes and effects."

She completed her pre-med studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, but when it came time to take the MCAT and apply to medical school, Gong found herself at a crossroads. She realized her own goals were more important than the ones someone else had set for her, and she certainly wasn't going to let something like expectations based on gender stand in her way. After some soul searching, she enrolled in West Los Angeles College's aviation technology program, where she was one of only four women in a class of around 30 students.

"I've always wanted to know how to use tools and do things for myself," says Gong. "And I never paid attention when someone told me, 'You can't do that.' I've always said, 'Well, let me try.'"

Over the past few months since graduating, Gong has been a rising star at United. She's even set to return to the Aerospace Maintenance Competition in April, this time as part of team Chix Fix, where she and her colleagues plan to show what they can do.

"It's likely there will be a shortage of technicians soon," Gong says, "so I want to make sure women know opportunities are here for them. Don't let anyone tell you what you can or can't love. The only thing stopping you from doing what you want is your belief in yourself. It's incredibly freeing when you stop caring what other people think and just do it."

Making our app more accessible for people with disabilities

By The Hub team, October 28, 2020

We're proud to launch a redesigned version of our United app to make it easier for customers with visual disabilities to manage all aspects of day-of travel, including check-in, viewing reservation details and flight status, bag tracking and more.

This latest version of our app is now available to both Android and iOS users, and it offers increased color contrast and more space between graphics. Furthermore, we have reorganized how information is displayed and announced to better integrate with screen reader technologies like VoiceOver and TalkBack, which are built into most handheld devices. By restructuring the way the information is organized on the app, screen readers are better able to convert text to audio in the proper, logical sequence, allowing customers to better understand and navigate the app.

United Zoom backgrounds for AvGeeks

By The Hub team, October 27, 2020

Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Take your next video call from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude with United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Newly added to our collection is a background encouraging our employees and customers to vote. Our mission is to connect people and unite the world — and one of the most important ways to do that is to engage in the democratic process. No matter which party you support, we know our democracy will be stronger if you make your voice heard and vote.

So for your next meeting or catch up with friends and family, download the app to either your computer or mobile device to get started.

Looking back at a landmark year with Special Olympics

By Ryan Wilks, October 19, 2020

Earlier this summer, we shone a light on our flagship partnership with Special Olympics and our commitment to the Inclusion Revolution. In that same story, we introduced you to our four Special Olympics Service Ambassadors, Daniel, Kyle, Lauren and Zinyra (Z), who, this month, celebrate one year working at Chicago O'Hare International Airport as part of the United family.

This groundbreaking, inclusive employment program took off as a part of our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics, a community relationship that employees across the company hold close to heart. The original 'UA4' (as they call themselves) have become an integral part of the United team serving customers at O'Hare Airport. Even from behind their masks, their wide smiles and effervescent spirit exude and bring life to the service culture of excellence we strive towards every day.

"The UA4 are more than just customer service ambassadors. They are shining examples of how inclusion, accessibility and equity can have monumental impacts on the culture and service of a business and community," said Customer Service Managing Director Jonna McGrath. "They have forever changed who we are as a company. While they often talk about how United and this opportunity has changed their lives, they have changed ours in more ways than we can count."

In the two years of partnership with Special Olympics, United employees have volunteered over 10,500 hours of service at events around the world and donated over $1.2 million worth of travel to the organization.

"This inclusive employment program is what community partnerships, like ours with Special Olympics, are all about: collaborating to identify areas where the needs of the community intersect with the cultural and business opportunity, then creating the infrastructure and programming to bring the two together," said Global Community Engagement Managing Director Suzi Cabo. "Through this program, our goal is to show other companies that when you put a committed effort and focus towards inclusion and breaking down barriers, you transform lives. I challenge other business around the world to follow our lead in joining the Inclusion Revolution."

Check out the video below to hear from our Special Olympics Service Ambassadors firsthand.

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