For our next installation of Quick Six, we sat down with Jami Tomczak, Lean Facilitator for supply chain at GE Aerospace’s Grand Rapids, Michigan, location. She’s been with GE Aerospace for four years and helps drive improvement by ensuring that people at her site are executing lean practices. She does this by fostering an environment of learning so everyone can develop creative solutions using lean. Jami is not only passionate about lean, she’s also an active member in the Pride Alliance employee resource group (ERG) at the Grand Rapids facility. She’s an advocate and hopes to inspire others to live in their truth by showing up as her authentic self to work every day.
What inspired you to join GE Aerospace and did you always envision yourself working in aviation?
I remember my first day onsite at GE Aerospace, for my first in-person interview. There were a bunch of people gathered in the lobby and someone asked me, “Are you here for the picture?” I responded, “No, I’m here for an interview.” They smiled and said, “Well I hope you’ll be here for the next one.” At the time, I had no idea what the picture was for. HR came to the lobby and brought me back to the room the interview was set up in. On my way down the hallway, I saw posters that said, “Celebrate National Coming Out Day! Wear Yellow! Join us for a picture in the lobby!” That’s when it clicked for me. Although, I was openly out at my previous employer at the time, I had yet to experience a work culture that embraced bringing your whole self to work — truly celebrating everyone for who they are and the diverse perspectives they have to offer.
What motivates you in your work and what do you enjoy most?
I am motivated by making work a better place for everyone. I love helping others reach their full potential by challenging them to be more efficient problem solvers. As a lean facilitator, I do this by helping individuals and teams grow, help facilitate creative solutions for problems, and find ways to make processes work for people. It’s our duty to serve others and bring value to our work. I want the value I add to give others the power to facilitate change so they can better themselves.
What are some of the unique opportunities or initiatives you’ve found at GE?
Being a leader in the Pride Alliance at Grand Rapids has been a privilege. This year with the separation of GE’s companies, I was able to be on the Pride Alliance Branding Committee. Our new GE Aerospace Pride Alliance logo rolling out this year is an improved version of a logo I had brainstormed a few years ago. Back then, I didn’t have the resources to make that logo go anywhere. By serving as the co-lead this year, and with the hard work and dedication of some amazing people, the Pride Alliance Branding Committee was able to work with our corporate branding team to make an inclusive logo and have it available for t-shirts in time for our very first Pride as GE Aerospace. Outside of the Pride Alliance activities, I was recently able to serve as a co-lead for one of our teams at our 2023 Grand Rapids Shingijutsu-Kaizen event. This was the highlight of my career, and I am incredibly grateful for the team I was able to work with.
What made you want to get involved with the Pride Alliance, and how has it lifted you up?
I saw that there were opportunities to improve engagement and learning, so I got involved. I was then asked to be on the leadership committee as a secretary and accepted. From there, my involvement evolved over the last couple of years, and now I co-lead the Grand Rapids Chapter.
The Pride Alliance has given me a support system I did not even realize I needed. Their support has helped me learn how to be more vulnerable and occupy space more authentically. I had always been concerned that people would only see me as my sexual orientation, so I tried for a long time to repress my representation in the workplace. They’ve helped me learn how to bring my whole self to work, not just the pieces of me that are easy to share.
What does allyship mean to you?
I think the best way I can say this is, “allyship is doing, not just feeling.” My executive leadership and committee encouraged me to report an incident where I received an underhanded anti-LGBTQIA+ hate comment. At the time, I was nervous because I was not sure if I was being “too sensitive.” However, the support I received from my people leader, HR, and committee helped me overcome that and made me feel more confident in myself. Allyship is learning, seeking to understand, and stepping up when you see injustices. Allyship is intersectional. It’s going to take all of us to make the world a better place.
If you could give anyone advice who wants to pursue your line of work, what would you tell them?
People are at the forefront of everything we do. We must put them first by respecting their perspectives, knowledge, talent, and time. Also, don’t be afraid to challenge assumptions or ask questions. Be open minded and seek to understand. Lean is not an action to be done, it’s the way we live. Lean is a culture, and just as culture evolves be willing and prepared to learn and grow every day.