Tag Archives: jobs at omnitrans

Employee of the Quarter Vickie Chesney

For Maintenance Shift Supervisor Victoria Chesney (known to co-workers as Vickie) accomplishing tasks successfully is simply “all in a day’s work,” which is why she was surprised to learn that she was Omnitrans’ Employee of the Quarter.

“I did not see that one coming at all,” reveals Vickie. “I’m very grateful and humbled. I’m just here doing my job, doing what I get paid to do.”

Vickie, 19-year member of the Omnitrans family, began her career as a Utility Service Worker, then climbed the ranks to Mechanic Helper, Mechanic, and presently Shift Supervisor. Throughout her various roles, her objective has remained consistent, which is to make pull out (to have available the number of vehicles needed to execute service operations) and have all buses in the yard, with no mechanical difficulties.

“I appreciate our dispatchers, but if I don’t hear from them, that’s a good thing for us,” she jokingly says. However, Vickie’s job doesn’t start and end in the mechanic shop. She is a dedicated asset to Omnitrans who volunteers countless hours, many outside of her normal work duties, to serve on several internal and national committees to advance the agency and industry, including:

  • Omnitrans Bus Roadeo Committee, VIP Chairperson
  • American Public Transportation Association (APTA) International Bus Roadeo Committee
  • Southern California Regional Roadeo, Maintenance Chairperson

“Idle hands are the devil’s hands,” she laughs. Vickie’s leadership on these committees helps ensure each Roadeo event is a well-received success that positions Omnitrans in a favorable light to employees and peer agencies involved.

The Roadeo competition, in which bus drivers and mechanics put their skills and knowledge to the test, is near and dear to Vickie. “When I was a mechanic, I competed in the local Roadeo and we won first place, so we got to compete at the regional and the national Roadeo,” she recalls. “Once I was promoted to supervisor, there was an opportunity to serve on the committee. Our director was kind enough to let me participate and I’ve been involved since.”

A benefit of Vickie’s involvement is the network she has built within the transit industry, which adds value to Omnitrans. “One of the advantages of serving at the national level is that you get to see what other agencies are doing,” she shares.

“You see the commonalities, and because this industry is non-competitive, other agencies are more than willing to share their best practices, successes, and failures with you. It’s a collaborative environment that helps us all succeed to better serve our community at the end of the day.”

From left to right: Maintenance Manager Omar Bryant, Board of Directors Vice Chair David Avila, Maintenance Shift Supervisor Victoria Chesney, CEO/General Manager Scott Graham, and Deputy General Manager Erin Rogers.

Additionally, last quarter, Vickie was chosen to serve and represent Omnitrans as a subject matter expert for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). ASE is a professional certification group for mechanics and shops within the automotive repair and service industry in the United States and in parts of Canada.

“We have a specialty group within the transit community for all aspects of bus repair,” she explains. “There are eight ASE tests total under the transit bus series, covering every facet of the bus from compressed natural gas engines, brakes, to heating ventilation and air conditioning. We come together at workshops and contribute questions to the test that all mechanics in the country must pass for certification.”

Additionally, Vickie has served as chairperson of the Omnitrans Vehicle Improvement Partnership Committee, an internal committee in which she takes coach operator feedback, from their viewpoint, and implements it on the maintenance side to enhance bus operation and safety of our drivers and passengers alike.

Last quarter, Vickie also collaborated with the Procurement department to develop a paint and body supply contract. “We’ve been working with procurement to get vendors in place to supply our paint and body shop materials,” she says. “By securing vendors under contract, instead of issuing general purchase orders on an as-needed basis, we have more fixed control on receiving supplies in a timely manner, and Omnitrans saves on the cost of materials.”

Vickie’s commitment, accomplishments, and collaborative nature have all led her to this recognition. In typically humble fashion, she states, “I would like to recognize my crew that I work with daily. These are the guys who have their hands on everything and work on the buses, so any success in our department is because of the guys on the floor.”

