Boeing

Jacky-Vy Chau

Jacky-Vy Chau image

Senior Manager, Airplane Systems Skills, Integration and Processes, Boeing Commercial Airplanes

Pronouns: he/him/his

Jacky-Vy Chau was born in Vietnam, after his grandparents and parents emigrated from China. However, his parents insisted that their children learn Chinese and didn’t allow them to speak Vietnamese at home.

“At first I felt caught between two worlds, but I got used to it,” he said.

Jacky-Vy again experienced the feeling of being an outsider when his family immigrated to Santa Barbara, California, when he was 15. Unable to speak English at first and later with an accent, he was afraid people would make fun of him, so he chose to be quiet. He likewise faced a further obstacle, coming out as LGBTQ+, both in his personal and professional life.

“Growing up in a conservative country, being gay is not OK,” Jacky-Vy said. “I came out to my friends and family when I was 26 years old, but I wasn’t out at work. That was my first or second year at Boeing. I’d heard that if you were out at work, it could have a negative impact on your career growth.”

But his perceptions changed when he participated in the Boeing Asian and Pacific Association’s Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) program. According to Jacky-Vy, the program both helped him realize his leadership potential and better understand effective communication.

“I realized that I don’t have to use a lot of fancy words, just a simple sentence, to deliver exactly what I want to deliver,” he said. “It made me want to push myself to take on a leadership role to open up more and be a more effective communicator.

“The more I got involved in BAPA, I also realized it was my duty to support the company to help educate people about LGBTQ+. We’re just normal people doing normal jobs. I knew I could make an even bigger impact in a leadership role. If my employees knew they had a gay manager, and there was nothing different than with their previous managers, then I could educate 10 people, and they could go educate 10 people. Multiply that — it’s quite large,” he added.

Jacky-Vy is now a senior manager for electrical design processes and tools in Boeing Commercial Airplanes. He was also recognized as the Chinese Institute of Engineers – USA’s 2020 Asian American Most Promising Engineer of the Year. He believes that if he can achieve his potential, anyone can.

“I just want to be who I am,” he said. “I don’t like labeling. I don’t like using ‘I’m Asian’ as an excuse for what others may believe I’m lacking. I lead by example and action.”

Nicolette Gan

Jacky-Vy Chau image

Research Engineer, Boeing Research & Technology-Australia

Pronouns: she/her/hers, they/them/theirs

Dr. Nicolette Gan is a research engineer at Boeing Research & Technology in Melbourne, Australia. As a member of the Boeing Australia Pride Working Group, she has also worked to stand up the first international chapter of the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance (BEPA) across Australia.

“Growing up in Singapore, I was very different, and I knew it. I didn’t see anyone like myself pursuing math and science,” Nicolette said. “Engineering has been a passion of mine since I was 6 years old. A lot of LGBTQIA+ people were successful in the arts in Singapore, but I hadn’t seen LGBTQIA+ in engineering. I thought, let me be the first one.”

Although Nicolette has always been determined and unashamed about who she is, an incident when she was a teenager acted as a catalyst for pursuing her engineering dreams.

“I went to church with my mom one day when I was 17 years old, and this pastor said that all LGBTQIA+ people should go to conversion therapy,” she recalled. “I walked out. My mom followed me. She didn’t say that she agreed or disagreed; we just kept quiet.

“That incident really motivated me to do my best and to do a lot of things in life. I wanted to be an engineer, and I wanted to be the best engineer I could be and pursue it to the
highest level.”

At 18, Nicolette moved to Melbourne, where she met a female Boeing engineer who further inspired her career trajectory.

“She worked at Boeing and was successful and happy living her life this way. I aspired to be like her. She motivated me to pursue my PhD in the field of microfluidics, actually,” she said.

Her doctoral research included a novel cooling system for power electronic devices, which is being incorporated into a project designing devices with a super microchip. Following her PhD studies, Nicolette joined Boeing Research & Technology-Australia to further my skills. She also found herself in the company of equally driven and accepting teammates.

“Working with engineers, they don’t see me as different. We’re logical and systematic. We’re here to solve problems, not judge people. So I’ve been quite lucky in that way,” she said. “I hope everyone views me as an engineer regardless of gender or how I identify.”

Nicolette also works to inspire the next generation of diverse, determined engineers.

“Since I only saw one person like me very late into my education, I want to present some sort of visibility to younger people or even people who aren’t ready to come out yet, to see another person living a fulfilling life and not too worried about what people think or society says,” she said. “Earlier this year, I went back to Singapore and reached out to my all-girls high school as part of my STEM outreach. I shared my story to inspire more young women to pursue math and science.

“I’m not a girl with long hair, I look kind of different, and I’m pursuing engineering at a good company. I can make a huge difference just by being my authentic self and bringing my unique lens to this important work.”

