Dot Mynahan, Executive Director, Field Operations for Otis Americas talks with Sarah about her 30-year history in field service, how Otis is working to mentor and advance women leaders, and how she’s chosen to challenge.
Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Nicastro. I’m excited today to be speaking with Dot Mynahan of Otis on International Women’s Day week. I’ve interviewed Dot in the past, but not for a very long time and I’m so excited to be interviewing her again, sharing that with you and talking about this important day and month.
Sarah Nicastro: So, Dot, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.
Dot Mynahan: Thank you, Sarah. I’m really happy to be here and I appreciate this opportunity. As you said, my name is Dot Mynahan, and I am currently the Executive Director of Field Operations for Otis Elevator Americas. So I cover the Canada, the US, Central America and South America.
Sarah Nicastro: Excellent. And so, thank you for being here. Before we get into the topic at hand, just tell us a little bit about your current role, your background and your history, anything you want to share about yourself.
Dot Mynahan: Sure. I started with Otis 30 years ago as a temporary employee, believe it or not. I answered a newspaper ad, so I’m aging myself there, for a service clerk. So I started as a service clerk in the Portland main office, and over the course of those 30 years, I’ve worked my way up through the company to now be the executive director of field ops.
Dot Mynahan: My role currently is to ensure that our field employees have the proper training, tools and support. I really focus on support to perform their work safely and efficiently and deliver our products to our customer so that we meet customer’s expectations. Actually, we try to exceed the customer’s expectations here.
Dot Mynahan: So, I think when I looked back at Otis and where I started, I was really struggling to find a company where I felt like I had a career that I could grow with the company, and that it felt like a family kind of atmosphere and I think I definitely found it with Otis. So I’m so thrilled that I made that step way back then.
Dot Mynahan: And then on a personal level, I live in Florida. I have a rescue cat named, Girdie, who’s 11 years old. I rescued her when I lived in Maryland. And my sister is a snowbird so she’s been living with me since November and I kicked her out in May.
Sarah Nicastro: Nice. Well, I’m jealous of her. I’m in Pennsylvania, so the snow is actually falling outside the window as we speak. We have a quarantine rescue kitty who will be turning one on the 15th of March. So he is the sweetest thing ever, and he’s been a welcome distraction while we have been cooped up.
Dot Mynahan: That’s awesome.
Sarah Nicastro: Good. So you’ve been at Otis 30 years. When you answered that newspaper ad, did you have an inclination that maybe Otis would be that company you could grow with or did it just kind of happen serendipitously?
Dot Mynahan: Definitely serendipitously. As I came into the original interview, I was thinking, “I really want to stay with this company five years.” Other jobs that I’d had previous to that, I’d worked in water and sewer, sold pipe. So I had kind of non-traditional roles leading up to this role.
Dot Mynahan: But usually after two years, I had maxed out on what I could learn and I would become bored, and then look for my next opportunity. So I came into Otis, and I thought like I really want to learn. I really want to grow and see what I can do, and boy, if I can get five years with this company, I’d be really, really happy.
Dot Mynahan: I came to Otis and I was so challenged to learn how we work, to learn about elevators. I started as a service clerk, so just even parts and however thing went together, and I can remember being so humiliated and humbled by my lack of ability to learn the job easily. And my supervisor at that time said, “Don’t stress out. It takes about six months for the light bulb to go on and then all of the pieces are going to come together.”
Dot Mynahan: And he was right on the money. One day, it was just like, boom, I get it. But I got the insight part of the job. I was still working in the office, I’m ordering parts, I’m processing payroll, working with the field guys from the office support side of the house. I think one of the interesting things was when I was given the opportunity to go out in the field and actually work as a helper as part of a training program.
Dot Mynahan: That’s when everything really started to come together and I understood how elevators work. I actually worked on installing them and repairing them and maintaining them, and that really kind of took me to the next level.
Sarah Nicastro: I have a feeling you would say serendipitously and I’m going to challenge you a little bit here because I think that this is an International Women’s Day episode. And I think that this is something that we as women can tend to do, which is minimize a bit the role we’ve played in our success or longevity, et cetera.
Sarah Nicastro: I don’t think it’s not serendipitous. I mean, you didn’t obviously know when you answered that ad that 30 years later you would be where you are. I mean, I’m pulling some stuff from LinkedIn here, but over the lifespan of your career with Otis, you went from service clerk to field management trainee, to maintenance supervisor, to branch manager, to general manager, to regional field operations, to senior regional field operations, to director of field operations for Latin America to now.
Sarah Nicastro: I think there’s also a need to … I highly doubt that Otis only challenged you to do all of those things. I mean, there had to be a drive within you to learn and to progress and to continue to push yourself. What are your thoughts on that?
