Boeing Frontiers
May 2003
Volume 02, Issue 01
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools
Special Feature

Up Close and Personal: Boeing employees share their work, life experiences

1. Shelly De Jesus - Diversity makes for strong team
2. Dr. Erick Hisken - Benefits affect course of director's life
3. Pam Valdez - Combining benefits to help students
4. Pat Owen - Call, referral bring relief
5. Andy Miller - Virtual leadership
6. Woody Johnson - Education and starting over
7. Jason Anderson - Aiming high, prerequisite for education
8. Christy Paino - Graduation? Getting warmer!
9. Cathy Keaton - Wellness works
10. Joyce Walters - 'Incredibly generous' benefits
11. Connie Blackford - Planning for the future

The world in a wing

C17 Production Leading Edge Team, Wing Assembly IPTWorking in C-17 Wing Assembly has afforded Shelly De Jesus the opportunity to work with people of many cultures, nationalities and perspectives. "I've developed many wonderful working relationships with teammates who have diverse backgrounds: African American, Latino (Mexican American, Spanish decent and Puerto Rican), Asian (Laos, Vietnam, Filipino) American Indian and Middle Eastern," De Jesus said. "Throw me in the mix—as one of 12 female managers out of about 110—and we really were a unique team for the production arena."

Over time they bonded as a team. Looking out for one another, bantering and sharing life's ups and downs. She realized that as you work side by side on common goals, differences melt away.

"The Leading Edge Team was noted for its exceptional performance, quality and unity," De Jesus added. "I concluded that it was the diverse perspectives of each member that made this a strong team. Southern California is one of the most diverse areas in the U.S. As our world expands, I hope that other Boeing sites will have the opportunity to experience this benefit of the amazing cultural diversity that makes up our workforce."

Protected dreams: How Boeing benefits affected the course of director's life

Dr. Eric Hisken, the director of Health, Benefits and Work/Life for Boeing, has lifelong, first-hand experience of the value of Boeing benefits.

"My father was a 30-year Boeing employee," Hisken said. "Throughout my childhood, my family was glad to have Boeing benefits, but it was during college that I came to understand their true value."

While Hisken was working on his undergraduate degree at the University of Washington, his father became very ill. "His condition required multiple surgeries, and he had to be out of work for an extended period of time," Hisken said. "Had it not been for his Boeing benefits, which paid for his medical care and provided long-term disability compensation, I would have had to quit college and go to work to help support my family."

Because of the benefits, Hisken was able to complete his undergraduate degree and go on to medical school.

"Needless to say, it impressed me that my family was able to carry on, affording me the opportunity to finish my education," Hisken said.

Fortunately, the elder Hisken recovered from his illness, returned to Boeing, and finished his 30-year career as a manager at the company.

"And, when my dad retired 15 years ago, I saw what a difference Boeing benefits continued to make in his life," said Hisken. "Thanks to his [Voluntary Investment Program] savings and his pension plan, he was able to enjoy his retirement, including some traveling he had always wanted to do, and buying a small cabin on Whidbey Island."

As a 17-year employee now himself, Hisken also has experience as a customer of Boeing benefits.

"I enjoy real peace of mind when I think about my teenage son and daughter," said Hisken. "They have a level of security in their lives and future prospects that wouldn't be there if it weren't for Boeing benefits."

Hisken's experience with Boeing benefits helps him in his current role as director of Health, Benefits and Work/Life.

"I understand how important the company's benefits are to the families we serve," Hisken said. "They've decisively shaped the quality of my family's and my life, and I know they're equally important to every other member of the Boeing community."

Putting benefits together to help students

Pam Valdez"A slam dunk."

That's how Pam Valdez, F/A22 training system manager, describes the value of putting Boeing benefits programs together to sponsor scholarships. "When the Employee Incentive Plan was established, I decided to take $500 of my first EIP award and request a Boeing Gift Match to create a $1,000 scholarship," said Valdez. "Since then, I've created a second scholarship the same way."

The annual scholarships are awarded to students at her former high school in West Babylon (Long Island), N.Y. One scholarship emphasizing math and science is named for her sixth grade teacher. The other is named for her mother and does not focus on a particular field of study. Valdez worked with the school so these scholarships might go to kids who "fall through the cracks" of other scholarship programs.

"The Gift Matching program is so generous, I plan to continue supporting these scholarships even if I don't get an EIP award in the future," Valdez added. "The best part is going to the ceremony and meeting the kids. To meet the scholarship winners and to receive thank-you or heartwarming letters over the years is so rewarding. Even a small donation can make a big difference. I encourage other Boeing employees and retirees to take advantage of the Gift Match program."

A call, referral and relief

Connie BlackfordWhere do you turn when your ill, elderly parent is halfway across the country?

For Pat Owen, who works in telecommunication services in the Shared Services Group in Bellevue, Wash., the answer turned out to be easy.

She turned to the internal Boeing web where she found a link to "Live and Work Well." She phoned the toll-free number (1-800-358-8515).

"I was desperate. I didn't know where to begin," Owen said.

Owen and her siblings had been worried for months about their mother Margaret Owen. The 82-year-old widow in Kansas City, Mo. had lost 60 pounds in a few months. "She was just fading away," Pat Owen said. "We didn't know why."

Then, in the fall of 2002, Margaret Owen was hospitalized twice.

Owen found a counselor through the toll-free number who specializes in issues concerning the elderly who provided referrals for doctors in Kansas City.

"She was so nurturing," Owen recalls. "I was pretty wobbly, and she was really compassionate."

Since then, Margaret Owen has done better.

"It's great to know that kind of service is out there. I'm grateful Boeing provides that kind of help."

