June 21, 2017

Student Perspectives: Site Visit to JetBlue for LGBTQ Pride Month

By Gennaro Aliperti (MS Marketing '15)

June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month and in honor of this occasion, JetBlue invited a group of Zicklin students for a site visit at their headquarters in Long Island City. The visit was co-organized by the Zicklin Graduate Career Management Center and Baruch’s Graduate Pride Society, and included a panel discussion from senior leaders in the company followed by a speed networking session.

The panel consisted of four individuals who work in different functions of the company, including Marketing, Finance and Operations.

- Scott Resnick, Director, Loyalty Marketing
- Amy Legge, Senior Analyst, Hospitality Programs
- Michael Miles, Manager, Airport Duty
- David Boyd, Director, Inflight Performance & Quality Standards

The conversation began with a reflection of each panelist’s experience with a mentor and how this had led them to their current points in their career. A lot of the panelists didn’t start their career with a clear path in mind, but they all agreed that finding mentors that are similar to them gave them room to speak candidly about their interests. Ultimately, these honest relationships helped them build the networks that led them to success.

Later, they were asked about their experiences working as LGBTQ+ individuals. They agreed that hiding who they were in the workplace was a difficulty they’ve all had to face. What helped them through it was having mentors and allies they could speak to in order to stay focused on their goals. They all expressed that JetBlue has been extremely supportive and because of that, they’ve never feared being open about their experiences in the workplace.

After the panel discussion, all of the participants moved to smaller tables where we networked with JetBlue employees in a “speed-dating” style. I was able to speak with four, individuals and each discussion left me with a new perspective on my experience. During my session, I was asked:

1. What is your biggest fear?

- My response was, failure. I recognize how being a perfectionist has often hindered me from starting new projects, or taking the next step in my life or career. My perseverance and diligence have led me to success, but being hesitant at every step is something that I constantly have to overcome.

2. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

- I hate this question, and thankfully I wasn’t asked this directly, but the discussion centered on creating a game plan for the future. The idea of planning so far ahead is daunting for me, but I was taught that thoughtful employers want to know where you’re going so they can assess if their company can help you on your journey.

3. Who is your ideal employer?

- I had a difficult time responding to this because I haven’t been doing much research recently. The
advice I got was to think about my interests and list 30-40 companies where I could see myself thrive. From there, I should tap into my network (colleagues, friends, alumni), and find out more about the careers available and what the company culture is like. This will help me identify where I need to apply, who I need to speak to and what position would be ideal.

4. What’s holding you back?

- This discussion was the most personal of the bunch. The individual I was speaking with had a background in Psychology, so naturally she tapped into my feelings and began the analysis. After mentioning my previous discussion about fear of failure, she delicately reminded me that this particular fear – and most fears we all have – don’t actually exist. I learned that by letting these fears manifest themselves in reality, I’m holding myself back from creating relationships that will help me move forward.

My biggest takeaway from the speed networking session was that to get where I need to be, I need to start sharing my interests and vocalizing my goals with people who understand my experience. Being open about myself and discussing personal topics like my fears was scary, but each person I met at JetBlue was able to connect with me on a level that I haven’t had at other general networking events. Instead of worrying about how my appearance, voice or mannerisms would distract these professionals, I felt safe enough to let go and show a side of myself that is difficult to express in a professional environment. I got a taste of what it is like to have a sincere discussion with a mentor, and the straightforward feedback they gave me helped me visualize my path and gave me the encouragement to start proactively pursuing my goals.

I’m extremely thankful to JetBlue, especially the Talent Management & Diversity team and the company’s JetPride Crewmember Resource Group, for letting all of us experience an environment where we could openly and honestly talk to about our career goals, life experiences and specific LGBTQ+ issues without fear of judgement. Everyone I met only showed me compassion, kindness and support, for which I am extremely grateful. JetBlue showed me that even a corporate office can be a safe space for us to thrive in the careers we love.