Dot Mynahan: So I think serendipitously because Otis has this phenomenal employee benefit called the employee scholar program. So I actually took advantage of that benefit to finish my undergraduate degree and to get my MBA. So, I see it as being how lucky I am to work for a company that has that benefit that I could take advantage of.
Dot Mynahan: But you’re right. I mean, a lot of these was agreeing to take the interview for the next step, and thinking like, “Why are they asking me to interview for this job?” But I think after the first couple of times of taking those interviews and taking the jobs and proving that I could do it to myself as well as to others, at that point in time, I started thinking … In fact, I started answering interview questions differently when they said like, “Why do you want this job?”
Dot Mynahan: And I’m like, “Really, why do you want me? You know what I bring to the table. You know what I’m capable of doing. Is that what you need for this next role, if that’s what you need to fill this position?” Because I brought a lot to the table, and I felt like I brought a lot to the table.
Dot Mynahan: So I think the part that came from within was just that confidence of saying like, “You know what? I think no matter what, I can do this job.” And I think one of the lessons that I learned when I went out in the field, and this is probably for Otis where I first felt that, is when I went out in the field as a trainee and I was a helper, I went out to a construction site, and they’re like, “Okay, run that chain fall and hoist that heavy piece of equipment.”
Dot Mynahan: And I didn’t have the upper body strength of the guys who were running the chain fall for years on construction sites. And I was so humiliated and so disappointed in myself that I couldn’t deliver the performance that a peer could deliver. But then when it came time to wire up the controller, I did it without any errors. My wiring was all treed up. And the mechanic was like, “This is awesome. I don’t have to check your work. I can trust your work.”
Dot Mynahan: And I thought like, “Okay, so bring that skillset to the table.” So I just have kind of done that same approach through all of these positions, is just take those learning lesson. And maybe I don’t everything to the table these job requirements, but I think what we’ve seen statistically is that men will apply when they have 60% of the skills required for a job, and women will apply when they have a 100%.
Dot Mynahan: I no longer look at the 100%, I look at, do I think I can-
Sarah Nicastro: What am I bringing to the table?
Dot Mynahan: What am I bringing, right.
Sarah Nicastro: I hope that didn’t … I didn’t mean that to come across as a criticism in any way of that answer. I was saying it only because I resonate a lot with … And I’ve actually had a mentor of mine that I’ll say, I’m really fortunate, I’m really lucky and I’m always pushed of, “Okay, maybe so but you’ve also worked really hard and you’re also very talented, so don’t underemphasize or minimize in your own mind or externally the value that you have.”
Sarah Nicastro: And I just think that’s an important point because I think that there can be a tendency to do that. The other thing though that your story made me think of is the really cool synergy that happens when you have an employer that recognizes, acknowledges and fosters that sense of worth and how that builds your confidence, and then how that kind of snowballs to continue expanding the value that you can bring to the company.
Sarah Nicastro: I think that that’s a really cool thing to see happen. They believed in you, maybe a little bit before you started to say like, “Okay, I can do this.” And then as you build that confidence, you realize, I can do more and more and more. Your value to them grows because they gave you those opportunities. They challenged you to learn and grow and that’s really cool. I mean, I can see why you would stay around 30 years if you have the opportunity to do that.
Sarah Nicastro: I want to talk a little bit about, as a woman in field service, what are some of the most notable experiences, some of the lessons you’ve learned of being a woman in a field that is still in 2021 largely male dominated?
Dot Mynahan: One of the lessons I already talked about, going out in the fields and realizing I didn’t bring what some of the men in the industry brought to the table but I brought other skills that were beneficial. And so, just kind of understanding my value to the team, maybe just in different areas. So I think that was really good.
Dot Mynahan: I think one of the other most notable experiences and this was incredibly challenging, is at the tail end of that field training program, my mentor at that time said, “What I want you to do is … Over the final few months of this training program. As a supervisor in another office in New England goes on vacation, I want you to go to that office and be the supervisor for the week.”
Dot Mynahan: So think about that. I’m going into an office, I know nobody. I don’t know the field mechanics. I don’t know anybody and I have to go in and I have to be a leader sitting at that desk and helping the field mechanics. And the reception oftentimes wasn’t warm and fuzzy. They were like, “Who are you? My supervisor has 20 years of field experience. What do you bring to the table?”
Dot Mynahan: But it didn’t take long. Sometimes I think they were challenging me. It didn’t take long for them to realize I knew my parts. I knew how to order parts and get them to them quickly, and I knew the systems. So frustrations that they had where maybe a piece of equipment showed up and their paperwork that wasn’t right, and nobody knew how to fix the systems, I knew how to fix them.
