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Next destination: From suits to safety vests

Syracuse (SYR) shift manager Mike McElwain was ready to hang up his suits after a successful 32-year career handling Worker’s Compensation cases. He’d always been fascinated by airport and airplane operations and decided to pursue a job in the airline business. He joined Piedmont armed with years of skills and knowledge, which refers back to regularly in his role as shift manager.

 Originally from Canandaigua, New York, Mike earned his bachelor’s degree in Industrial Relations at Lemoyne College. He began litigating Worker’s Compensation cases as a hearing representative in court for the Special Funds Conservation Committee. He also has experience adjusting Worker’s Compensation claims and working as a Worker’s Compensation examiner in Helena, Montana. After putting 40,000 miles a year on his car and growing tired of corporate work, he wanted to find a job that would allow him to be physically active and keep him busy. He always had a love for the aviation industry and decided to look there.

In 2017, Mike joined Piedmont as a part-time ramp agent in SYR. He was promoted to full-time and within two years, became a ramp supervisor. Three years later, he was promoted to shift manager. “I thought I had it made litigating Worker’s Compensation cases but I’ve never enjoyed a job more than this one,” exclaims Mike.

 As a shift manager, Mike is able to utilize the countless skills he learned in his previous career. “I couldn’t have done my job well without excellent reading, listening and organizational skills,” says Mike. “Just like with the airline, I always had to be prepared for anything and all of those skills came into play. In my current role, I anticipate irregular operations, flight changes and staffing shortages and have to be ready to keep the operation rolling. If you have good preparation skills, you are in a better place for when challenges arise.”

During his time in Worker’s Compensation, he regularly communicated with judges, attorneys, insurance claim representatives and injured workers. “I’m grateful for my verbal communication skills because it helps me in my role today,” says Mike. “When I’m dealing with a conflict at work, I am patient, I listen carefully to their concern, try to find a common ground and do what I can to help and offer a solution.”

After hearing numerous claims over the years from injured workers, Mike has a strong focus on workplace safety. He believes safety is paramount when it comes to working at the airport and emphasizes its importance at every opportunity. He says that even though airport jobs come with a certain level of risk, they can still be completed safely. “At the end of the day, I want our team members to leave the same way they came to work. I’ve seen many injured workers over the years get themselves in situations that could’ve been avoided.”

Mike loves everything about his job from the ride in to the airport to his co-workers above and below the wing. “I work in a busy station, I’m staying active and my co-workers are the best,” Mike exclaims proudly. “I love my job!”

Interested in working for an airline with top notch team members who live out our mission and vision every day? Click here to view our current openings.

Next Destination is a Piedmont feature series that highlights our aviation professionals who joined Piedmont after working in a different career field. Piedmont is proud to recognize our team members for their contributions to the success of the airline.