Syed Jawad

Syed Jawad image

Senior Project Manager, Business Operations, Boeing Commercial Airplanes

Pronouns: he/him/his

 

Jawad is helping to open some special doors. In his work on VC-25B — otherwise known as the next Air Force One — he’s leading the project team that’s designing and producing specialized mechanisms to help open and close the aircraft doors using built-in stairs. These doors are unique to the VC-25B aircraft compared to other 747-8s, the Boeing commercial airplane on which VC-25B is based.

“It sounds simple, but it’s quite complicated,” Jawad said. “I work with an amazing team — manufacturing engineers, industrial engineers, supply chain partners, so many more — and we all share the credit for how much has gone into this project, and we support each other to speak up, raise issues and work together to find solutions.”

That courage to speak up has played a role in Jawad’s LGBTQ+ journey as well. When he came out to his family while in college, they at first didn’t believe him. That disbelief eventually turned into an ultimatum: either leave his life in Chicago to move to St. Louis with his parents or stay in Chicago and be on his own. Not having the financial means to support himself, Jawad went with his parents.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” Jawad said. “During that time, I came to better terms with myself, I educated myself more about the community and learned more about resources to help. I made friends within the LGBTQ+ community. Had I not moved back with them, I wouldn’t have met my husband.”

Jawad is proud of who he is and works to ensure others are comfortable expressing who they are, too. He has been very involved in the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance (BEPA). He served as membership coordinator, networking chair, vice president and president of the St. Louis chapter before he moved to Chicago, where he became president of the local BEPA chapter. Since then, he has moved to Portland, where he led the launch of BEPA Portland and now serves as the chapter’s chair.

“I am open about who I am — all of me — because it helps breaks down barriers and de-stigmatize this part of me,” Jawad said. “Also, it further enables me to serve as a resource for people who don’t know what their next steps are in terms of coming out. Some teammates have reached out to BEPA and asked for help on how to support their children who identify as LGBTQ+, and it feels so fulfilling when things like that happen. It makes it all worthwhile.”

Crystal Nicholson-

Crystal Nicholson's image

Communications and Dispatch Manager, Global Security Operations Center

Pronouns: she/her/hers

 

 

Crystal Nicholson, a communications and dispatch manager with Global Security Operations Center, in Mesa, Arizona, grew up in Flagstaff. She spent her youth on the slopes as a ski racer and later a ski coach, Grand Canyon river guide and ski patroller.

“Everyone up on that mountain had watched me grow up. I never had a problem fitting in,” she said.

Crystal started volunteering as a firefighter and then joined Boeing as a firefighter in Mesa. While she loved it, she found obstacles to overcome.

“The fire service is very male-dominated. Being a woman in the fire service isn’t always embraced. Being a gay woman in the fire service, doors aren’t always open for you,” she said, adding that she had reservations about coming out at work as well. “I didn’t know how I would fit into an environment like this. Was Boeing accepting? What would my teammates think? It was hard enough being a woman; why give someone one more reason not to accept you? If personal stuff came up, I would change the subject.”

After two and half years in Mesa, Crystal transferred to Seattle, where she found it easier to open up. “I wasn’t the first gay woman and there was no reason to hide it,” she said. “Having a network of women to reach out to and seeing it was accepted made it easier.”

However, when her grandmother became ill in 2017, Crystal decided to return to Arizona to be closer to family and took a position as a training officer in Mesa. She once again found herself struggling to fit in. But after attending that year’s Diversity Summit, she started to see her place in Boeing’s aspiration for greater diversity.

“The messages really resonated with me: If you want diversity to be successful, you need to be a part of it. You can sit on the sideline asking those questions, or you can start to immerse yourself in it and help the company move the needle,” she said.

Crystal became involved in the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance (BEPA) Mesa chapter, for which she is now the president. She received support to include the Mesa site’s firetrucks in Mesa’s Pride parade for the first time, which has inspired other chapters to reach out to their fire departments to engage with them as well. She also met with senior leaders to discuss how the Boeing fire service could become more diverse.

“After that discussion, I started to hear the message of diverse hiring more and see more conscious efforts to get more women into the fire service,” she said. “Adding diversity to our team makes us stronger and better.”

Her focus on diversity extends beyond her involvement with BEPA. Crystal is now involved with Boeing’s Racial Equity Task Force, a long-term think tank that helps the company advance racial equity in innovative ways. Crystal credits her involvement in BEPA and the Racial Equity Task Force with helping her find her place at Boeing, build networks of people to reach out and develop herself, and inspire other people to get involved.

“It feels great to know how I can help and be aware of other people who may be struggling too,” she said. “Diversity can’t be the responsibility of one team and it can’t be lip service.
It has to be people buying into it, taking ownership and acting on it. That’s the only way
it works.”