Dot Mynahan: And so what ended up happening is by the end of the week, I often had three or four mechanics waiting to speak to me before I left saying, “Before you leave, can you help me with this, this and this?” I think that was incredible experience because I had to learn how to go into some place cold, how to build relationships. But I also developed an incredible network that I still leverage to this day. There are still people from those offices both in the field and in the office that I still reach out to, to this day as part of my network.
Dot Mynahan: They’ll oftentimes say, “Hey, remember when you came to our office and filled in for the supervisor?” That was just an incredible experience for me and really taught me that I could go in cold to an operation and make a difference. And I think I faced the biggest challenge after that was when I was asked to consider going to Latin America. I didn’t speak Spanish, didn’t speak Portuguese, had never been to Latin America.
Dot Mynahan: And they’re saying, “Hey, would you be interested in talking to us about the director of field operations for Latin America?” I can remember being on the flight down to Brazil thinking like, I don’t know anybody. It was such an odd experience. But I thought like, “You’ve done this before. You’ve done this before. You used to go into all these offices. You didn’t know anybody, and you made it work. So go in with an open mind and see what they need.”
Dot Mynahan: And sure enough, what they needed were all of the skills that I had that I could share. And the interesting thing was a lot of the people in the positions that I was helping in Latin America, they needed to learn English or to practice their English in order to be promoted, be considered for future promotions within the company. And so, a lot of times, it ended up being a very strong relationship where I might not speak Spanish or Portuguese well, but they really wanted to practice their English.
Dot Mynahan: And so, we made it a point to work together. I would help them with presentations. So I not only was making an impact in the field, but to them personally. And once again, that strong ability to network and I still talk to those people all the time as well.
Sarah Nicastro: That’s good. So let me ask you a question about the construction example that you shared because I’m just thinking, staying on the field service topic, and how do we kind of welcome more women into field service roles. In a situation like that where there truly was a challenge in the sense of you couldn’t lift the heavy equipment. You could do a lot of these other things and arguably do a lot of these other things better than some of the other folks doing them, but there was thing.
Sarah Nicastro: As an employer, so now, putting on your … Later on, putting on your director hat, and for others listening, what’s the resolution there so that … Is it just team work? Is it some changes in the requirements? How do you get around that real challenge to be able to bring more women in? I appreciate you just had to deal with it personally and kind of find your own solution. But thinking of it from the director’s side or from the employer’s side, what are some of the ways to make the work more welcoming to women that can do 99% of the job?
Dot Mynahan: So I just want to be clear. I could do the work. I couldn’t do the work as fast. I couldn’t run a chain fall as fast the guy sitting beside me who run a chain fall for years. So, I could do it, but I felt like I was slow and it was just disappointing. But how do we make it more appealing to women? We have a member FORWARD which is the employee resource group that I co-started, one of our leaders in the Midwest region was a former new equipment mechanic and I don’t even think she’s 5′ 2″.
Dot Mynahan: But she knew how to use the tools available to her and the hoist available to her, and to ask for help from her apprentice. And she actually went from an apprentice to a mechanic and actually was promoted into a supervisory role. So I think one of the big things that I like to say is, and that we try to do through my employee resource group FORWARD, is to share those stories. Share pictures of women in the field.
Dot Mynahan: Otis has done a phenomenal job of doing professional photo shoots for some of these women in the field that we can use in materials that we go to recruit at job fairs. Say, “Look, here’s a picture of a woman working on the elevators. Well, here’s a picture of women working in escalators. You can do this work.” And it’s the highest paying trade. So you want to do this work. And I think that we’ve had a lot of success in Brazil, I hate to admit to bias, but I was biased myself.
Dot Mynahan: So we have a training program where we bring in apprentices every year and hire 40 apprentices to train. And so HR came to me and said, “How many women should we target to hire this year?” And I said, “Well, how many did we have last year?” They said, “Eight.” I said, “Let’s double it. Let’s go to eight.” My boss said, “What are you saying? Let’s get half. Let’s hire 20. 20 women, 20 men have gender parity.”
Dot Mynahan: And the light bulb went off for me thinking like, “Why didn’t I think of it like that?” And we actually changed how we posted for the job saying, “Women are encouraged to apply.” There were 1,200 applicants, 400 were women. We went out and took photos of women working in the field and posted those with that recruitment, and we had gender parity in that class. And not only did we have gender parity in that class, but we’ve had gender parity in every class from that point on.
Sarah Nicastro: That’s awesome. And that’s kind of exactly the insight I was looking for, because maybe it sounds simple but something like those photos that builds that confidence, instead of you having to go out there and kind of feel uncomfortable and build it yourself, that helps Otis paint that picture of, “Hey, anyone can do this job. Women can do this job. It’s a well-paying job. Look at these people doing it. This is something that is as applicable to you as it is to anyone else.”
