Being Heard at Boeing

How one employee leverages her diverseability

July 16, 2019 in Community

Taylor Mickelson, an information designer for Boeing’s Manufacturing, Supply Chain & Operations organization, attends an online work meeting utilizing the services of interpreter Dave Morrison. To help Mickelson, who is deaf, participate in online meetings, Morrison joins her via video conferencing.

Marian Lockhart

For years, Taylor Mickelson had one goal in mind: to work for Boeing. A self-proclaimed “aviation geek,” she first learned about Boeing after watching the Blue Angels perform at a local airshow. “I loved everything about them: their power, speed, how they were built… I instantly became fascinated.” The rest is history.

Mickelson’s journey has not been an easy one. Growing up as a member of the signing community, she faced many challenges at a young age. “I was never able to talk to my classmates or teachers. Instead I had to communicate through interpreters,” she said. “I even had a teacher tell me I didn’t belong in this world because of my disability.”

Later on, Mickelson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a minor in chemistry from Gallaudet University, the world’s only university that features programs and services specifically designed for deaf and hard of hearing students. One day she came across a flyer at the school’s Career Center that mentioned Disability:IN, a nonprofit resource for disability inclusion in the workplace. After looking it up, she decided to get involved. “It sounded like a great opportunity to meet individuals with similar backgrounds and goals,” Mickelson said. While attending the Disability:IN annual conference, Boeing invited Taylor to participate in an on-site interview. She was hired on the spot to work as an Information Designer in Seattle, WA. “Being offered a job to work at Boeing was a dream come true,” she said. “I knew right off the bat how committed they were to accommodating my needs as a deaf person.”

Boeing employees from across the enterprise, including Mickelson, are attending the 2019 Disability:IN conference in Chicago this week. Several will participate in the Boeing sponsored Talent Accelerator Program with a focus on the Boeing Behaviors. A few of these employees, including William Harkness, Engineering Career Foundation Program (ECFP) regional engineering manager—who is also a member of the signing community—Samir Sahgal, executive director of Boeing Global Services Marketing and Sales along with Ellen Martin, vice president of Ethics, will also participate in a panel led by Michael Cox, vice president of Global Talent Solutions.

As an Information Designer, it’s vital that Mickelson has the necessary tools needed to do her job successfully. Through Boeing’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, Mickelson has access to equipment such as a videophone where she has access to a remote interpreter, along with in-person interpreters and a personal mobile device for any meetings she may need to attend. The Boeing Employee Ability Awareness Association (BEAAA) and Boeing Deaf Employees and Friends (BDEAF) are groups that can also bring awareness to accessibility issues faced by employees with disabilities, empowering them with a voice and platform to do so.

Regardless of her disability, Mickelson continues to be heard at Boeing—especially through her teammates who are learning American Sign Language (ASL) in order to better communicate with her. Mickelson, who has her student pilot’s license, encourages other people with diverseabilities to work at Boeing and be heard, too. “Be your true self. Don’t be scared to ask questions if you are curious or don’t understand,” she said. “Boeing is a world of endless exploration, so it helps to explore the different tools available here.”

At Boeing, employees at every level enjoy an environment that is inclusive, respectful and engaging.

“Taylor’s story is inspiring! Every person on our Boeing team has amazing talent and potential. Inviting diversity and active inclusion makes us a stronger Boeing,” said Jenette Ramos, Boeing senior vice president, Manufacturing, Supply Chain & Operations, and the executive sponsor of BEAAA. “We all benefit when we welcome employees of diverse abilities to our workplace.”

Disability:IN, along with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), conducts the Disability Equality Index (DEI), an annual, comprehensive benchmarking tool that allows America’s leading corporations to self-report their disability policies and practices. The index objectively scores each corporation on a scale from 0 to 100, with 100 representing the most inclusive. This year, and for the third year in a row, Boeing scored a 100 on the DEI.

Earlier this year, we also showed our commitment to disability inclusion by joining The Valuable 500, a global campaign that strives to place disability at the top of business agendas. By fostering a diverse, collaborative and inclusive environments, we empower employees to do their best. To learn more about Boeing’s partnership with Disability:IN, click here.