Marvi Matos Rodriguez

Crystal Nicholson's image

Design Practices Director, Engineering Strategy and Operations

Pronouns: she/her/hers

 

 

Dr. Marvi Matos Rodriguez, director of Design Practices for Engineering Strategy and Operations in Seattle, grew up in Jayuya, a town in the mountains of Puerto Rico. Her family had a clinical lab where she grew up using her mother’s microscope and lab supplies. She began helping at the lab at age 11, and after her mother hired a computer engineer to work on their network systems, Marvi realized engineering was the career path she wanted to pursue, too.

“In the U.S., there’s a stereotype that if you’re female, you’re not supposed to be good at math,” she said. “This is not true in Puerto Rico. I kicked butt at math, and I was proud of it.”

Marvi studied chemical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico and earned her doctorate in chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She was one of the few women in her program, which inspired her STEM outreach to young women. She joined Boeing in 2010, where she recruited at her alma mater and presented STEM to schools in her hometown.

With an enterprisewide team, Marvi now works to consolidate Boeing’s design practices, lessons learned, recommendations and mandates in engineering. And on the homefront, she experienced a personal transition and family challenges that helped her guide her teams through collective transitions and changes.

“At my desk, I have a Puerto Rican flag and a rainbow flag,” she said. “Between graduate school and now, my family experienced a transition. We went from a ‘typical’ family to an LGBTQ+ family.

“My family’s transition was challenging. Some people did not accept or understand what we were going through, and they left our lives, including people I grew up with,” she added. “But the experience made me stronger and more compassionate, and it helped me better manage changes at work and help teams embrace new beginnings. When you go through such profound, tough experiences, it gives you an edge.”

Marvi said that a lifetime of going from being the majority to the minority and breaking stereotypes has helped her navigate through those experiences.

“I just don’t belong in any specific box. You might have a Puerto Rican box, and then the form asks you if you’re white. I’m like, I don’t know. My family and my heritage are spectrums of color,” she explained.

“For LGBTQ+, it’s the same thing. So what am I? Can I just check one box for happy? Life is complicated. I am a Hispanic, Puerto Rican woman in leadership, a jíbara* from Jayuya, but I don’t belong in boxes. And that is redefining and liberating.”

*Jíbara is a term used in Puerto Rico that refers to people who live in the countryside.

Aro Royston

Crystal Nicholson's image

Graphic Artist, Global Sales and Marketing

Pronouns: he/him/his

 

 

Aro Royston, a member of Boeing’s Racial Equity Task Force and a graphic artist who works with Global Sales and Marketing in St. Louis, said he always felt male growing up. But it wasn’t until two years into his Boeing career that he began transitioning.

“When I got to Boeing, I realized what transgender actually was,” he said. “Once I found out about it, there was no going back. There was no way I could live without doing it. It was a very scary time. You’re giving up everything you know to go into the unknown. I was terrified what my family would think; I was terrified what my co-workers would think.”

Teammates pointed Aro toward Employee Assistance Program resources, through which he found a therapist who worked with transgender employees. He also learned about the company’s Gender Transition Plan. A Global Equity, Diversity & Inclusion specialist helped him set up a plan and timelines and then held a meeting with Aro’s team to explain that he would be transitioning, when it would occur and that he would legally be male at work.

“It was such a comfort to know someone was there, advocating for me and helping prepare my team to accept me as I fully am,” he said.

Aro was also concerned about how his transition would affect his mother’s work life, since she also works at Boeing.

“I wanted to make sure they would treat my mom the same way — that no one would go up to her asking questions,” he said. “They sent out a note to both of our teams’ organizations, saying that there is an employee who transitioned and will now use male pronouns. So everyone was aware.”

Aro says he was nervous about his first day at the office after he officially transitioned. He dressed for the occasion, wearing a dress shirt, vest and tie. He found his team extremely supportive.

“I think people genuinely saw me for the person I was: I was good at my job, I was good with people, and nothing had changed,” he said.

“Today, a lot of people don’t see me as transgender. I am finally who I am, and the hard part is looking in the rear-view mirror. I just want to move forward.”

He admits that one of his internal struggles now is being an advocate, but he has faced this challenge head-on. He serves on the enterprise board of the Boeing Employees Pride Alliance and as a member of the Boeing Employees Transgender Association community group and Boeing’s Racial Equity Task Force, a long-term think tank that helps the company advance racial equity in innovative ways.

“It is easier to walk in the shadows than bring attention to it. But it’s important for me to be vulnerable in order to help others,” he said.

“We celebrate Pride Month, which commemorates riots and protests and the early efforts of those who stood up for equal rights. We celebrate the courage of those who stand up to the injustice of police brutality and of those taking a stand and being proud of who they are,” he added. “A lot of Black transgender women were instrumental in starting our equality movement. The recent events have inspired me to stand in my authenticity — in my Black-ness and my trans-ness. It took me a long time to love myself. So I stand proud, and I love seeing other people stand up and be proud of who they are, too.”