Sarah Nicastro: That’s good. So let’s talk about … You obviously have a passion for mentoring and supporting other women, particularly in field service. Let’s talk a little bit about why that’s so important to you and then also why it’s important to the industry for everyone to do a better job of mentoring women in service.
Dot Mynahan: Well, I think it’s important to me just because of my background. I still … I know you’re going to disagree, I still think I was so lucky to find Otis and to find the trade that I just love. And so, I just feel like … And I’ve been successful, and I feel an obligation to give back, to show other women this can happen. You can be successful. You can come into this trade. It’s a great trade. It’s a great industry. You can do this.
Dot Mynahan: So I think that that’s really important. I think from a financial standpoint, if you want to get to the business bottom line, I think studies show that having women in senior leadership roles actually leads to better bottom line results. And so from a strictly financial standpoint, I think companies missed the ball when they don’t have a diverse workforce.
Dot Mynahan: I mean, the diversity of thought, how I could do wiring better than the other person, it’s a stronger team. One of our culture statements is we’re stronger together and I really and truly believe that. And so what happened for mentoring, I also didn’t understand what mentoring meant. I thought a mentoring relationship was I set aside one hour a week or month to meet with you. We have lunch, how are you doing? What do you need help with?
Dot Mynahan: But that’s not what it is at all. It’s actually a relationship that’s owned by the mentee and you agree to be there for that person. So once I understood that and once I had one of my mentors tell me that he was mentoring 15 people, I realized that I could actually help influence 15 people. And then I met a peer of mine when I was in Latin America, I was the director of service operations and I met a peer who was the director of service operations in Singapore and we never knew of each other. She was another woman.
Dot Mynahan: And we met in Berlin for a safety conference, and we were walking down the street and I said, “If I can mentor 15 women in field operations, and you can mentor 15 women in the field operations, then we could change the lives of 30 women in the company. Wouldn’t that be awesome?” And then we both looked at each other and said, “Do you know 15 women in field operations?” And the answer was no.
Dot Mynahan: So that’s when we went to HR, and they suggested we start the employee resource group. So that we started FORWARD for women in the field operations, and now we’ve gone from an original group of 12 at the kickoff four years ago this month, to over 500 people worldwide.
Sarah Nicastro: That’s awesome.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Just for the record, I do think you’re lucky. I just think Otis is lucky too. That’s all I was trying to say. No, and I know that feeling. So, no, that makes sense.
Sarah Nicastro: So let’s talk a little bit then about, so you had this idea, you realized, “Okay, great. I could mentor 15 women in field ops, but where are they?” And then that’s how the concept for FORWARD kind of initiated. Talk a little bit about exactly what FORWARD is, its intention, what it provides, how it’s grown, and how you see its impact.
Dot Mynahan: So we started four years ago this month with a group of 12 women field leaders from across the US and actually we had representation from Canada and Latin America. And I think one of the biggest difference of why we were so successful is coincidentally the same week we were meeting in Connecticut to start this group and to meet each other and get this kicked off, the executive leadership team was meeting in Connecticut and our diversity inclusion person from World Headquarters who was helping us, April, she arranged for a social hour, a happy hour with the team.
Dot Mynahan: And when the executives came in and started talking to these women, we had a former Navy fighter pilot. We had a naval academy grad. We had the mechanic in the Midwest who became a supervisor. We had one of the apprentices from Brazil who was such a good troubleshooter that after two years, she became a help desk engineer helping other mechanics troubleshoot.
Dot Mynahan: And their eyes lit up. And they realized that we had hidden gems in our organization that the old adage, if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. I think that a light bulb went off for them that we have these resources that are under-utilized. And so, each of those women went back into their regions and started a smaller sub-regional group for FORWARD, and then it just continued to blossom.
Dot Mynahan: And the interesting thing is we say that we’re there to help women in field operations, but in reality and if you look at our mission statement, we’re there to help employees in field operations. So we do that through networking, through training, through support, and have regular calls and conferences in order to try to help grow all of our employees in field operations. And hopefully, we do focus a lot of our attention on women and then they will benefit from that as well.
Sarah Nicastro: Good. So what are some of the actions from those meetings or the resources that become available to these folks to help them in terms of progressing? Is it based solely around the connection and the communication or are there different sort of actions or insights, trainings, et cetera that are sort of a part of that as well?
Dot Mynahan: So we’ve done some technical training classes as part of the course, but I think the number one value of it is networking and sharing success stories. So each of us as leaders at some point in time or another has told our story about taking that chance, about taking the interview, sharing the statistic of men will apply when they have 60% of the credentials.
