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40 Years in 40 Days: Class of 2004

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In 2004, a new adventure that I could have never predicted entered my life. On a whim I applied for a job as a Graphic Designer for Southwest Airlines. I never expected a call back, let alone actually getting the job. This was after all a job at Southwest Airlines: the mega-juggernaut of all airlines. To this day, I still wonder how my portfolio bubbled to the top; but I am so grateful it did. 

As I look back at my seven years at Southwest Airlines, it’s hard to select what has been the most memorable moment, project and memory. Sure, designing our “Lift” Coffee cup (don’t judge me by the drop shadow) ranks up there, as does all the fun city openings I have been a part of, like Denver and Milwaukee. But it’s not the work I create that makes me really feel like I belong here; it’s the people. The people are the secret ingredient. The Employees of Southwest are the sugar crystal sprinkles on top of the cookie. When I set out on this adventure it was really without a net. I was leaving everything I knew and loved in my home of Lubbock. I was leaving a good job at an advertising agency. And most importantly I was leaving the ultimate net, my amazing parents. But in turn what I gained was a new extended family. Now don’t get me wrong, just like in any family it’s not always smooth sailing, but at the end of the day it’s so reassuring to know that you share the same goal. I have met so many brilliant and talented people here. My design team goes without saying. They are my family. No other group pushes me to think differently, laugh louder, and to strive for a better design solution every time. I am fortunate to share their talents with the rest of the Company and our Customers. 

Now I can’t leave without sharing two quick little stories that sum up how great our Leaders at Southwest are. One day, I had the assignment to follow our CEO Gary Kelly on a day trip to take some photos as he visited the Customer Support and Services Center in Houston.  The organizers were only expecting Gary, not his entourage of one, so there was only one lunch. Before anyone could stress or whip up a solution he split his meal with me and went on with the visit. It was such a simple and kind gesture but I’ll never forget that moment of selflessness. 

My second story actually involves a prank years in the making. One day I got a call on my work caller ID from Colleen Barrett (THE COLLEEN BARRETT). For a quick second I had an out of body moment of “oh my–does she know who I am?” After a quick chat I hurried to her office. We briefly discussed the project she was needing some design help with. And then I had to make my move and ask her the ultimate question. With my heart racing I asked, “Would you please help me prank call my Brother?”  I am sure she was probably shocked, but once I explained the prank and why I needed her help she was such an unbelievable sport.  In hindsight I wouldn’t recommend that move, but in this instance I am glad I asked. Armed with his number, she quickly phoned my brother Mario (who just happens to be one of the wittiest people I know–and who constantly jokes about wanting to meet Colleen). Unfortunately he was actually mid flight and had his phone turned off, but her voicemail was priceless. Upon landing I immediately get a call asking “was that The Colleen.” All I could say was, “Yes, you missed your chance.”

So for all of you who may hope to become a part of the Southwest family, I wish you luck. I am proof that acting on a whim can actually pay off. This is a special Company with even greater people. As Southwest turns 40, I’d just like to thank all of those Employees who paved the way for me to have the opportunity to share in this remarkable adventure. 

3 Comments

  1. Hi Sonia,

    Perhaps as a fellow graphics geek you can help – I’ve been all over the site but can’t find what I’m looking for. I ‘m on the staff of the Little Rock, Arkansas Convention and Visitors Bureau and we would like to offer a couple of better photos of our city for use on Southwest’s Little Rock page.

    Do you know who I would contact?

    Thanks,
    Dan Limke
    dlimke@littlerock.com

  2. Very nice article Sonia!! Great job!

  3. Well said, I couldn’t agree more. Bravo!