As for what lies ahead, Vickie looks forward to growing with Omnitrans. At this time, she is working toward a bachelor’s degree, is a member of Omnitrans’ Leadership Development Academy Manager’s track and will be applying for promotional opportunities should they arise.

“I’m very thankful to work in an organization that fosters an environment where we can pursue different opportunities,” she says. “There’s an altruistic component to what we do as a public service. We’re fortunate to be in a position where we help people get to where they need to go, a lot of whom would otherwise not have transportation.”

Employee of the Quarter Nicole Ramos

In a career built on public service, Marketing Manager Nicole Ramos understands and prioritizes our community’s needs, which is why the Board of Directors has recognized her as Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter.

Throughout Nicole’s 18-year career with Omnitrans, our rider’s needs for information and the way that it is delivered and consumed has evolved tremendously, most recently with the advent of social media and smartphones.

Last quarter, Nicole spearheaded a project that closed a gap in our customer communications: the lack of timely rider alert notifications in case of irregular bus detouring while in service. Working with her team and inter-departmentally with Planning, I.T., and Operations, a solution to the age-old problem was reached, at last.

“The rider alerts project had been in the works in some capacity for about three years,” recalls Nicole. “There were a few things we tried, however, there was no effective flow of information that stuck. We had many meetings with Operations and I.T. but could never come up with something that was realistic for everybody that didn’t require a lot more work.”

Determined not to let this task fall by the wayside, Nicole reached out to her network of transit agencies for potential solutions. While at a roundtable discussion with other mid-sized agencies the 2018 American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Marketing & Communications Workshop, Nicole posed the question and peer agencies shared success stories of similar rider alert notification systems.

Nicole then determined that publishing alerts to a Twitter account using pre-made alert templates would be the most viable solution for all involved and absolve the agency of additional costs. During this time, the transit operations software used by our Dispatch team in Operations was updated to a new version that allowed detours logged internally to be published to a public-facing Twitter feed. The timing could not have been more perfect to explore this idea.

“The impending software update would allow dispatchers to create notifications almost automatically using the data entered to populate a template published on Twitter. All they had to do was hit a couple of extra buttons in their process. Because of its ease, we got the buy in from dispatch, which was key,” says Nicole.

“Marketing Specialist Jose Hernandez played an integral role in this project. After waiting on necessary system upgrades and fine tuning our alert templates with help from the Planning team to make this as seamless as possible, we were able to begin testing before going live. We certainly appreciate Operations department leadership and Dispatch Supervisor Christina Gaeta for adopting this and pushing the implementation forward.”

It took many months of problem-solving and work behind the scenes, but the rider alerts notification system is now up and running with a Twitter feed that lives embedded on our Alerts webpage. “Although small, this is an important step that brings us back to what we are supposed to be doing as an agency, which is better serving the customer,” says Nicole.

Nicole was one of several women working at Omnitrans to participate in this year’s Classroom to Career Day. During the first portion of the event, local middle school students learned about the transit industry and potential career paths as they toured the San Bernardino Transit Center facility.

Additionally, Nicole played a major role in last fall’s American Bus Benchmarking Group (ABBG) Annual Meeting, during which Omnitrans hosted over 60 peers from the transit industry. Aside from overseeing hotel venue logistics, event photography, and attendee communications, Nicole also leveraged her existing community partnership with the Auto Club Speedway to lower costs associated with hosting an evening social networking mixer for attendees.

“Nicole contributed in many ways to ensure a successful meeting that projected a positive image of Omnitrans to peer agencies,” says Director of Marketing Wendy Williams. “The work Nicole put in exceeded her core responsibilities and required many extra hours outside of her regular schedule.”

As a recent graduate of the Leadership Development Academy, Nicole looks forward to the future, but reflects fondly on her years at Omnitrans.

“It’s been a great experience,” she says. “I get to do what I enjoy doing, but in a way that benefits the community at large. There’s stability and flexibility. Although sometimes you put in many extra hours, you are also encouraged and allowed time to have work-life balance. A lot of people who work here have done so for a long time, and that says something about the agency.”