Dot Mynahan: And I think what’s happened is through the normal kind of networking and mentoring relationships that have developed is when women see an opportunity posted in their office now, they’ll usually retell to one of us and say, “Hey, I saw this posting. Do you think I should apply?”
Sarah Nicastro: And you say, yes?
Dot Mynahan: Why wouldn’t you? Look at what you bring to the table. Look at everything that you bring to the table. Apply, put your name out there. And even if you don’t get the job, because one of the things that I’ve made it a point to share with the women is I have not gotten every job that I’ve interviewed for, and that’s okay, because I still put myself out there and I still met people who became part of my network. And sure enough, further along in my career, I’ve gotten to work with those people but the relationship had already started. So, I encourage women to do that in order to move forward.
Dot Mynahan: I think that it’s a combination of just the support and the network. For a big win, this might seem small but it’s not for our women. It’s just we didn’t have women’s PPE. So, women’s fall protection harnesses. We’re just getting those lined up for our women. We’ve always said we’ll just order the extra small and the smallest size those gloves come in are size seven. And so we’ve really put a concerted effort on women’s uniforms, women’s PPE. I think that those kind of benefits are things that never even crossed our mind as being a problem. We weren’t even aware of it until FORWARD.
Sarah Nicastro: That’s really a good point. And I think going back to what you mentioned earlier too when we were talking about the construction example with just the way you post a job description and the language you use. We’ve had some different episodes on the podcast that were more related to recruiting. But if you’re looking to diversify in your recruiting, there is oftentimes some really bad habits ingrained that aren’t malicious.
Sarah Nicastro: It’s just you keep doing the thing you’ve been doing without stopping, reviewing and thinking, “Okay, wait a minute. How could this be perceived? Or how could we be more inclusive here? Or boy, we should really have uniforms made specifically for our women,” or those sorts of things. So, I think that a lot of times making improvements in having better gender parity, making these roles more appealing and more accessible to women is just a matter of really slowing down for a minute and thinking, and just being a little bit more creative.
Sarah Nicastro: The other thing I liked is just emphasizing that value of connection. It’s hard to feel like you’re the first one doing a thing or you’re the first one having a feeling about this role or this situation or this opportunity. And when you can connect and see so many examples of growth and evolution and maturity and learning and failure and all of those things, it normalizes all of it so that there’s this collective, “Okay, we all can do this,” and “I should apply for this job and I should learn this new thing.”
Sarah Nicastro: It’s just there is so much value in community, and I think that I’m glad that you have that passion and I’m glad that you took action on it and put that together, and the growth in four years is so super impressive. And you have to be really proud of thinking about the impact that’s had on that many individual human beings and their confidence or their livelihood, all of that stuff.
Sarah Nicastro: If you were to give listeners advice or thoughts around the importance or the process of creating a program like FORWARD, what do you feel like you’ve learned that you should share?
Dot Mynahan: I think that there is a common misperception about employee resource groups, giving people an unfair advantage. In fact, when FORWARD first started and we had our first meetings, supervisors would reach out to me and say, “Well, how come women can attend those training sessions and I can’t?” I’m like, “Oh, no. look at our mission statement. It’s all employees. Please, join.”
Dot Mynahan: And we started to see the attendance creep up with more and more men participating both to learn but also as allies because you not only have to have the women who are there but we have to have allies and those who will advocate for us.
Dot Mynahan: So, I think from a company to start an employee resource group, just find a leader. Find a couple of leaders who are willing to put forth an effort, who are willing to put themselves out there and take that chance, take that step and to be the face and the voice of women in field service and help other women succeed. I think that that’s the big thing, is it can’t be done for selfish reasons. I didn’t co-found FORWARD for selfish reasons. Erika and I truly had it in our heart that we were trying to help 30 women. So, find those people in your organization that can do it and that can help.
Dot Mynahan: And the other key benefit, I think, that a lot of companies may not understand as well as I’ve learned is the employee assistance programs. When we think about employee assistance programs, we think about them in terms of counseling. When somebody has a problem, so we’re going to leverage the employee assistance program and get them counseling. But in reality, the employee assistance programs are incredibly valuable resources for far more benefits than just counseling. They help during natural disasters and finding resources available in the local area for you.
Dot Mynahan: With COVID, we had them present several times throughout the year to us just all of the additional pressures on the women that it’s okay to feel the way that you’re feeling, the additional stresses at home, the people that had to homeschool who had kids. All of the additional burdens really started to add up and have negatively impacted women.
