When things are running smoothly, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are people behind the scenes making that happen. Our Employee of the Quarter, HR Clerk Lourdes Sandoval (Mimi to her friends), is one of those people.
“Mimi has gone far above and beyond the requirements of her job duties to assist the workforce development team,” says Committee chair Dr. Samuel Gibbs. “She has been on point to deal with vendors, to track expenses and to coordinate with classes as needed. We are doing some of these activities for the first time, yet she approaches each one with a positive, pleasant, can-do attitude. I am deeply appreciative of everything she has done for us and am happy to see her recognized in this way.”
Employee Relations Manager Ray Maldonado agrees. “In her position, Mimi has to handle both internal and external customer service issues. She genuinely cares about people and it shows. She’s also great with research and problem-solving. If she doesn’t know how to do something, she’ll go on the Internet and teach herself. She’s a very quick learner, always looks for cross-training opportunities, and enjoys taking on new challenges. She’s my go-to person whenever I need help.“
Employee Relations Manager Ray Maldonado, Lourdes Sandoval, and Director of HR and Safety & Regulatory Compliance Marjorie Ewing
Before she came to Omnitrans, Mimi was the HR person for Armstrong Garden Centers, a retail garden center headquartered in Glendora. She did everything from handling HR issues to training new hires.
“I did a little of everything,” Mimi explains. “I even had to help with drug screening. I used to have to cut people’s hair to send to the lab for drug testing. So I guess you could even say I was a bit of a beautician or hairstylist. Coming to Omnitrans was very different—it’s much more structured.”
“A lot of my job here in HR centers on customer service. Our employees are our customers, and we want to keep them happy. Sometimes the public comes in asking about what positions are open. And there is always tons of filing to be done. Everything is documented. Personnel folders can be two or three inches thick—especially for the long-timers who have been here for 20 or 30 years!”
Mimi herself has been with Omnitrans now for 8 years. She says the biggest change she’s seen is in the way open job positions are posted. When she first started, people used to have to call a hotline to get information on jobs. Now almost everything is done through the website. Mimi likes that the agency still sends out actual letters when people are invited to test or to come in for an interview. She feels it gives more of a personal touch.
Mimi is always looking for opportunities to learn new things and build her skill set. When our administrative secretary retired, she stepped up to fill in for her until a replacement was hired.
“That was probably the biggest challenge I faced this year, and I learned a lot,” says Mimi. “Of course I had the best of the best up there training me. Vicki [our assistant to the GM/CEO] is an amazing woman. She does it all, she’s seen it all, and she’s got a lot of history here. You can ask her for something that was discussed in a Board meeting years ago, and she’ll know exactly where it is and be able to pull the file.”
Mimi would like to continue in the HR field and go back to school for a Business degree. “Up until now my focus has all been on being a mom and working. Now that my kids are grown, I’m actually looking forward to finding out who I am. There’s a whole world out there I never got to experience. I’m excited about that. There is so much to explore.”
She grins. “I know a lot of car stuff and can talk about carburetors and engines. Right now I really want a Challenger because I want to go fast. My first car when I was 16 —I was very spoiled—was a red Camaro. Unfortunately it died.
I made the mistake of letting someone else drive my car—stupidest mistake in my life. He decided to see how close he could drive to the side of the road without going over the edge. We ended up sliding down a hundred foot drop to the bottom of a canyon in San Dimas.
We barely managed to get out and climb our way back to the road before it caught fire. We just sort of had to stand there and watch it burn. I remember crying because I had so many cassettes in that car. All my music was gone! I came home and my parents asked me where the car was. And in a very small voice I told them it was in the bottom of the canyon. The very next day we had to go to the tow yard and my dad grabbed the key. I told him, “Ummm. Yeah. You’re not going to need that key.” The whole thing had burnt to a crisp.” She laughs ruefully. “Music and fast cars. I’m like a dude!”
She jokes that the daredevil gene must run in her family. Her son Dominic was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when he was a year old, and later had to rely on a wheelchair to get around. One day she got a call from his middle school, saying that Dominic had been in an accident. They explained he had cranked up the power on his chair on the playground, took a curve too fast and ended up tumbling down a hill. Mimi smiles, remembering. “After that, he was forbidden to take the wheelchair any faster than 5.”
Mimi had been with Omnitrans less than a year when Dominic died shortly before his 16th birthday.
“I had incredible support from everyone. I had only worked here a few months before he got sick, yet they told me to go take care of my son. I was surprised because I never experienced anything like that in the private sector. Paying for sick days? That would never happen.” She shakes her head.
“It was hard. I never expected Dominic to leave so soon. I couldn’t believe how many donations came in. People pulled together and basically paid for my son’s service. It was all done behind the scenes. I didn’t know that anyone knew. It meant a lot to me.”
“That’s really what I love best about working here I think. It’s the people. They have a lot of heart. Once you’re here, you’re family.”
– Juno Kughler Carlson