“I appreciate working with and being able to lead a hard-working and creative team, and hopefully positively impact them as they move through their own careers.”

Employee of the Year Omar Bryant

Effective team leaders go beneath the surface of extensive job knowledge or industry expertise and tap into their innate ability to inspire and motivate, even under unexpected circumstances. This is a special quality that Maintenance Manager Omar Bryant has, helping him earn the title of Omnitrans Employee of the Year for 2018.

“I feel humbled and honored to receive this award,” says Omar. “I just do my best to support my boss and my staff, so the recognition was a bit of a surprise. For those of us in maintenance, the goal is to make pull-out of buses to meet the community’s transit needs every day. There are people out there who rely on us, so that’s what our focus is all about. Some days it’s not so easy, but we all work together as a team to achieve that.”

As the manager overseeing our East Valley maintenance shop of six supervisors and 50 employees, including mechanics and utility service workers, Omar is directly responsible for the reliability and cleanliness of our bus fleet of over 200 buses. It is a large task that requires him to not simply be knowledgeable about every moving part of a 40-foot bus, but also to effectively lead people in a department that works around the clock.

From left to right: Deputy General Manager Erin Rogers, Board of Directors Vice Chair David Avila, Maintenance Manager Omar Bryant, CEO/General Manager Scott Graham, and Director of Maintenance Connie Raya.

In October of 2017, after a sudden tragedy left the Maintenance department without a director, Omar was asked to step in and take over in the interim. He seamlessly assisted the General Manager and Deputy General Manager to keep the department operating smoothly and working toward agency goals and objectives.

“It was a challenging time for Omar and the rest of the department. However, he showed tremendous leadership and was able to keep the team motivated,” says current Director of Maintenance Connie Raya. “He is a great natural leader with a can-do spirit, who stepped up and displayed his loyalty to his team and agency during a difficult time.”

Department operations had to carry on amid these circumstances. One of the agency’s 2018 strategic initiatives called for repower of 63 buses. By repowering our existing compressed natural gas (CNG) buses with near-zero emission engines, Omnitrans has the ability to delay the mandated purchase of electric buses to further strategize purchasing and infrastructure needs before beginning to electrify our fleet.

Omar was responsible for overseeing the repower project – from writing purchasing scopes to order the engines, swapping out transmissions, and finally, installing the new near-zero engines on buses. The transition from one fuel technology to another is not something new for Omar, who started his career with Omnitrans as a Utility Service Worker before promoting upward to his current position. Throughout the years, bus fuel has shifted from diesel, to CNG, bringing us to the present – the early stages of electric battery buses.

“Learning the new technologies has been a positive experience. Although transitioning from a new technology to another has its pains, it’s what we need to do. Our air quality is better than it used to be in the past, so despite the costs and the growing pains, it’s a good thing to do,” he says.

Omar is also one of few employees hand-chosen to participate in the inaugural Manager’s track of the Leadership Development Academy, which develops future leaders as part of Omnitrans’ succession planning efforts. Omar has spent the past year working with his peers and our leadership program consultants to sharpen his managerial skills and broaden his understanding of the organization, preparing him for future upward mobility.

This Employee of the Year recognition has been years in the making. When Omar began his career journey as a 20-year-old recently out of mechanic school, his ambitions lied in working with earth-moving equipment. Nearly 28 years later, he remains committed to Omnitrans and connecting our community.

“When I started, I thought I’d be a mechanic for the rest of my career. I never foresaw that I would be in a leadership position, but the opportunities came, and I went for them. That is what is so great about working at Omnitrans. If you are willing to put in the work, you are trained and supported to grow in your career.”

Omnitrans is proud to commend Omar on an exceptional job well done and earning the Employee of the Year award. We appreciate his extraordinary commitment to the agency and to ensuring that our community has clean, reliable, and safe transportation to connect them from point A to point B.