Dot Mynahan: So, I think that it’s kind of … I would recommend two specific actions. Number one, start and employee resource group, and I think that’s a huge help and it’s not hard to do. And number two is really leverage your employee assistance group to help with resources and benefits that will encourage women and help women be successful. As they take on these new roles, as they have doubts and concerns about themselves, they have outside support as well as internal support.
Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. So you kind of segue to the next thing I wanted to talk about which is I’ve been reading a lot of the data around how COVID has impacted working women and especially working moms. It makes me really sad. I have two children, four and five-year-old boys, and I am incredibly fortunate to be in a role with an organization that is supremely supportive of doing whatever it takes to juggle it all and understanding that this last year has been crazy times and just the best support.
Sarah Nicastro: So, to see how this is impacting so many women that aren’t that fortunate, it just makes me really sad. I’ve worked really hard on my career, and it’s really important to me. And I know that it is equally important to a lot of these women that have found themselves having to give it up. And I’m just curious outside of what you just mentioned about the employee assistance, what other thoughts do you have on how … This isn’t have to specific to field service necessarily or it can be, but just how companies and leaders need to be responding to support working moms and also to think ahead a bit about as hopefully we recover from this, how can we put an effort on bringing those women back into the workforce and giving them, not just handing them their careers back, but how do we make a space for them?
Dot Mynahan: Yeah. I mean, that’s a great question. I was looking at a research from McKinsey and LeanIn that said basically one out of four women have stepped away during COVID from their careers, and one of five men. So, the impact to women is greater than to men. And we’re looking at also additional workload at home, that there’s an additional three hours of work at home to women versus men.
Dot Mynahan: And so it’s just an incredible burden that we’ve asked these women to shoulder. One of the things that I’ve seen done successfully by UTC when Otis was a part of UTC is how to welcome … They had a special program welcoming women back to careers who had taken a break for either to have children or because of COVID and the impact of COVID, and having specific programs designed to say, “We welcome you back. Please come back and join us.”
Dot Mynahan: And I think that for us at Otis, we’re going to do the same thing. We have done a phenomenal job with transitioning to remote work, supporting remote work, really being understanding with our teams. I mean last … oh, god, it was probably end of October, beginning of November, in my weekly staff calls with my team, I could hear the fatigue. And it’s all men but I could … from my direct reports … but I could hear the fatigue in their voices. They just were tired.
Dot Mynahan: And I stopped the meeting and I said, “Here’s the deal. I can hear that you’re there. You’re at the breaking point. So what I want you to do is sometime whenever it makes sense to you, take a play day. Just take a play day. Just take the day off. Send me a note. Let me know. Text me, I don’t care, and just say, ‘You know what? I need a play day,’ and go do something fun for yourself, with your family, whatever you need to just kind of get that break we all need.” And that was so successful, even just the offer of doing that was so well received. And you could just feel the tension break and really just helped reset everybody.
Dot Mynahan: So, I mean I think we’ve done a lot. I really, really, really can’t stress enough how important employee assistance programs are. There are so many resources available through employee assistance programs for childcare, finding childcare, finding eldercare, financial assistance like where can I find financial assistance. That’s a benefit that I think a lot of people have that they don’t realize that they have.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That’s a good point. I mean it’s obviously a very multifaceted issue, right? There is a lot of societal things and all sorts of stuff that comes into play. It’s not like any employer or group of employers could have prevented that data. But I do think that first of all, kudos to the companies that have responded well and have done anything and everything in their power to create a more flexible environment. And to take into consideration the mental load for all of us and to acknowledge that to do what you can to give people some breathing room.
Sarah Nicastro: I think the other big thing I think about is, to your point, like the welcome back idea. There is going to be a real thing that hopefully when these women are in a position to reenter the workforce and they have this gap … I know just talking from moms that have taken time off. It’s like, “Well, now I can’t find a job because I have three, five years on my resume where I wasn’t working.”
Sarah Nicastro: So, things like that like understanding, “Well, hey, there’s a really big reason right here why so women and men were forced to do this. Let’s be understanding.” Just think about how we make accommodations for that in terms of our hiring and things like that. It’s just, yeah, I hope we make some good progress.
Dot Mynahan: I bet there’s a bunch of hidden gems out there, right? I mean I think that’s the thing, like go past those gaps and look for those hidden gems. They’re out there. They want to come back and giving them that opportunity is just the right thing to do.
Sarah Nicastro: I’m not trying to get too off topic, but this just made me think of a thought which is if service organizations are being strategic about the fact that this has happened, welcome them into service. Look for some skillsets that maybe in different industries that maybe could be useful in your organization. And go recruit those people. Think about how you can not only help them, but you use that as an opportunity to market a field that maybe those women never thought about getting into before. So, just a thought.
