Q&A with Michelle Brown - United Hub

Q&A with Michelle Brown

By The Hub team, March 12, 2018

In honor of Women's History Month, we are sharing stories of the inspired and strong women of United, like Michelle Brown. Michelle, Managing Director of Customer Service at IAH, is responsible for customer experience and strategy in our Houston hub.

1. Who is a woman who has inspired you?

I have so many inspirations! Too many to name. My grandmother has been the biggest inspiration in my life. She survived the depression, raised her siblings and her children, nurtured me and countless others. Her formal education stopped in the second grade, but she never stopped learning. She inspired me to believe that I could achieve anything with determination, hard work and perseverance.

2. What challenges have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

I can identify three major challenges I have faced in my leadership journey thus far.

First, I voluntarily stepped away from a high paying role without a job offer and a clear understanding of what I was going to next. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life because I finally felt like I had the freedom to choose what I wanted to do versus doing what people expected me to do.

Second, I have lacked confidence at times during my career. In the past, I have felt like I wasn't keeping up with the other "high performers" in the company. My style was different; how I worked was different from my peers and I was convinced that my way must not be the best way. I doubted that people were actually comfortable with giving me honest feedback because of my positions as a black, female leader. All of these thoughts compounded and made me feel very uncertain. I doubted whether what I achieved was meaningful or if I was making a difference. I felt like I lacked measurable wins and achievements, when in reality I had accomplished a lot but I was too humble to feel comfortable talking about and celebrating my accomplishments.

Finally, my transition from marketing to operations was a very uncertain time for me. I was excited about the possibilities and anxious about the unknown. This leap of faith has turned out to be one of the most interesting career moves I have ever made.

3. Who at United has helped you succeed?

Too many people to name. The people who have most helped me are the ones who believed in me, even at times when I doubted myself. People who encouraged me to take on a special project, people who supported me "testing" some crazy idea, people who prepped with me as I prepared for interviews, and last but not least, the people who cheered and celebrated every success.

4. What's the best part of your job?

The people. I absolutely love working at the airport. I have a great team here in Houston. It's great walking down the concourse and being greeted with smiles from employees and customers. It's so much fun knowing that every day my job is to interact with people and make a difference to someone's day.

5. What advice would you give to girls or other women to help them succeed?

As female leaders we need to talk about leadership and mentor other women so that they will model leadership behaviors. Women and girls should aspire to be leaders in their schools, homes, communities, workplaces and we should talk about this and celebrate it. We should remind each other that it's ok to be the one in charge or to lead. It's ok to own a decision, good or bad. We should teach girls that they are resourceful and if or when you fail, you should learn from it as most mistakes are recoverable. We don't have to be perfect.

Personally, I learn from doing and observing so I often model or role play situations that happen in one-on-one situations or behind closed doors. I also try to lead by example by being visible. We need to expose young female leaders to other women who are leaders in their own right.

Finally, we should coach each other, share with each other, and learn from each other. Too often, mistakes are repeated because people lack vulnerability to share their experiences. We have to be candid and frank with each other to show the next generation of female leaders that leadership does not have to be scary.

Entertainment for all

By The Hub team, August 04, 2020

Our Marketing Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity team and Bridge, our Business Resource Group (BRG) for people with all abilities, partnered together to test and provide feedback on our award-winning seatback inflight entertainment (IFE) system.

Aptly named "Entertainment for all," our new seatback IFE system offers the an extensive suite of accessibility features, allowing for unassisted use by people of all visual, hearing, mobility and language abilities.

"It's nice to know that I can get on a plane and pick my favorite entertainment to enjoy, just like every customer," said Accessibility Senior Analyst and Developer and Bridge Chief of Staff Ray C., who is blind.

"As a deaf employee, the closed captioning availability on board our aircraft is something I value greatly," added Information Technology Analyst Greg O. "The new IFE further cements United's visibility within the deaf community and elsewhere. It makes me proud to be an employee."

Accessibility features of the new IFE include a text-to-speech option, explore by touch, customizable text size, screen magnification, color correction and inversion modes, and alternative navigation options for those unable to swipe or use a handset. For hearing-impaired and non-English-speaking passengers, customization options provide the ability for customers to be served content and receive inflight notifications based on their preferences and settings —with closed captions, with subtitles or in the language of their choice from the 15 languages supported. Our "Entertainment for all" system won the Crystal Cabin Award in 2019, and recently, the Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl Research and Development Award for Audio Description by the American Council of the Blind.

