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#37: Lorraine Martin, NSC President and CEO at NSC 2019

September 11, 2019 | 30 minutes 53 seconds

New President and CEO of the National Safety Council talks with podcast host and Vivid Learning Systems Chief Safety Officer, Jill James live from the floor of the 2019 NSC Expo.

Transcript

Jill:

This is The Accidental Safety Pro live at the 2019 National Safety Congress and Expo in sunny San Diego. Welcome to the show for everybody who's listening. My name is Jill James Vivid's Chief Safety Officer and today, I'm joined by Lorraine Martin who is president and CEO of the National Safety Council, new president of the Safety Council. Welcome to the show.

Lorraine:

Oh, thank you Jill.

Jill:

Really appreciate you taking time out of the Congress to do this with us. I was explaining before we started recording that the podcast is all about people sharing their stories and how safety came into their life, understanding that we all came at it accidentally as the pun of the podcast intends. You have quite an extensive history with Lockheed Martin as an engineer.

Lorraine:

Yes.

Jill:

Correct?

Lorraine:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jill:

Yeah. When you were a little girl, yeah, what did you think was going to happen? When people said what do you want to be when you grow up, what was your answer when you were little?

Lorraine:

Yeah, that's a great question and in some sense I'm an accidental engineer as well.

Jill:

Okay.

Lorraine:

I always enjoyed science and biology and understanding how things ticked. At first I actually thought I was going to be a Marine Biologist, but I applied for an Air Force scholarship and when you do that, they ask you to be in a certain profession and they gave me a scholarship in Math. :

That meant I needed to step back a bit, but Math and Computer Science and engineering are still in that world of discovery, of trying to problem solve, of looking at a problem and saying, "How do I see myself through this?" :

From that math scholarship and entering the US Air Force, I ended up in the Computer Science field and it was an incredible opportunity to be a little bit on the forefront at that time of how software was going to be brought into the systems that we used around the world in a very new way.

Jill:

Math and a young woman, that's already unusual for a particular time in history, right? Was it something that you always loved?

Lorraine:

I was always good at Math.

Jill:

You're good at it? Yeah.

Lorraine:

Yeah. I had parents thankfully that said, "You can do anything that you want to do, you can go anywhere you want to go." There were no boundaries on that. When the scholarship came up, it necessarily wasn't something that I said, "I'm a math person." But I said, "I can do this."

Jill:

Right.

Lorraine:

This could be really exciting to be able to take that new experience and see where it went. There weren't very many females to your point in the Air Force at that time in general in the officer ranks. :

This would be back in the early 80's and there weren't that many folks in my engineering, mathematics or computer science courses, but I showed up, brought what I was given through my education and through the confidence I was given as a child and was able to be successful.

Jill:

Yeah, what made you choose the Air Force? How did that part come in?

Lorraine:

Yeah, it was a scholarship truthfully. I went through ROTC which is an officer training course. You don't go to the academies, you can go to a regular university and then they pay for your college costs. :

Actually, I was always in drum and bugle corps. I don't know if you're familiar with that, but it's a ...

Jill:

Yes. I was in marching band.

Lorraine:

Similar.

Jill:

Okay.

Lorraine:

Outside of the school system, yeah.

Jill:

But not, but yes, yes.

Lorraine:

I always enjoyed the teamwork, the collaboration of different disciplines in that case, horns and drums and flags coming together to create something bigger than any of the individual activities. :

I enjoyed all of that comradery and the discipline as I said. I had a little bit of a taste of some of that world although the services are so much more than that, but as a kid, you think of some of those things and I also enjoyed the fact that it was going to be able to be in the science, science career field. When the scholarship was offered, I said, "Let's give this a try."

Jill:

What's your Alma mater?

Lorraine:

I went to DePauw University with a W at the end so that's where I did my undergraduate and also got my Air Force courses and then I did Boston University for my graduate degree.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). What was your instrument in the drum and bugle?

Lorraine:

I played a mellophone.

Jill:

That's what my son plays.

Lorraine:

Does he?

Jill:

Yes. The marching French horn.

Lorraine:

It's a marching ... Thank you. Exactly.

Jill:

Yeah.

Lorraine:

You take a French horn and straighten it out a little bit.

Jill:

Right.

Lorraine:

Exactly.

Jill:

It's a beautiful instrument and you must have really good pitch to be able to play the French horn.

Lorraine:

I am not going to go anywhere near.

Jill:

You're not going to go ... Okay.

Lorraine:

[crosstalk 00:05:06]

Jill:

All right, no singing. Oh, fascinating. You finished, what happened next? You're working on your degree, you're simultaneously working with the Air Force, in the Air Force. What happens with your career?

