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Behind the Wings: Celebrating culture at work and in the community

“Our cultures are part of us,” reflects Karen Grieb, Piedmont Customer Service Supervisor at University Park Airport in State College, Pennsylvania (SCE). Karen enjoys being part of something that represents who she is and provides an opportunity to share her culture with others while learning about theirs. “We can all learn something from each other which is how we grow as people.” To connect with other Piedmont team members, Karen joined the Latin Diversity Network (LDN) and the Professional Women in Aviation (PWIA) Employee Resource Groups.

Karen believes it’s important not to forget where we come from. As a proud Latino, she celebrates her heritage as an active member of two Latino community groups; Mujeres Grandes y Bellas, an organization that supports Latin-owned businesses and she founded a community group called Pura Vida Latina whose purpose is to teach children cultural celebrations. She also participates in State College’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.

Originally from San Felipe, Venezuela, Karen grew up multi-cultural as the daughter of a Palestinian father and Venezuelan mother. She began working at age 11 at her mother’s newspaper stand. She graduated high school at age 15 with aspirations to become a flight attendant. Her path to aviation diverted when she learned the minimum age to be a flight attendant was 18. Putting her career dream on hold, she went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in Management Enterprise. After college, she managed her mother’s business, worked in a laboratory, and became a police officer. After five years on the police force, she moved to Lexington, North Carolina.

Ever since she was a child, she had dreams of living in the United States. Her mother attended school in the United States and shared interesting stories about American life. When Karen arrived, it took some time getting used to the cold weather and American customs. “In Venezuela, everyone greets each other with a hug but in the United States, most people great each other with a handshake,” she describes.

In 2005, Karen married her husband and together they moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During this time, she became a United States citizen and stayed at home with their daughter. The family then moved to State College to be closer to her husband’s family where she worked as a bank teller and opened a cleaning business.

A friend of hers who works for Piedmont advised her they were hiring. Although she no longer wanted to be a flight attendant, she thought a part-time position at the airport would be a great fit to still engage in the aviation industry. In 2017, Karen joined Piedmont as a part-time cross-trained agent in SCE. Karen was promoted to part-time customer service supervisor later that same year and upgraded to full-time.

“From my early days of selling newspapers, the aspect of customer service has been with me,” says Karen. “I enjoy being around people and working with my team to provide good customer service.” She works mostly nights where she receives planes that remain overnight and meets passengers at their destination.

Karen joined two ERGs because she wanted to connect with team members from other Piedmont departments. “I joined the Latin Diversity Network to connect with other Latinos in the company, to share my culture and learn about other cultures,” says Karen. “I also joined the Professional Women in Aviation ERG because that also represents who I am.” She speaks four languages and is currently learning two more.

She enjoys cooking for and sharing Latin foods with her friends and co-workers. Through the Latin Diversity Network ERG, she has met Latino pilots and flight attendants who have become her friends. If they are lucky, Karen may have a delicious treat waiting for them when they land in SCE.

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Behind the Wings is a Piedmont feature that highlights the accomplishments of the aviation professionals who make us Piedmont Proud inside and outside the airport. Piedmont is proud to recognize our Latino team members and their contributions to the success of the airline and making a difference in their communities.