Boeing employee doubles as park ranger on slopes of Mount Rainier
BY CHRISTINE LAM
Phil Winn was looking for a weekend volunteer activity that could balance out his busy days at Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Puget Sound.
But he wasn't looking for just anything. He had two requirements: 1) Must be outdoors, and 2) Must not be behind a desk. He ended up finding a volunteer position as a park ranger on Mount Rainier and since 1994 has spent nearly every weekend there.
As a manager for Supplier Management and Procurement Finance, Winn is accustomed to looking out for people's best interests and making sure things are in order. At Mount Rainier, the concept is similar.
As a park ranger he has multiple tasks, such as making sure hikers remain on the path, answering questions about the wildlife, and helping visitors find their way around.
Mount Rainier offers about 270 miles of trails—most of which Winn has hiked. Without blinking an eye, he can rattle off anything you'd want to know about the mountain. "If you want to see bears, go to Paradise on the south side," he said.
"If you want to see birds, go high on the ridgeline. If you want to see flowers, go to the Sunrise area—they blanket the entire area."
The park ranger job satisfies Winn's desire for something dramatically different from what he does at Boeing. He enjoys the challenges both have to offer and finds balance between them.
But he also sees similarities that help him become a better communicator. Winn noted that visitors to Mount Rainier come from all over the world. Perceptions and cultural norms vary—as they do in the workplace.
He communicates by coaching and education, the same skills necessary in business and everyday life, to ensure people are working together and complying with regulations.
Every Saturday, while most people are still recovering from the previous week's stress, Winn gets up at the crack of dawn and drives 160 miles from his home in Renton, Wash., to the mountain.
"It's a way for me to give back to the community and feel like I make a difference," said Winn. "I can't get enough of it because I always see and do something different each time. And I love the sheer beauty of the place."
In the winter, Winn skis and snowshoes to monitor snow-covered trails, roads and abandoned campsites. When needed, he helps provide emergency assistance.
Although other park officials handle emergencies, he has gone on a search-and-rescue mission and assisted medical carryouts from remote areas of the mountain. On one occasion he established a landing zone for a Life Flight helicopter and directed it in for a landing.
When he heads to the mountain on weekends, the experienced outdoorsman sometimes sleeps at a campsite in a tent, in a patrol cabin or even in one of the fire lookouts. Last year, Winn put in 360 volunteer hours, missing only two weekends.
And if that's not enough time at the mountain, he also spends a lot of his vacation time there, too. "The more I do it, the more I like it," Winn said.
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