Tag Archives: omnitrans hr

Omnitrans Hires Suzanne Pfeiffer as HR Director

(San Bernardino, CA)  Suzanne Pfeiffer has joined Omnitrans as Director of Human Resources, bringing over 30 years of human resources experience in both the private and public sectors.  She fills a vacancy created by Marjorie Ewing, who is retiring after 19 years at Omnitrans.

Pfeiffer most recently served as Chief Human Resources Officer at C-TRAN, the public transit agency in Vancouver, Washington.  At Omnitrans, she will oversee a department of 11 employees and is responsible for the agency’s personnel policies, recruitment and training, benefits administration, labor relations and Workers’ Compensation management.

“I’m really excited to be here and look forward to continuing my career in transit at Omnitrans,” said Pfeiffer.

Prior to working in the transit industry, Pfeiffer held HR positions at Foothill-DeAnza Community College District, Antioch Unified School District, Chabot-Las Positas Community College District, and Attorney’s Title Insurance Fund, Inc.

Pfeiffer attained an MBA with an emphasis in HR from Columbia Southern University.  She earned a BA in Business Administration and Management with an emphasis in Personnel Administration from California State University – East Bay.  Her professional certifications include PHR (Professional in Human Resources), SHRM-CP (Society for Human Resources Management Certified Professional) and CBP (Certified Benefits Professional).

Pfeiffer is also an adjunct professor for the College of Online and Continuing Education at Southern New Hampshire University teaching Human Resource and Organizational Development courses.

Employee of the Quarter: Lourdes Sandoval

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

Preparing for a coach operator career

Whenever a coach operator job position opens at Omnitrans, our HR Department receives hundreds of applications. How will you stand out?

Each time an Omnitrans  coach operator position is advertised, our HR Department receives hundreds of applications.  Yet only about 8% make it through the hiring process.

Surprisingly, most are immediately eliminated for one simple reason. They failed to fully complete the application. Others are weeded out during personal interviews for lack of professionalism. 

“Personal appearance, business etiquette and strong interview skills are absolutely critical for success in today’s competitive job market,” points out author and career coach Patricia Dorch.

Bridge Program instructors Patricia Dorch and Henry Shields

That’s where the Bridge Program comes in. The free 5-day workforce development program is facilitated by Dorch and co-instructor Henry Shields, a former Omnitrans Fleet Safety & Training Supervisor.  Together, they introduce job seekers to potential new careers as public transit coach operators. They also prepare participants for the application and interview process, teaching them how to make a great first impression and brand themselves for success.

“Every single day we were challenged,”says Bridge Program graduate Karena Rojas. ” We created portfolios,  covered everything you can think of in the interview process, and learned skills specific to the job of a coach operator. Everyone who graduated the program with me was happy to be a part of it. It boosted everyone’s confidence, so much so that we are all looking harder for jobs and feel surer of ourselves in obtaining one.”

Are you ready for a new career this year? Bridge Program classes are continuing at the Omnitrans San Bernardino office through January. Space is limited. Click here to sign up today.

Two directors take on expanded roles

Omnitrans Directors Wendy Williams and Marge Ewing, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

Omnitrans Directors Wendy Williams and Marge Ewing

To increase efficiency and reduce administrative expenses, Omnitrans is eliminating some management positions and consolidating some departments. Marketing and Planning will merge under the leadership of Director Wendy Williams, while Director Marjorie Ewing will steer the combined Human Resources and Safety and Regulatory Compliance departments.

This is not the first time Ewing has headed a cross-functional department. Prior to joining Omnitrans 15 years ago, she was the Manager of HR and Safety & Security for Alumax, an aluminum manufacturing company with more than 500 employees. “It’s a natural marriage of functions,” she explains. “HR works closely with safety because of workman’s comp claims and OSHA regulations. All injuries, both non-industrial and workman’s comp, have safety implications. And most security issues involve some form of employee relations, requiring investigation, discipline and prevention.”

Williams, who has 33 years of professional experience in marketing and communications, has been with Omnitrans since 1991.  She believes that merging two departments so strongly tied to the customer experience simply makes good sense. “The marketing and planning functions have worked closely together through the years, so combining the departments is a good fit. We are focused on moving the agency forward with the ultimate goal of increasing ridership by providing transit options that meet the mobility needs of the San Bernardino Valley.”

Both directors look forward to the new challenges they will be facing in the coming year.

“Our department has several critical items coming up,” said Ewing. “With the recent passage of Federal laws like MAP 21, new safety requirements are being considered nationwide which will require certification of all Safety & Security staff. As charter members of the Transit Mutual Assistance Compact (TransMac), we will also be working with transit agencies throughout southern California to establish formal agreements on how we will provide mutual assistance to each other in the event of an emergency. Other projects include process safety management, the installation of a PA system both at our facilities and at our sbX stations and establishing fare evasion protocols and training for field supervisors.”

Williams’ department will focus on five key areas for fiscal year 2015. “Our goals are to increase ridership, complete the San Bernardino Transit Center, advance the West Valley Connector Project, increase pass sales and revenue and enhance customer satisfaction,” said Williams. “It’s an ambitious list, and I feel lucky to have a seasoned team and four skilled managers who are committed to making it happen.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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