Lorraine:

Yeah. I was doing primarily software-related things at the time for the Air Force which was really great because it was ...

Jill:

New.

Lorraine:

The Dawn of understanding how to do software in a rigorous way, how to do it on a schedule and very complex applications. Also, computer security was just brand new at that time. :

I got a chance to work with the team in the Air Force that was responsible for computer security guidelines, how do we even think about separating information at the time. It was really groundbreaking for both software and computer security related work, and then also a little bit of artificial intelligence or expert systems as we call them then.

Jill:

Yeah. Were there points in time where you saw safety weaving in as you're looking back at your career now?

Lorraine:

I would say in the Air Force and any of our service members, you know that what you're coming to do every day is to protect our nation. In doing so, ensure that the men and women who we ask to do things around the world, either for our country or our allies can do so safely with the products that we give them. They come home safely to their family. :

Any service member whether it's in the military services or if it's in the search and rescue, firefighter's place, you know why you're there and it's protection of some cause, of some human being, of some asset.

Jill:

Yeah.

Lorraine:

It's ingrained very early on when you're in the military service about the issue of safety and of human life. From there, I went to Lockheed Martin which I hope we'll talk a little bit about.

Jill:

Yes, of course, please.

Lorraine:

I got a chance to then build some of the products that we were going to be providing to the men and women in the services and very clearly, that product has to work every single time so that in this case when I was in the aircraft side of the house, that that pilot came home safely. :

That they do what we were asking them to do and return to their family at night in very high consequence areas. These safety either in the services or when you're building products to support the service members, it's not a question, it's an imperative. :

It is what you come to work every day is to ensure that you can serve those people and serve them well. On top of that, you're building very complex systems. All of the issues of construction, manufacturing safety, hazardous safety of materials is all part of them the employees that are building those products. :

It's really both sides of that equation, the employees and keeping them safe and then the folks that use your products ensuring that they come home safe from their mission. It's almost as if safety isn't the job.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, definitely woven tightly, tightly in it. How did your career progress within Lockheed from what you started with their?

Lorraine:

Sure. I started in software. Some of the work that I had been doing in the Air Force. Command and control system, systems that say what things need to be where, people, assets, airplanes and some intelligent systems as well that were very software intensive, but complex. :

From there, I actually got involved in pilot training and pilot training or high end simulators with visuals and sound. In some cases even they move so they have some motion to put a pilot through a simulated environment so that they can know what an emergency condition would be like, what kind of situation they need to be in if they have enemy fire. Again, it had ...

Jill:

Makes total sense that that would be what you did. Yeah.

Lorraine:

To move towards it. A lot of software, had some hardware characteristics to it too, but it brought me to the world of pilots. When I was in the Air Force, I wasn't a pilot. As I just mentioned, I was in the software field, but a lot of the focus and mission of the Air Force is to aim high and go where we need to go from the air and space to be able to do the things that we ask them to do. :

Getting closer to pilots in the pilot training business brought me closer to that core of the Air Force's mission and some of the key products that Lockheed Martin built at our aircraft and airplanes. :

From the simulator world that I was working in, I then was asked to lead some of our cargo airplane developments and renovations for the C-5 fleet and C-130. These are large cargo aircraft that are used by our services and others. :

Then eventually the F-35 program which is a fighter aircraft, a stealth fighter aircraft.

Jill:

You talk about adaptability, right? As this career has ... Is that exciting for you? I mean, did you ... Were you always looking around the corner for the next thing? A bit of information, maybe adrenaline junkie and I want to know more and what can I do?

Lorraine:

It's a great question and I often, I mentor a lot of folks along that incredible career that I had the honor to be part of and I will often say that the thing that really fueled me was to learn more and grow and give more and contribute. :

If you get motivated by those two aspects of your career, things are going to come your way. People are going to ask you to do more if you're always contributing that one day, that one extra inch and the thing that you're doing today. :

To me, that's so much more powerful than being impatient and wanting to know when I'm going to get promoted or wanting to know when I'm going to get the next big job. They come so much faster if you're really just focused on your own growth and contribution to the mission at hand.

Jill:

Who mentored you early on in your career, particularly as a minority female I'm guessing, including at Lockheed probably at that time. Who were your mentors?

Lorraine:

That's a great question. I had someone in the Air Force early on. Captain Joe [Its 00:11:13]. He was amazing because he also like my parents just said, "You can do anything." There were no boundaries. :

That really helped starting in my career to make sure that I had that perspective. As I came into Lockheed Martin, there were a variety of mentors and coaches all along the way. The corporation as many big aerospace and large corporate global organizations are very intentional about providing mentorship, providing support for understanding what next, and giving you those skill sets.