"This really showed the benefits of partnering with BRGs in helping us improve products and services for our customers and employees," said Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity Senior Manager Corinne S. "Even though we have been recognized with awards for our IFE accessibility features, we are not resting on our laurels but continuing to work towards improving the inflight entertainment experience for all of our customers to ensure entertainment is available for all."

Shaping an inclusive future with Special Olympics

By The Hub team, July 24, 2020

If your travels have taken you through Chicago O'Hare International Airport anytime since October 2019, you may have had a friendly, caring and jovial exchange with Daniel Smrokowski. Daniel is one of four Service Ambassadors thanks to our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics. This inaugural ambassador program aims to provide Special Olympic athletes employment opportunities within our operation, affording them a unique and meaningful career.

Since 2018, our partnership with Special Olympics has become one of United's most cherished relationships, going beyond the events we take part in and volunteer with. While the plane pull competitions, polar plunges, duck derbies and Special Olympics World Games and other events around the world are a big part of our involvement, the heart of this partnership lies with the athletes and individuals supported by Special Olympics. To advocate for their inclusion in every setting is one of our biggest honors, and we take great pride in the role we play in the organization's inclusion revolution.

Aiding in the success of Special Olympics' mission to create continuing opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, throughout the two-year partnership, United has volunteered over 10,500 hours and donated over $1.2 million in travel to the organization. The impact of this partnership is felt at every level, both at Special Olympics and within our own ranks.

"The Inclusion Revolution campaign, led by our athletes, aims to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. United Airlines has joined in our fight for inclusion, empowering our athletes with the skills needed to succeed and opportunities to contribute their abilities as leaders," said Special Olympics International Chairman Tim Shriver. "United Airlines believes that people with intellectual disabilities should be perceived as they really are: independent, world-class athletes, students, employees, neighbors, travelers, and leaders who contribute to make this world a better place."

Our Service Ambassador program is just one of the many ways Special Olympics has impacted not only our employees, but also our customers. "I see every day how our Service Ambassadors connect with our customers the moment they walk into the airport lobby," said Senior Customer Service Supervisor Steve Suchorabski. "They provide a warm, welcoming smile ad assist in any way they can. To see these young adults hold positions that a society once told them they couldn't is truly the most heartwarming part of my job," Steve continued.

"The opportunity to be a part of the United family means everything to me," Daniel said. "I feel so much pride showing up to work in a Special Olympics/United co-branded uniform, working among such a loving and supportive community. The relationship between these two organizations is truly helping to shape my future while letting me use my gifts of communicating and helping others. Hopefully, I can spend my entire career at United," Daniel added.

In honor of Special Olympics' Global Week of Inclusion in July, we're asking our employees, customers and partners to sign a pledge to #ChooseToInclude at jointherevolution.org/pledge.

And be sure to check out Daniel's podcast The Special Chronicles.

United works with partners to send food to USDA food bank

By The Hub team, July 23, 2020

In collaboration with food-logistics company Commodity Forwarders Inc. (CFI), United moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. This new program was created to provide critical support to consumers impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

A variety of fresh fruits were transported from Los Angeles (LAX) to Guam (GUM) on United's newly introduced, non-stop cargo-only flight – a route added to meet cargo demand during the COVID-19 crisis. The fresh food was repacked in 10-pound cases in Los Angeles, prepared for departure at CFI's LAX location, and flown to GUM by the United team. Through this beneficial partnership between United and CFI, the perishable goods were kept cool during every step of the process and distributed as part of the food bank program in Guam.

"Everyone on our team has worked relentlessly during the pandemic to get critical goods to where they are needed most. Establishing a comprehensive network of cargo-only flights have allowed us to keep the supply chain moving even while passenger flight capacity has been reduced," said Regional Senior Manager of Cargo Sales, Marco Vezjak. "Knowing that we are able to help during these difficult times – in this case the Guam community – is our biggest reward and greatest motivation to keep moving forward."

United is proud to play a role in maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access the supplies they need. Since March 19, United has operated over 4,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 130 million pounds of cargo.

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