Nearly 20 years ago, Jen and Carlos Perez joined GE Aviation in the Engineering co-op program. They had both relocated to the Lynn, MA, plant for their second rotation and little did they know that GE Aviation would be the place they would grow their careers and their lives together.
“Jen and I actually met in the cafeteria at the Lynn Plant while we were co-ops,” explained Carlos.
The two started dating while completing several co-op rotations within GE Aviation before graduating college in the early 2000s. It was shortly after graduating that they both became full-time engineers in the Edison Engineering Development Program in Evendale, OH.
They married in 2006 and currently live in Cincinnati, OH with their six-year-old daughter, Mikayla.
Working at the same company and in the same division as your partner has its pros and cons, they say. Early in their careers, Jen and Carlos were placed on the same team, worked on the same project, and sat next to each other.
“We swore never to do that again,” they said laughing. “We were engaged at the time so we would go home and eat dinner and it would be like we were still in work meetings all day.”
Now, Carlos serves as the GM, Services Engineering- Aviation Engines leading the Systems and Life Cycle Engineering Teams for the legacy engine portfolio, driving Services profitability through maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), as well as facilitating the on-time delivery of new make engines. Jen is the Executive Technical Development Capability leader, focusing on how to develop the engineering workforce and contemporize technical education.”
Jen and Carlos’s leadership skills have not gone unnoticed in their careers with GE. This year, the couple were two of 75 winners who received individual leadership awards at the GE Aviation Annual Meeting (AAM)- the largest all employee virtual event of the year.
Jen received the Inclusion and Diversity award. This award recognizes employees who consistently deliver for the business by embracing diversity and demonstrating inclusiveness.
“I’ve always had a passion for Inclusion and Diversity,” said Jen. She was one of the first Engineering leaders to put her pronouns in her email signature.
“I truly believe we can make the culture at GE Aviation a place where everyone can bring their whole self to work. By being vulnerable and embracing inclusion, I can put myself out there and advocate for other people,” said Jen.
Carlos received the “Act with Humility” award. This award recognizes an individual who role exemplifies a culture of respect, active listening, and learning from shortcomings.
“It’s really apparent to me the quality and caliber of people we have in the organization,” said Carlos. “I try to make a space for my team to bring out their best ideas. When we give context and trust to our teams and give them space, they are more resilient and capable. Rather than making all the decisions, as leaders, we should be focusing on how to help our team grow and learn and make those decisions themselves.”
Jen and Carlos are also advocates for two of GE Aviation’s Employee Resource Groups. Jen is a co-leader of the Cincinnati Chapter of the Women’s Network.
She and the Women’s Network celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 with a global broadcast including leaders from across the business who pledged a commitment to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes, and forge an inclusive world.
Jen is also co-founder of a group named Doing the Work (DTW). “DTW group is for employees who are interested in educating themselves and having difficult conversations specifically focused on race in America. It’s a space for them to be vulnerable, learn, and share experiences at work,” said Jen.
Carlos has been involved with the Hispanic Forum since the beginning of his time at GE Aviation. Since 2017, he has been co-sponsoring an Engineering Pod to give a more engineering specific flavor to the Hispanic Forum experience.
The Pod aims to accelerate career growth by enabling engineering specific skills development, department/topic visibility and safe space mentoring. “This year I’m excited that we’re putting more focus on our earlier career engineers – and we have an early career session planned for April 17th that will allow us to both help give some people an opportunity to grow but also do some reverse mentoring,” said Carlos.
With COVID-19, the couple has been working from home together for the past year. And thanks to Jen’s Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA), they’re able to balance work and life and take care of their daughter.
Jen has been on a flexible work arrangement since Mikayla was born almost six years ago. “It started as a way to balance work, life and my own personal stress level. It was a relief valve,” Jen explained. “Being an executive now, it hasn’t changed. It’s still a structured way to give me more time to manage my workload,” she Jen. “However, flexible work arrangements are flexible both ways. If there is something big on a Wednesday I need to be there for, I’ll be there. Just like the company is flexible with me, I’m flexible with the company.”
GE Aviation has been “home” to Jen and Carlos for many years. “We grew up with the business and the people in it. There are so many people still in the business that we knew when we were young engineering co-ops 20 years ago. They’ve been part of our lives in very special ways. We feel a responsibility to the next generation to help them feel at home at GE the way we have. That’s what is great about our leadership positions now. We can be the leaders we wished we had early in our careers and transform the culture at GE Aviation.”