GenHERation Goes to Vegas with Southwest Airlines: My Rally Experience

My name is Melissa Hutchins, and I am originally from South Glens Falls located in upstate New York. I am currently a second semester senior at the college of SUNY Oneonta, majoring in Business Economics with a concentration in Marketing. My goal is to one day become a leading force for female empowerment and aspiring women in business. I grew up in a very driven atmosphere that never limited my dreams. I was always encouraged by my family to operate outside of my comfort zone, even when I didn’t feel ready for what was to come. My passion is in the field of marketing and the way it can be used to sprout creative and innovative thinking. I’ve always been inspired by what drives or motivates people to do or feel something and I’m interested in the associations that can link a product with a feeling.

I have been involved in GenHERation for almost two years after first discovering the company from a feature I heard on Wharton Business  Radio. The day I received the GenHERation newsletter announcing the opportunity to attend the Southwest Airlines Rally in Las Vegas for the chance to meet Southwest Employees and learn about the company’s culture, I immediately emailed the GenHERation team to express my interest. I knew I had to do all that was in my power to get myself to Las Vegas. Once I found out I was selected to attend the Rally, I was over the moon ecstatic and started dancing around my apartment when I received the news!

Melissa Hutchins (middle) featured with the GenHERation Team

I’ve been very passionate about Southwest Airlines for years and having the opportunity to learn from members of the Southwest Team at the Rally provided valuable insight into what it means to embrace the Southwest Culture. Previously through GenHERation, I won a national simulation where I submitted a proposal for an app designed to help improve their boarding process and accommodation plan for those traveling with disabilities. It was an honor to have been recognized for my ideas and efforts from one of the most respected companies in the country. I hope to someday work for a company like Southwest Airlines that puts its people first.

Melissa Hutchins featured with Southwest President Tom Nealon

By attending the Rally event, I learned so much more about the Southwest Airlines culture. Coming into the Rally, I knew that Southwest Airlines cared for its passengers and truly treated them as family, but after hearing the remarks shared by company executives Gary C. Kelly (Southwest CEO & Chairman of the Board), Tom Nealon (Southwest President), and Mike Van de Ven (Southwest Chief Operating Officer), I gained a whole new perspective of what the company is all about. One of my favorite and most memorable moments during the rally occurred while listening to Mike Van de Ven describe Southwest Airlines as the “puma” of the industry. A puma is seen as a force that doesn’t back down from a challenge and steps up to battle with the readiness to win. Most importantly, you don’t want to ever mess with the puma because it will always come back at you even harder. That reference is something I will take on with me and strive to portray for the rest of my career.

                     Melissa Hutchins featured with Southwest CEO & Chairman of the Board Gary C. Kelly

It’s hard to summarize my time at the Rally in just a few words, but overall, this experience was an opportunity for growth. It made me recognize how much work is involved in maintaining a unique, unified, and collaborative company culture. Marketing is important; however, finding the right people to help embrace the culture is even more important. Through hearing more about the Southwest Vision of becoming “the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline,” I recognize now that LUV is the glue that maintains a successful company. I hope to someday work for a company or start a company, like Southwest Airlines, that puts its people first.

Melissa Hutchins featured with Southwest Managing Director, Culture Cheryl Hughey (middle)

Watch Melissa’s video to learn more about her journey at the Southwest Airlines Las Vegas Rally.





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