“Deck parties” are about as indicative of Southwest’s Culture as it gets. This weekly, Monday evening get-together is hosted by a different department at is held at Southwest's Headquarters in Dallas. D eck parties are an opportunity to hang out with Cohearts after work, listen to music, and enjoy free food and beverages. The parties are themed and include a variety of attractions—ranging from Vegas DJs to bounce houses.
When the Campus Reach Team asked the Summer 2017 Interns to plan an Intern-led deck party, I was skeptical about whether or not a crew of college students could pull off such a huge event. After all, there are usually between 250-500 Employees in attendance on any given Monday night.
However, after serving on the inaugural Intern Deck Party Team, I can say I was pleasantly surprised. Not only can Interns do it, but they do it with a passion for party-planning that only college kids could muster.
In keeping with the summer months’ barrage of music festivals, we decided to name our deck party SWAlapalooza. We littered the BBQ area with white paper lanterns and streamers, and catered Fuzzy’s Nachos and pizzas from Social Pie (because does it get more “college” than nachos and pizza?). We hired a local band named Blue Appollo, featured our very own Intern DJ, and—perhaps the main attraction—set up a “Pie Your Intern” station. Our door prizes included two tickets to the upcoming John Mayer concert (to keep in line with the music festival theme) and, for the less musically inclined, an Apple Watch.
The party was a huge success, and a good time was had by all—even those who took a pie tin of whipped cream to the face.
On behalf of the first Intern Deck Party Core Committee, we want to thank the People and Culture Services Departments. They helped make this event possible and led us every step of the way. We would also like to thank our sponsors, who donated thousands of dollars’ worth of product to the cause so we could stay under budget:
Favorite Brands, who provided 888 beers and 90 bottles of wine
Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, who provided enough chips and queso for 250 people
Social Pie Pizza, who provided enough pizza for 500 people
Hertz Car Rentals, who provided 30 free rental car vouchers
Here’s to many more Intern-led Deck Parties!
This post was written by interns Katie Gatti and Kaley Obrien.
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On July 3, 2016, Pilot Trey Turner saw a familiar old friend sitting across the gate area in Oklahoma City. Upon closer inspection, he realized he was being afforded the opportunity to reunite with his favorite teacher, whom he hadn’t seen in over 21 years. Trey Turner, on Mrs. Laura Deaver: I wouldn’t say I was a bad kid, but middle school was … a trying time. My interests in 6th grade were limited to planes and baseball. I had this wonderful teacher who had a baseball-themed classroom: Needless to say, she was my favorite. That was 21 long years ago now, and I’ve spent the last two flying for Southwest. I’ve somehow managed to turn my favorite hobby into a career, and I’m so thankful Southwest has picked me to do this. I don’t typically think back on my mischievous middle school years, but I was confronted with them in the gate area of a recent flight to Houston. Sitting at the gate doing some preliminary flight reading, clad in my Southwest uniform, I noticed a woman sitting across the gate area who looked familiar. I had to get closer to be sure, so I made my way toward her. Her phone was sitting on the seat next to her, so I pretended to sit on it ... she looked up and recognized me immediately. “Oh my gosh, Trey Turner!” she shouted. And just like that, it was like I was in 6th grade again talking with my favorite teacher, Mrs. Laura Deaver. “Every time I come down here, I look for you,” she told me. She wanted to take a selfie, but I knew I could give her a far better experience than a simple selfie. “Let’s go in the cockpit after the flight lands!” I suggested, since I was just traveling and not flying. She was so cute about it, asking, “Am I allowed to be up here?” We were afforded some time to catch up on the short flight over the last 21 years. She hadn’t aged a day. “I am so proud of you,” she told me, “I can’t believe all that you’ve done.” Her compliments amused me, because I don’t feel like I’ve done that much. I get to spend my life doing what I love: flying planes. Mrs. Laura Deaver, on Trey Turner: Having been a teacher for 23 years, all of my students are my favorite, but there’s just something different about Trey. He has this twinkle in his eye. He was one of those kids that would hang around after class, just to talk. My family and I fly nothing but Southwest Airlines. I’ve been Facebook Friends with Trey for years, so I knew he flew for Southwest, but it’s really unusual to run into former students. Sometimes you see them from afar, but they don’t recognize you. That wasn’t the case with Trey. When we were boarding, he asked if I wanted to sit together on the plane and I said I absolutely did. I think he was almost as excited as I was. It was clear, as he showed me his travel log and patiently answered all my aviation questions, that he has a true passion and love for what he does. It was so wonderful to see him so successful, and so happy to see me! I wanted to take a selfie with him, but he offered to show me the cockpit instead. Since we were last to get off the plane, Trey asked the Captain to take our picture. He explained how I was his 6th grade English teacher, which launched the Captain and First Officer into stories about their own middle school teachers. You see them as 6th graders, and sometimes later in middle school. Every once in a while one will come back, but for all intents and purposes, you don’t see them again. They don’t come back to visit. Running into Trey made my summer. It may have made my year! It’s still on my bucket list to be on a plane that he’s flying—I’d fly anywhere with him. You won’t get friendlier skies than Trey Turner. Did I tell you about the twinkle in his eye? He always looks like he’s up to something.
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This time last year, the thought of stepping foot on an airplane was enough to send me into a mild panic attack. In fact, prior to flying across the country to Portland last spring, I had an actual panic attack. I was booked for a four-hour flight on–you guessed it–Southwest Airlines, an airline I had never flown before.
A short six months later, I found myself curiously navigating Southwest.com. This time, I wasn’t booking any cross-country trips; I was searching for the “Careers” page to apply for a Campus Reach Internship.
Well-aware of my crippling flight phobia, my close friends had a field day with my application to work at an airline.
“Just tell them you won’t even use the flight privileges,” they’d joke, “so they’ll save money if they hire you.”
I’m still not quite sure why I felt compelled to work in an industry that verifiably terrified me. After all, there are other companies lauded for outstanding workplace culture and topnotch Customer Service. As the interview process progressed, I realized I was inching closer to the in-person interview: a session that took place at Southwest’s headquarters in Dallas, about 500 miles (and an inevitable flight) away from my college town in Alabama.
While most hopeful applicants spent their flights to their interviews reviewing talking points and researching the Company, I spent mine white-knuckling the armrests. I was more nervous for the quick, one-hour flight to Dallas than the interview itself. Now that my internship experience is about over, I look back on that momentous day and can’t help but feel pride at how far I’ve come.
Obviously, the opportunity to learn from some of the most brilliant people in the industry is invaluable, but Southwest has also helped me grow in ways I never imagined a college internship program could.
The fear of flying probably seems silly to my Intern Cohearts (some of whom are studying to fly the very planes I was too nervous to passively sit on), but overcoming my fear of flight has given me the courage to believe that I am capable. After 12 flights in three weeks, I faced other, unrelated tasks in my life with a newfound sense of bravery.
When assignments would seem daunting at work on an early Monday morning, I’d remember my calm demeanor on the flight home Sunday night and face it head-on. When I’d feel like I couldn’t handle all the items on my agenda, I’d remember the time I beat the odds and got on a completely full flight using a standby ticket while maintaining a positive attitude.
One of my brilliant Teammates gave me some career advice in one of our first one-on-one meetings: “Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone and do things you really don’t want to do. That’s the only way you’re going to grow.” If only he knew how prophetic this advice would prove, both in the office and in the air.
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