It gives me great pleasure to introduce a new video series, “I Am NTSB.”
As a Board Member and now as Chairman of the NTSB, I’m often called on to describe our transportation safety mission or our investigative process. It’s a never-ending source of inspiration to think that, just maybe, what we do on a given workday will save lives in the future.
But other people ask me a much simpler question. They ask me what it’s like to work at the NTSB.
For me, it’s a dream job. As an airline pilot, and even before, I got to know what the agency did, and I always wanted to be a part of it. But what I knew little about were the people at this agency. It’s my privilege to lead a top-notch staff with diverse backgrounds, skills, and viewpoints. I’m constantly astounded by their many thoughtful ways of looking at things.
That’s why we created this series of video profiles of our employees. Through these video vignettes, viewers will learn a little more about our people and hear how our employees view the NTSB. If you’re one of those people who wonders what it’s like to work here, this video series is for you.
And who knows? Working at the NTSB might be for you, too!
In this episode of Behind-the-Scene @NTSB, we have a great chat with the Managing Director of the NTSB, Dennis Jones. Dennis has been with the Agency for a few years and has held different positions from intern to aviation field investigator to supervisor to chief and now the Managing Director.
He shares with us his transportation journey and some highlights from his career at the NTSB.
March is Women’s History Month, so it’s only appropriate to look at some of the American women who have helped influence and shape today’s transportation system, including those working at the NTSB today.
We have witnessed the extraordinary accomplishments of women like Bessica Raiche, the first female pilot in the United States to make a planned flight, and our very own Member Bella Dinh-Zarr, the first Asian American to become a Board Member at the NTSB. Member Dinh-Zarr has spent years advocating for and promoting safe and sustainable transportation. These women have reached great heights in their careers and are renowned nationwide for their successes.
Yet, there are many more women—perhaps not as nationally known but just as important to the NTSB’s critical mission—that we would like to recognize. In celebration of Women’s History Month, we recently sat down with some of the exceptional women who have emerged from the NTSB’s ranks to become leaders in management and safety. They inspire staff every day to work hard to improve transportation safety, sharing NTSB safety messages and encouraging us all to remember our mission to save lives. They are role models for many at the agency—men and women. We asked them to share their thoughts on leadership with staff last week at a special briefing, and we think their lessons are beneficial to all, even those outside our organization. Here’s what they had to say.
Dana Schulze is the deputy director of the NTSB’s Aviation Safety (AS) Office. As second-in-command of AS, she oversees all aviation accident and incident investigations in the United States and those involving US products or operations overseas. More than 50 air safety investigators and supporting staff within AS report directly to her. She approves information AS releases and routinely briefs Congressional staff and industry stakeholders on behalf of our agency. She began her career in the aircraft manufacturing industry as a mechanical engineer and has experience developing, manufacturing, and conducting failure investigations involving aircraft systems. From there, she rose through the NTSB ranks to her current position. She attributes her success to a continuous learning approach and her interest in improving aviation safety. Because of her critical-thinking skills and ability to lead others, she quickly rose to a leadership position at the agency.
According to Schulze, she did not initially set out to join management, but when the opportunity was offered, she recognized that she could add value and be a good fit. She believes a leader should be able to inspire and motivate others. Through integrity, consistency, and transparency, a leader “can instill a balance of vision and practicality,” she says. She says she has been inspired by thought leaders such as Steven Covey. Transportation has long been a male-dominated industry, and Schulze encourages women to get involved with transportation-related STEM programs that interest them, even those outside their comfort zones.
Sharon Bryson is the NTSB’s deputy managing director. She joined the agency more than 20 years ago after a career providing services to military families at Dover Air Force Base. When she arrived at the NTSB, the agency had just been given the responsibility for family assistance by Congress. Bryson took a lead role in setting up the NTSB’s first family assistance program. This program, now called Transportation Disaster Assistance, is still in place today and has served thousands of families over the years. Later, after serving as director of the Office of Safety Recommendations and Communications, Bryson became the agency’s deputy managing director, a position that involves assisting the Managing Director with managing the day-to-day activities of the agency.
According to Bryson, having the opportunity to mentor others and share what she has learned about leadership is very important to her. She strives daily to engage with staff members and actively highlights their individual abilities, with the goal of seeing them thrive. “A leader is supposed to support and guide,” she says. By recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of the people around her, she puts value in their diverse opinions; there is no room for judgement or negativity. “When all of these are combined, it creates an environment where people feel engaged and encouraged,” she says.
Shannon Bennett came to the NTSB’s Office of General Counsel in June 2010 before becoming an advisory and special assistant to Board Member Dinh-Zarr in June 2015. She comes from a long military history, having enlisted in 1993 as an Air Force ROTC cadet during college, then serving 11 years on active duty as a judge advocate. She continued to serve in the Air Force Reserve and was assigned as a judge advocate in the Office of The Judge Advocate General at the Pentagon. According to Bennett, when she separated from active duty in 2010, she wanted to find a job where, as in the Air Force, she felt that she was serving her country and making a difference in people’s lives. That’s how she wound up at NTSB.
Leadership is “the art of influencing and directing people to accomplish the mission,” Bennett says, quoting the Air Force Pamphlet on Leadership she received as an ROTC cadet. She tries to live by the adage “saw the log in front of you,” meaning, do your very best in every job that’s given to you no matter how big or small, rather than seek the glory of a job you don’t have. Mentoring is also very important to her, and she encourages all leaders to guide others.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s all take the time to look around us and celebrate the unique and powerful women in our own lives. We are so grateful to have Dana, Sharon, and Shannon as members of our “Women Dream Team,” as well as all the other female employees at the agency who work daily to improve transportation safety and inspire those around them.
In this episode of Behind-the-Scene @NTSB, we get to chat with Senior Human Performance Investigator, Dr. Jana Price. March is Sleep Awareness Month and Dr. Price is an expert in the field of fatigue….so we were lucky to have the chance to chat with her.
We all know what sleep is important, but it shouldn’t be an afterthought. Dr. Price tells us why and even shares the reason we feel groggy after a nap (spoiler alert, sleep inertia).
In this episode of Behind-the-Scene @NTSB, we get to chat with Career Development Advisor Leslie McClam. She shares with us how she got started at the Agency and the creative programs she has been involved with to support staff development.
We learn that every Agency needs a Leslie! She discusses how lifelong career development is important, and key, to employee engagement. And the more the staff is engaged, the more they enjoy the work they do. Leslie reminds us that everyone at the Agency contributes to the mission to support the improvement of safety in all modes of transportation.
In this episode of Behind-the-Scene @NTSB, we have a chat with Safety Recommendation Specialist Mike Hamilton. Mike’s specialty is safety recommendations related to Rail, Pipeline, and Hazardous Materials. He gives a glimpse of his passion and interest in the railroad and shares how he has traversed the United States over a dozen times by rail!