This summer, GenHERation partnered with Southwest Airlines to send five young women to Southwest Summer Camp held at the Company’s headquarters in Dallas, Texas. During their time at camp, the campers were given the opportunity to explore the Southwest campus, learn about the Company’s many departments, and play simulation games that helped them embrace the problem solving mindset of a Southwest Employee. Additionally, the young women had the chance to learn from Southwest executives to understand how to hone their skills and interests towards a career at Southwest.
This year, the five GenHERation members chosen to attend the event were: Litzy Torres from Grand Prairie, Texas, Sofia Marchial from Dallas, Texas, Courtney Conrad from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Kitzia Maciel and Ketzali Maciel from Wastonville, California. While the five campers have diverse career interests, they all learned valuable lessons during their week in Dallas. Ketzali explained she “learned so much while being there and enjoyed meeting new people, exploring the different career options, and getting to learn more about Southwest Airlines.” Litzy echoed this feeling stating, “I learned something innovative and exciting every day. I had the opportunity to meet campers from all across the nation who I would not have crossed paths with otherwise.”
The young women were drawn to the camp experience for a variety of reasons. “I wanted to attend Southwest Summer Camp because I love traveling, which sparked my interest in careers in aviation,” said Sofia. Courtney explained how she wanted an inside look at the Company’s operations, “I was originally interested in Southwest Summer Camp because of the great reputation Southwest had for creating a positive environment for their Employees and Customers. I had heard nothing short of positive reviews about Southwest, and was eager to see what made Southwest stand out from other Companies.” At the end of the program, each participant provided a reflection about their time at camp. Here are the five major takeaways from their experiences:
Takeaway #1: Southwest is more than Pilots and Flight Attendants
During their time at camp, the young women learned about everything that goes into Southwest’s operations. While Pilots and Flight Attendants are among the most well-known positions in aviation, there are a variety of teams that contribute to the success of Southwest Airlines. Sofia enjoyed visiting training centers and hearing about careers on a variety of teams including, Communications & Outreach, Social Media, Technical Operations, Finance, and Marketing. While these job functions may not be immediately associated with an airline, camp allowed the young women to gain a new appreciation for the Company and diverse career paths available. “I was able to recognize that from the time you book a trip until you pick up your luggage from baggage claim, there is a Southwest Employee working to ensure that you will be satisfied. The teamwork and attention to detail is impressive,” claimed Litzy. Southwest is really about teamwork!
Takeaway #2: Southwest is a family
Southwest prides itself on being an inclusive community-based Company. It maintains this foundational value by embracing and promoting individuality. Southwest believes in respecting the unique qualities of others and supporting one another. The campers were emerged into Southwest’s culture from day one. In reflecting upon her experience, Courtney expressed, “Southwest is not just a Company, it’s a family. Those family members all welcomed us with open arms and were nothing short of extraordinary.” From the interactive tours and discussions with professionals, the attendees were able to understand how to foster a communicative, cooperative, and constructive work environment.
Takeaway #3: Southwest cares about their Customers
To anyone who has flown on Southwest, or who has seen one of its advertisements, the word “Transfarency” should be familiar. Transfarency is a philosophy created by Southwest defined as their goal to treat Customers honestly and fairly and keep their fares low. While at camp, the young women were able to see Transfarency personified and experience how genuine of a concept it actually is. Kitzia explained, “While at Southwest Summer Camp, we learned more than just the operation, we learned about their mission and values. We learned specifically about Transfarency that ensures all of Southwest’s Customers are treated with honesty and fairness. By learning about Transfarency, I recognized that Southwest strives to make Customers feel comfortable and welcome.” This line of thought was similar for Sofia who noted, “I always heard Southwest cared about its Customers and after attending camp, I can say that it is true. Southwest wants to give everyone the chance to explore.”
Takeaway #4: Southwest prioritizes Employee happiness
Creating a positive Employee experience is a main goal for Southwest. The Company executes upon this goal by fostering a comfortable, fun work environment, and offers great Employee benefits. As the campers toured the Southwest offices, they were able to experience what it means to come to work as a Southwest Employee. Litzy explained, “I saw themed break areas called “Culture Centers” as well as an inspirational quote wall. I also witnessed Employees connecting and laughing with each other through the duration of camp. I sensed that Southwest cares about Employees’ mental health and that is something I’m looking for in a future employer.” Again and again, it is evident Southwest is a People focused business.
Takeaway #5: Southwest gives back
People typically think of Southwest’s business operations as exclusively aviation related. However, the young women learned that Southwest takes immense pride in giving back to the communities where they live, work, and serve. More specifically, displaying a Servant’s Heart is a core value of the Company. Ketzali reflected on one of the standout moments of her time at camp that was focused on volunteerism. “An organization that helps homeless families visited and asked if we could help them make some snack bags with an inspirational message or drawing for the kids. I soon found out that the campers and staff ended up making around 475 bags.” While the campers had the chance to volunteer at camp, Southwest’s passion for volunteerism persists 365 days a year.
Southwest Summer Camp was a memorable experience that helped open the young women’s eyes to various opportunities in aviation.
Contributor: Allison Kinne