Changing the way we do our work

Andy MillerAndy Miller lives in Arizona, and for more than two years, this director of Computing Infrastructure Services SoCal Integrated Defense Systems has led a virtual team of about 400 people.

Thousands of employees companywide are moving into a virtual environment. Evolving network-centric technologies allow teams of people to collaborate on common projects around-the-clock and around-the-globe. Miller's team members work in Southern California, Alabama, Texas, Florida and Arizona, with additional members in Wichita, Colorado and the Washington, D.C., area.

Miller said that in the "virtual environment," developing trust and good collaborative relationships are more important than ever.

Working "virtually" means the emphasis is on managing information rather than managing people.

Managers need to become proficient with new enabling technologies that allow them to stay in touch with members of their group, Miller stressed.

Just like starting over

Woody JohnsonIn 1996, Woody Johnson got some rough news when he started back to school.

Twenty-five years ago, he was just starting his senior year at University of Arkansas, when he left to go to work full time. But when it came to transfer his credits to Wichita State University, he discovered that the accreditation rules had changed and he was practically starting over as a freshman.

"But that was all right," Johnson said. "Fortunately, I'm in a great organization that accommodated my school schedule, and supported me as I worked on my degree.

After 24 years of electrical engineering and wiring design work at Boeing, Johnson will graduate with a degree in Business Quality Management and Manufacturing Technology in the spring. He is looking forward to the opportunities this will open for him.

"That, and a weekend without homework will be nice, too," Johnson said.

Aiming high is a prerequisite

Jason AndersonJason Anderson is coming up on his fifth year with Boeing, and if everything works out, he'll complete his bachelor's degree about the same time. The stock award that accompanies this completion will be a nice anniversary present to top it all off.

As a software analyst for the International Space Station, Anderson builds and evaluates tools for both NASA ground crew and astronauts. He is currently working to complete a degree in computer science at the University of Houston, Clear Lake extension.

And after that? "I'll start on my master's," he said.

Despite the stress inherent in having a full-time job and a full-time school load, Anderson is philosophical:

"While school delivers some interesting theoretical material, you learn the practical, hands-on stuff on the job," Anderson said. "On the other hand, it gives you a chance to look at problems in a new light."

Graduation? Getting warmer

Christy PainoIn May, Christy Paino will graduate from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science in both Economics and Systems Engineering. She hired into the company last summer, and while her final year of school has been a challenge—thanks to the Learning Together program, the tuition has been free.

"The hardest part about working and going to school full time is that I have absolutely no free time," Paino said. "I come home from Boeing and go right to class or dive into homework."

Upon completing her degree, she hopes to become a key contributor to the V-22 engineering group that she now supports as a student engineer. Paino also plans to take a vacation to Europe as soon as she graduates.

"And there had better not be any snow when I get there," she said, looking out her window onto 19 inches of freshly fallen powder—part of the blizzard that hit the Northeast in February.

Wellness works

Don't ask Cathy Keaton how much weight she's lost.

"I've been taught to say I've 'gotten rid' of 71 pounds," said the financial accounting manager. "If I say I 'lost' them, that means I might 'find' them again, and I hope I never do that!"

What's she doing? She uses a combination of two wellness services offered at Boeing: Weight Watchers at Work® and the Boeing Health & Fitness Center.

"Weight Watchers at Work is a great program," said Keaton. "The point system is simple to follow, and I've learned how to make long-term, healthy changes to the way I eat."

Keaton attends a lunchtime meeting in the building every week. "I don't have to travel to and from an outside location," Keaton said. "I just walk down the hall."

Attending meetings with other Boeing employees offers an added benefit. "If you're having a bad day, you know who you can ask to go for a walk around the block," Keaton said. "We help each other stay focused on the goal we all share—feeling better about ourselves."

Better nutrition is only half the picture. Keaton also follows a program of regular exercise at the Fitness Center. "For me, the group exercise classes work really well—especially kickboxing," Keaton said.

'Incredibly generous' benefits

Joyce Walters and MiloJoyce Walters is fairly savvy about financial issues; after all, she's a community investment manager in Puget Sound. Even so, she was surprised to learn how generous Boeing benefits can be.

Walters has worked at Boeing 15 years. Until this past winter, however, she never scrutinized her health benefits. In November 2002, Walters' doctor informed her that she needed major surgery and six weeks to recover.

She didn't know how much the medical bills would be. But because she had accrued unused vacation and sick leave, she assumed she would tap into that store.

Instead, she was pleased to learn that a combination of Boeing benefits paid for all but a small fraction of her medical bills, and for her salary during her time away from work. She received short-term disability. Her unused sick leave covered the balance.

"I always knew we had a good benefits package," she said. "But until I had to use it, I hadn't realized how incredibly generous it was."

Planning for the future

Connie Blackford"If I retire at 55, will I have enough saved up to last me through 40 years of inflation and health care costs? Will I be able to travel? Will I be a burden to my family?" Connie Blackford, an administrative specialist with Employee Services Business Operations, Business Systems Analysis, wonders aloud.

Blackford has turned her doubts into an aggressive search for knowledge. And to her delight, she's found a number of classes offered by the Boeing Education Network that are free, close to her location, and easy to arrange.

"The BEN class I took on the subject, 'Your VIP (Voluntary Investment Plan) at Retirement' offered us access to the services of a professional financial planner for free," Blackford said. "I just signed up for two more classes, 'Life by Design: Making the Next Chapter the Best' and 'A Financial Planner's View of Your VIP.'"

BEN courses are available for active employees at

"People are living longer," Blackford said. "And I hope to be one of those people. But it's occurred to me that I need to be actively studying financial planning options now, even though I may have 20 years or more of full-time work.

"In fact, I wish I had started sooner."



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