Dot Mynahan: No, it’s a great thought and it’s the thoughtfulness. It’s not only thinking about it but trying to come up with a plan and measure yourself to that because once you start measuring yourself to a goal, you’re likely to achieve that.
Sarah Nicastro: Yes. And that’s a good point. Any consideration or support or allyship, it’s one thing to say it. It’s another thing to take action. So, it’s good if people are understanding that this is a real challenge but what can we as leaders, what can we as organizations do to help build some resolution to this problem over the coming years.
Sarah Nicastro: The international women’s day theme for this year is Choose to Challenge. It says, “From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.” So, I wanted to ask how do you challenge gender bias and inequality and how maybe is that different for you now versus 30 years ago when you were first starting out in your career with Otis?
Dot Mynahan: I think it’s markedly different. There are more women in field operations roles. We’ve been celebrating them now for four years with FORWARD and really sharing their stories. So, the conversations have become so much easier. Before FORWARD, before we had this opportunity to really highlight all of these hidden gems I call them, the conversation would always be a struggle. You’d have to be fighting for them. “But she can do this, and she can do this, and she can do this.”
Dot Mynahan: And now, I just feel like you bring up their name and they’re like, “Oh, yeah. She’s done a great job in this past role. Yeah, we should consider her.” So, it’s just kind of changing the … It’s changed the discussion. It really has changed the discussion and I truly believed that the, “If you see it, you can be it” adage holds true and that we’ve done a great job within the company to have a lot of pictures of women in field operations which has helped that discussion as well.
Dot Mynahan: We’re the only employee resource group right now at Otis that reaches out and includes our women field employees, so we’re challenging ourselves as how do we get more women into the apprenticeship program to have a feeder system of women coming into the field. And that requires a change in the way that we approach recruitment and outreach and how do we find other women. But I think we really, I think, celebrate women and the success in a way that because of the success stories that we shared and because the conversations have occurred and they’re occurring regularly, it’s happening more organically now for us.
Dot Mynahan: And hopefully as other companies follow suit, the same thing happens. We’re doing these shirts for International Women’s Day with FORWARD and Otis on them and wearing purple. And we had these masks made up for them as well. And it’s just all about, okay, go out. Be in the field. Take a selfie. Share it. Share it on social media. Share what you do and really get out there and celebrate what women can do in field operations.
Sarah Nicastro: To hear about the progress and how much has changed and how it’s being celebrated at Otis, it’s really, really cool and refreshing and good. I know there are still organizations out there that need to make far more progress than they have. And I guess last question on the idea of challenging, which would be if you went back to some of your earlier experiences where it wasn’t quite as normalized and it was a little bit more uncomfortable to speak up if you saw something unfair or that sort of thing, what advice do you have for people that are in situations that they do need to challenge what’s being said or done or what that status quo is. Is there any thoughts you have on how to challenge effectively?
Dot Mynahan: I think that part of the … And we have this happen on a regular basis. We have a lot of women in the fields who are the only woman in there, local. So, they don’t even know any other woman in the trade. So, I think just trying to make those connections happen by giving women support, I put my name. I put my cellphone number out there, my email address. I’m like, “Text me if you have a problem.” I’ve gotten calls all hours of the day and night from women or text messages saying like, “Hey, I need to talk to you.”
Dot Mynahan: And oftentimes, it’s either just like, “Look, I can understand what you’re saying, but I think this mechanic would be a good resource for you to bounce things off of.” Or sometimes, I’m like, “You know what? Let’s get you talking to labor relations and how to handle situations, their unionized employees, how to help with that.” I think it’s just for me trying to get make those connections and allow the woman names of people that they can call for help.
Dot Mynahan: So, we have kind of two tiers of help. We have kind of the FORWARD tier in leadership … Well, actually three. I would say we’ve got the FORWARD leadership team and all of our FORWARD members who will help each other. We have the company resources that are out there. And then we have the sisterhood of the IUEC, the International Union of Elevator Constructors. We have a group of women there who will openly share their names and phone numbers and email addresses to other women who are coming into the trade.
Dot Mynahan: So as we’re hiring new women into the trade, I’m trying to connect them to the other women in the trade.
Sarah Nicastro: But I really like that point, Dot, because knowing that there are women that aren’t working around other women that may run into situations that they feel they need to challenge, maybe they will have the confidence or the desire to just challenge in the moment, but give them a safe space if that’s not the case, right?
Sarah Nicastro: So, by you offering yourself as a personal advocate, “You can reach out to me anytime. You can text me, you can email me,” you’re a safe place for them to go if they’re not comfortable challenging someone else in their reporting line or what have you, to help them feel that they’re not alone. I think that’s a really good point. So, how can other women leaders act as that even personal advocate for other women in different positions in a way that, “Hey, if you need something, anything, reach out”? So instead of them maybe keeping it in, they can come to you and find a way to get that out.
