Meet Natalie Mendez, Learning & Development Program Manager, at Southwest Airlines. In her role, Natalie supports the development and growth of the Financial Planning and Analysis department. Specifically, she works with the leadership team on their professional goals by providing one-on-one and small group support. By being intuitive to the world around her, Natalie has gathered valuable knowledge that is all packed into her Suitcase for Success!
Suitcase Item #1: Just Listen
Natalie received her undergraduate degree in Psychology, which provided her a solid foundation for understanding and appreciating people, a skill she utilizes on a daily basis. However, Natalie admitted that she has learned the most about people by just listening to them. She stated, “If we really pay attention, people tell us everything we need to know about them through their words, energy, and body language. This helps us appreciate that everyone brings something different to the table.” In addition to listening to others, Natalie emphasized the importance of listening to yourself and developing self-awareness. She shared, “Every morning I check in with myself and see how I am feeling. In my role, I need to support others, so I want to be aware of how I’m going to show up that day and of the impact I may have on others. Do I need extra inspiration from a friend or a podcast? I need to know what’s going on with me, so I can give my best to the day. To be successful in any career, self-awareness is key.”
Suitcase Item #2: Be Curious
Natalie described herself as a lifelong learner. She loves to “take new classes and develop new skills.” In her current position she “creates a broad network across Southwest to listen and learn from people in different areas.” While Natalie has embraced learning both formally and experientially, she acknowledged that curiosity is the motivating force behind the two. “Curiosity allows you to enjoy learning. When you are curious you realize there is always something new you can pick up from anyone or anything around you,” said Natalie. “This curiosity can help you to be better with people, you’re less judgmental and more open to others. You can really understand where someone is coming from.” By remaining curious, you can learn something new even when you least expect it.
Suitcase Item #3: Observe Role Models
While Natalie sees the value in formal mentorships, she strives to find ways to learn from those around her. This is how Natalie has found role models throughout her career. She does not specifically seek them out, rather, she sees everyone around her as a role model of sorts and studies the qualities of the people she admires. “In life, you can observe others, both the positive and negative to continue developing yourself,” said Natalie. “Consider the people around you as your own personal development buffet, you can learn from various characteristics and styles and fine-tune the YOU, you want to be.” This method has allowed Natalie to have countless role models who have inspired her to become the best version of herself.
Suitcase Item #4: Have Grace
Natalie enjoys working at Southwest because she is allowed to be herself. Southwest embraces and promotes individuality. Southwest believes in respecting the unique qualities of others and being kind to one another. Natalie appreciates that it is important to be kind to others, but also emphasized that you must be kind to yourself. “We can be very hard on ourselves. We think we need to be perfect and don’t give ourselves room to stumble or even fail. You have to give yourself grace,” said Natalie. “If you wouldn’t be hard on someone else for something, don’t be hard on yourself.” Natalie uses this mentality to guide her through her life and her career. In doing so, she is able to be curious, adventurous, and adaptable, and loves that “it doesn’t matter how young or old you are, how established you are, or what’s happened along the way, you can always make a change to be the person you want to be and to do the things that are most important to you—it is never too late!”
As Natalie demonstrates, we have to know and empower ourselves and others in order to grow. The best way to do this is learning all you can from the people around you—ask questions and genuinely listen to what they have to say. If you were to pack for the rest of your life tomorrow, what would you carry in your Suitcase for Success?