By Darrell Carter / Operations Exchange Fellow and Bus Operator 10075 – Division 7
A Bus Operator reflects on his time working for the Office of Extraordinary Innovation
I believe that innovation is the new frontier in the transportation industry. As a current Bus Operator with more than 30 years of experience, several months ago I contacted the Deputy Chief Innovation Officer of the Office of Extraordinary Innovation to see if I could come in to lend my support and provide a Bus Operator’s perspective to OEI.
After accepting a part-time apprenticeship position, my first day in the OEI office put me in a state of culture shock. I was far out of my comfort zone trying to assimilate to the corporate side of Metro — I was not used to sitting behind a desk and staring at a computer. That said, I couldn’t allow being out of my wheelhouse to deter me from my goal. It was my intent to lend my expertise to the OEI team as well as learn from some of the brightest minds here at Metro. Furthermore, I wanted the corporate employees of Metro to see inside the mind of a bus operator and learn from my perspective.
I thought I could solve all of Metro’s problems in two weeks! Then reality set in. The first day on the 25th floor, I questioned what I had gotten myself into. Was it the right decision to come? Did I have some value in assisting the OEI team? From taking on Unsolicited Proposals to working on small ticket items such as contacting different departments via email and phone calls, the entire experience stretched my brain in ways I never thought possible. Attending staff meetings was another challenge — just trying to keep pace with all of the lingo and acronyms to understand what everyone was talking about. It can be a bit challenging for an Operator, just as it would be for a Planner to navigate a roll-out when it comes to bus operations.
I noticed a difference of how the work force at headquarters views me out of my uniform. Employees here at Gateway tend to speak to me in a suit, but some of those same people I’ve crossed paths with walked by as if I didn’t exist when I was only wearing my Bus Operator’s uniform. Metro has thousands of Bus and Train Operators. We are the foundation of the entire company. And yet working on the corporate side has been a positive and eye opening experience.
I’ve gained valuable experience that I could have never achieved in a college classroom setting. The division of labor and how teams operate is completely different. I believe that giving operators more latitude to make executive decisions during the course of our work day allows us the opportunity to be the professionals that we are paid to be. Getting the operators to aspire to be better ambassadors of the company is vital to keep employee morale up, satisfied customers and a thriving company.
Take care of the employee first; who will in return take care of the customer. Happy, purpose-driven, motivated employees who are in touch with the customer will always be a recipe for a successful company. With new leadership, vision and a clear direction here at Metro, we have an opportunity to change the landscape of transportation in the U.S. and abroad.
“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
~Sir Richard Branson