Tag Archives: public transit careers

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.

“I feel like somebody”

Bridge program photo by Juno Kughler Carlson

Bridge Program instructors Patricia Dorch and Henry Shields with Aaron Harper

There are limited spots still available in our Bridge Program.
Click here to sign up for a class session.

As a regular bus passenger, Aaron Harper had been interested in possibly pursuing a career as a coach operator. So when a friend sent him an email about open coach operator positions at Omnitrans, he decided to apply. To give himself an advantage, he also signed up for the agency’s 5-day Bridge program, which helps people develop professional resume and interview skills and gives them an overview of the transit industry and coach operator duties.

“I really did this for myself,” says Aaron. “The class made me feel like somebody. I’ve been through a lot in my life, and wanted to show everybody that I could do this no matter what my past has been like. There’s also a special somebody that I admire and would like to have in my life. I’d like to show her that I am doing good.”

Bridge program photo by Juno Kughler Carlson

Aaron Harper on the second day of Bridge Program classes

Still the 21-year-old struggled with mixed feelings about the class, and he almost quit the first day.

“My first day, I kind of doubted this program,” he admits. “I was thinking, ‘Oh man, I am taking two days off from my job at Goodwill to do this and there’s no guarantee I’ll even get hired. This is just a waste of my time.’ Now I’m glad that I took those two days off. Even if my boss from my other job didn’t understand, I understand. I’m glad I got what I needed, and now I can take the skills with me anywhere.”

Over the past few years, Aaron has been following his dream to be a musician. He sings, raps, and plays the drums. But now he’s decided to take a step back and focus on making a living.

Bridge program photo by Juno Kughler Carlson

“I really wanted to see what else I was good at, so here I am,” Aaron says. “At first it was the money that got my attention. Especially for people my age, there aren’t many ways to make that kind of money. I was thinking that even if I didn’t get to be a bus driver maybe I could do maintenance or something. I came here with an open mind. Whatever they throw at me, I’m just willing to work. I want to do something with myself.”

As part of the final day of class, the students dress up as they would for a job interview. For Aaron, it inspires a feeling of pride and professionalism.

“I like dressing up,” he explains. “I don’t know, it just makes me feel like somebody. When you step in here, it makes you feel like you’re important—like all eyes are on you. And you kind of rise to that, but not in an ego kind of way. You just feel like you’re respected in the business part of your life.”

Graduates of the Bridge Program are universally recognized by regional transit agencies as prime candidates for coach operator positions. At the end of their program, participants receive a certificate of completion they can include with their resumes when applying for a coach operator position.

Aaron with Omnitrans Director of Internal Audit and Workforce Development Committee lead, Dr. Samuel Gibbs

“The certificate means that I put forth the effort to utilize my time to come here,” says Aaron. “It’s basically saying that my role businesswise is important. The way I conduct myself is important. And my dedication is important. I felt like leaving after the first day. I felt it was a waste of my time because it was just a program, not a job. So what’s the point? I’m looking for something right now. Now I feel the class helped me, and I might actually get the job. Who knows? I could get a call next week or weeks from now. As a Bridge Program graduate I know I’ll probably be the first to get looked at before the next man.”

Whether or not he is hired on as a coach operator, Aaron believes the skills he has gained from the program will change the way he approaches his work.

“I would definitely recommend this program to other people. I’m going to go back to my job pretty happy with what I’ve learned and treating customers a little better. Not that I’ve ever treated customers badly, but now my eyes are more open to it. Maybe I’ll be a little more talkative—even explain a little about my experiences over the past week, you know? It could help someone else.”

There are limited spots still available in our Bridge Program.
Click here to sign up for a class session.

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Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Aaron and his classmates celebrate their Bridge Program graduation

 

Going strong for 35 years at Omnitrans

This past October, finance clerk Teresa Padilla celebrated her 35 year anniversary with Omnitrans.

In an age when most people spend an average of 4.6 years working for the same company, it’s quite an accomplishment. Even at Omnitrans, where the average employee stays for 12 years, Teresa is an anomaly. What’s her secret?

“I love what I do, and Omnitrans is like family to me,” says Teresa simply. “I started here as the first dispatcher for our special transit service in 1978. I’ve known most of my co-workers for years, and I care about them. They’ve become an important part of my life, and we share a history. Many of us have seen this agency grow from a little office trailer in a gravel bus yard to a modern building with a fleet of 164 coaches. It’s amazing when you think back and realize how far we’ve come.

Today Teresa works in our finance department. She enjoys her job and is proud of the level of confidence her bosses have in her. She handles all accounts receivable, and it’s a position of trust she takes seriously.

She also likes the fact that Omnitrans is willing to invest in its employees through on the job training and education. “When I first started here in ’78, there were no computers. When technology grew and they became an essential, everyday part of the workplace, I learned those skills from my peers and supervisors. They taught me well, and I know my job because of it. I’m also a member of the agency’s Toastmasters group, which has helped immensely in improving my speaking abilities. I’ve gained more confidence and use a lot fewer ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ when I talk now!” she laughs.

Teresa Padillo hands out samples of her famous low-cal soy chorizo burritos & Carmi Lopez pours a healthy smoothie at the Omnitrans Wellness Fair.

Over the past year, Teresa has taken on a leadership role as a health advocate in the Omnitrans Wellness Program. Her lunch classes, which featured a mix of food sampling, educational materials and funny, down-to-earth conversations about healthy choices, were among the best attended in the agency.

“It was a fun way to get people to try new things and just share some great tips,” says Teresa. “I knew that some of these people would never even think about buying foods like hummus or kale at the grocery store in a million years. It just wasn’t something they were familiar with. But when I brought items into class for people to try, they loved it. We sampled everything from kale chips to chorizos and learned healthy alternatives to some of their favorite foods.”

A winning combo of educational materials, great conversation and food sampling made Teresa’s lunch & learn classes on nutrition and fitness very popular.

Teresa is probably most proud of her role as a union rep for the teamsters. “I’ve learned so much, in particular the importance of maintaining a balanced overview. You have to treat people with respect, know all the facts, and always work for a solution. A lot has to do with getting along with other employees and remembering there is always time for laughter, being personable and smiling. That’s all it takes to make friends. I’m fair but I’m also not afraid to call people on their stuff if they are wrong. They respect me for that, and I’ve never had a problem.”

To Teresa, Omnitrans means more than just a job. It is a constant source of pride. “The service we provide is so important to the people in our community, and I’m proud to be part of that.”  She smiles, “It feels good to know you’re helping to make a difference.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson
junocarlson@omnitrans.org

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