Dot Mynahan: Yeah. And I think that there’s another key piece to the puzzle. It’s not just women leaders who should be allies, right? And so one of the programs that we did last year, we got the idea from the iron workers is we have the special stickers and cards that the women can give to allies, to give to mechanics who gave them a fair shot to thank them but to give them a sticker they could put on their hard hat. And then if another woman comes on to that job and sees that mechanic with that sticker, she will know that that mechanic was willing to give another woman a fair shot and was thanked for that.
Dot Mynahan: And so, we’re trying to even strengthen our ally network out there in the field and try to make it a visible indication so that you’re not out there alone. There are men who are very supportive of women in the field, and we’re just trying to leverage that network as well.
Sarah Nicastro: That’s a really good point. Okay, Dot, last question for you. What advice would you give your younger self?
Dot Mynahan: God, I hate this question.
Sarah Nicastro: You’re welcome.
Dot Mynahan: No, because I have this whole mentality where I never have a regret. I might apologize for something I’ve done but I can’t regret it because to me, it was a lesson. So, I would say probably two things. Education is key. I think it took me a long time to get to the point where I got my college degree and I should have stuck with it earlier on and I didn’t. So, I think whether it’d be through college education, a trade, apprenticeship program, anything education is key. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn.
Dot Mynahan: I think that the other thing that was probably a really hard lesson for me to learn is I’m fiercely independent. And I never believed in study groups or work groups. I wanted to do it myself and figure it out myself, and I have really learned that I’m an idiot, that those groups and the diversity of thought and the strength in numbers and just the different creative approaches to solving problems is just phenomenal. And I think that I would look back at my younger self and say, “Join those study groups. Join those work groups and take advantage of not only the networking capabilities but to just hear the diversity of thought, to hear different approaches to solving a problem.”
Dot Mynahan: I’m in a DE&I training class right now, and we got a homework assignment. And it was a minor homework assignment, and I thought, “Oh, I could get this done in like 10 minutes.” But I put together a working group, a homework group and I invited like five other people in the class to it and it was the best discussion. And we really went so much further with the material than what was intended from the homework assignment, and I kicked myself I didn’t learn that lesson earlier.
Sarah Nicastro: Now, do you think … I said one more question, and I lied because I can’t resist. Do you think that that willingness to let go of some of that independence happened as you gained confidence?
Dot Mynahan: Oh, that’s a really good question. I have to think about that. Maybe a piece of it is, but I think it’s just kind of forced participation into those groups. That was the door that opened where I was just like a light bulb went off and I’m like, “Oh, my god, this is awesome. I never would have thought about approaching this problem that way, but that’s really creative.”
Dot Mynahan: And so I think just experience of being pushed into those groups has …
Sarah Nicastro: You saw the value.
Dot Mynahan: I saw the light.
Sarah Nicastro: I asked that because there’s so much of what you’ve said today that I really resonated with. But I am fiercely independent, and I think that … I also have a psychology degree, so forgive me for going deep on all of these things. But I think at the root of that, I’m fiercely independent because I feel like I need to control and improve my own worth.
Sarah Nicastro: And so I think that as my confidence has increased, I’ve been willing to relinquish a little bit of that independence or control because I recognized the benefit of others’ opinions because I’m more confident in my own. So, instead of feeling like I have to know it all, I have to be able to do everything myself because I need to prove that I’m worthy and I’m capable, now it’s kind of like, “Yeah, I actually don’t really know this. So, like let’s get a group together and do some brainstorming because I’m good at this thing but I’m not good at these other things.” And that confidence in being able to admit that has taken some time.
Dot Mynahan: Yeah, and I think seeing working groups as asking for help, and it’s not. And I think that that was the other kind of piece of the puzzle there.
Sarah Nicastro: No, you’re right. It goes back to that diversity of thought. You can learn so much just by engaging. Honestly, I mean I loved doing these podcasts for that exact reason. I mean it’s not a group. It’s a one-on-one but the different things that it makes me think about or reflect on or the concepts that surface is just really cool.
Sarah Nicastro: Really appreciate your time, Dot, and you sharing so openly. I have very much enjoyed our conversation, so thank you.
Dot Mynahan: Thank you, Sarah. It’s been my pleasure to speak with you today. And I would just say for anybody, I am on LinkedIn. So, if anybody from another company has questions or concerns, they can reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’m more than happy to help.
Sarah Nicastro: Thank you for that. You can find more by visiting us at futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter, @TheFutureOfFS. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more about IFS service management by visiting www.ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.