Employee of the Quarter Steve Sisneros

When he is not at work, Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Steve Sisneros basks in the serenity, calm, and quiet of the great outdoors. It is quite a contrast from the urban backdrop of his career at Omnitrans, the public transit provider in the dense, populous, and ever-growing San Bernardino Valley.

“Being out of the city, away from large crowds, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells in nature, standing underneath a waterfall is a rejuvenating experience that can’t be duplicated,” explains Steve, who developed an appreciation for nature in his childhood years, often camping and hiking with his father.

Disconnecting from the world recharges him to be his best, and it seems to cascade into excellence at work. Earlier this month, Steve was recognized by the Omnitrans Board of Directors as the Employee of the Quarter for April-June 2018 for his contributions to the safety and training operations of the agency.

“We are a large agency, with over 600 people, and the award is given four times a year. I did the math and thought ‘Hey, this is pretty cool!’ says Steve, who was surprised upon learning of his recognition. “It’s the second time our department receives this award in the past two years, so it’s nice and encouraging to see that our work is respected.”

A couple of years ago, Steve attended a Transit Instructor Networking meeting hosted by Long Beach Transit. He noticed high-tech, interactive whiteboards in their training rooms, which made training a much more enriching experience. Thinking proactively, he shared the idea of bringing this technology to Omnitrans with his supervisors and the purchasing process began shortly thereafter.

After a few months of shopping around, the new interactive whiteboards were installed in our training rooms, as well as in other departments throughout the agency. The whiteboards allow you to project your computer onto the screen on the wall, and users can draw, make notes, and highlight items on the screen with just the tip of their finger, similar to what sports broadcasters do on TV. This provides a more visually-stimulating teaching experience that incorporates technology and eliminates paper waste.

Aside from refining the training process in the classroom, Steve also completed the Department of Motor Vehicles Employer Testing program in Sacramento and became certified as an official DMV examiner for Omnitrans, saving the agency $85 per person in testing fees.

Steve, who did not have bus driving experience prior to joining Omnitrans 16 years ago, enjoys having a direct impact in passing down his knowledge to future generations of Coach Operators. Prior to joining the Fleet Safety & Training team four years ago, he was a Coach Operator Instructor for nine of his 13 years as a driver, responsible for guiding new operators behind the wheel and out in our service area.

“Our job is very hands-on, so during the training process we have to figure out how each person will best retain information. Will they learn visually via videos or through a hands-on approach? Someone can do really well in the classroom, then get behind the wheel and freak out,” says Steve.

“Others, don’t do as well in the classroom, but when they get behind the wheel are complete naturals. We have to observe how they are going to retain the knowledge and adapt a style to each individual person.”

(From left to right) Omnitrans Deputy CEO/General Manager Erin Rogers, Omnitrans Board of Directors Chair Ron Dailey, Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Steve Sisneros, and Omnitrans CEO/General Manager Scott Graham at October’s Board of Directors meeting, where Steve was presented with his Employee of the Quarter award.

Steve’s techniques for effective training include a lot humor and relaying his personal experience as a driver to the trainees. He considers that one the best assets that he brings to the table. Having the experience to back up his words creates trust and credibility between student and instructor. Establishing trust is paramount when many trainees have never driven a 40 foot bus before!

“You have to empower them and let them know that the bus is not going to do anything that you don’t want it to do. Once we can get them past that point, they are able to implement the tools that we have taught them to safely operate the coach,” he says. “When you can relay anecdotes and real stories from your own experience, then it’s just a matter of time before it all falls into place and they gain confidence needed to drive the bus.”

Steve acknowledges that his success would not be possible without the support of his team. He genuinely loves what he does, and looks forward to retiring at Omnitrans when the time comes. To him, the career longevity of many of our drivers’ 25-plus year careers are a testament to the level of satisfaction that this work provides.

“On the days when the going gets tough, realizing that you’re helping that elderly lady get to the grocery store and those kids to get to school is important. Those are motivating factors and a nice reminder of the meaningful work that we’re doing,” says Steve.