The following blog post was written by GenHERation founder and CEO Katlyn Grasso
In February 2018, Southwest Airlines partnered with GenHERation to offer two young women from the GenHERation network the chance to attend the 2018 Southwest Airlines Rally in Las Vegas.
GenHERation is a network that brings young women and companies together for networking opportunities, so this was a great opportunity and event for GenHERation members to attend! After receiving more than 150 applications from GenHERation Members to attend the Rally, Melissa Hutchins, a senior at State University New York Oneonta, and Heidi Dart, a senior at Southwestern Adventist University, traveled across the country to learn what it means to Live and Work the Southwest Way.
“I remember that day so clearly, I was over the moon ecstatic to be one of the GenHERation members to attend the Southwest Rally in Las Vegas,” Melissa said. During the Rally, Melissa and Heidi heard from Southwest Airlines Senior Leaders on the main stage, connected with Southwest Employees to learn about their career journey, visited with different Teams during the Expo, and experienced the Southwest Culture firsthand. The Southwest Airlines Rally blends the experience of learning about upcoming Company initiatives while connecting with the Southwest Airlines Family throughout the fun-filled celebration. The Rallies started as a town hall type event that has since transformed into summit-like experience complete with a post event celebration. There are four Rallies each year in various locations across the Southwest network, and thousands of Employees participate, which requires every detail to be meticulously planned and analyzed for continuous improvement.
The day of the Rally in Las Vegas began with an interview with Culture Celebration Manager Leslie Shults and Culture Celebration Specialist and Rally Event Producer Natalie O’Donnell who plan and execute the Rally platform. Melissa and Heidi learned how the Southwest Rally Season has become an annual celebration where Employees can connect with each other and learn from Senior Leadership. When reflecting on her time at the Rally, Melissa shared, “There is a constant strive for improvement [at Southwest] and such a presence of relentlessness for success in all areas.”
During the Expo, Melissa and Heidi ventured through the Las Vegas Convention Center to meet members of different Southwest Teams, including Volunteerism Advisor Andrea Cavanagh, People Specialist Kelby Tansey, Captain Nancy Marin Belitz, and Communications & Outreach Specialist Carolyn McMenemon. No spectator could deny the excitement by both women as they smiled, clapped, and cheered alongside the Southwest Teams throughout the entire day.
“The Employees call themselves a Family and after talking with multiple Employees, I can see how much Southwest Airlines values its People,” Heidi said Heidi felt that Customer Support & Services Team Leader Paula Powell Darensbourg said it best when she shared, “We work hard, but we have fun.”
The opportunity to participate in the Rally was fun, educational, and inspiring. Energy was high, music was loud, and pride was strong. The passion, the People, and emphasis of upholding Company Values was evident in every corner of the venue.
“Coming into the Rally, I knew that Southwest Airlines cared for its Customers and truly treated them as Family, but after hearing Company executives address the audience, including CEO and Chairman of the Board Gary Kelly, President Tom Nealon, and Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven. I gained a whole new perspective of what the Company is all about” said Melissa.
As college seniors, Melissa and Heidi are preparing to embark on their careers and have intention of pursuing opportunities at Southwest. These two young ladies are Customers for life and will forever have a place in their hearts for the love they experienced at the Southwest Airlines Rally in Las Vegas.
Check out Melissa’s and Heidi’s GenHERation blog posts to learn more about their Rally experience.