Jill:

It's baked into the cake essentially.

Lorraine:

It is baked into the cake. Those mentors were all kinds of of folks from all different diversity and disciplines as well which I think is very powerful.

Jill:

Yes.

Lorraine:

You don't just want to have engineers or software folks helping you, maybe get a mentor who's the general counsel, they're going to give you a very different perspective, especially as you grow in your career as a leader, you need to understand all those different facets of the business.

Jill:

That's right. That's right. At what point in your career, this is something that I've been coming to the realization of in the last couple of years where you become the mentor, right? Yeah.

Lorraine:

Yeah. I think along the way, you gather people who see that you might be able to give them something. They just naturally come to you and you need to be open and know that that's the engagement that's coming your way or you're supposed to be giving back, but I actually had an event that was a little bit eyeopening. :

It was a tipping point for me in my responsibility to be a mentor and I went to a diversity and inclusion event that included white males and folks from all different walks of life and females as well. :

I realized that my journey as a female through the technology field, through my education wasn't the same as all other females. Some of them had struggles that for whatever reason, I didn't see or didn't experience. :

I needed to make sure that I was reaching out and providing more assistance, more mentorship, not assuming that everybody necessarily had the path that I had had. It was a big wake up call and it was a switch for me immediately that I needed to show up and to add more to show that people like me, people like whoever somebody thinks they are can be successful.

Jill:

Yeah.

Lorraine:

My mentorship accountability got ratcheted up quite a bit personally because I felt I needed to ... I owed more.

Jill:

Yeah. Is that where the Pegasus Springs Foundation came from?

Lorraine:

Well, the Pegasus Springs Foundation is primarily found ... Thank you for asking about it. It is a nonprofit that my husband and I have formed recently that is focused on educational equity and having that conversation here in the US primarily for teachers, for student leaders about how we make sure our unconscious biases aren't leaking into how we educate, train and collaborate as educators.

Jill:

Sure.

Lorraine:

I wasn't an educator, but my husband was. He comes from that world and I come from the passion of helping everybody succeed, helping everybody live their fullest and specifically helping young women see that they have no boundaries.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). How long has the foundation been around?

Lorraine:

It's been around about a year in place and we've held one conference already with in partnership with Disney in the summer and we're going to do another one here in December all around equity and leadership for both students and teachers.

Jill:

Fantastic. Yeah, that leads right into talking about STEM. I mean that's ... This is all tied in with it, right?

Lorraine:

It is.

Jill:

I'm getting equity in the STEM practices as well and particularly for women and minorities. What do you think that looks like in this field? I know what it looks like for ... I've been in safety 25 years and I know that I'm still a minority. I know there's more of us coming, but how do you think that we as female leaders can be laying our hands on that encouragement and change for people?

Lorraine:

We touched on one before and it is the mentorship, it is the sponsorship and I use that word actually more intentionally than mentorship, but to really sponsor others in your organization, perhaps cross organizations to ensure that people, if they have looked them over in some way or had a bias they didn't even know they had to make sure you pull those people up.

Jill:

Yeah.

Lorraine:

In any organization that you're in, you can be very intentional about ensuring that your slates for who you're looking at for promotion or hiring have diverse candidates on them, women and others and some of those things you just have to be very, very intentional about and again, to use your term, to bake it in to how you do business.

Jill:

Yeah.

Lorraine:

At the same time, that coaching and mentorship is so important. There's been studies done by a variety of philanthropies that look at why aren't young girls as early as middle school getting into even today some of the science and technology fields? It's actually going the wrong direction.

Jill:

It is. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lorraine:

which is alarming.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). It is.

Lorraine:

The studies all show that for young girls, they look at things that they want to do in their life or as they start to get excited about things and they look at the people around them.

Jill:

Yes.

Lorraine:

That's the first one.

Jill:

Yes.

Lorraine:

I'll come back to that.

Jill:

Okay, please.

Lorraine:

The second is that they are looking for something that can be creative and have impact in the world and we hear that a lot from the generation of young adults that are coming up. Those are things that really fuel our population right now and for whatever reason, they look at science and technology and say, "Those two aren't those two things. That blows me away." :

There's Ted Talk that's called badass scientists. They're all females and what they're doing is absolutely creative and changing the world, but we haven't made that connection for young girls. :

The study showed that if you don't catch young girls literally between like the ages of six and 12 very early and have them see others, see other women, examples that are doing things in science and technology that are deemed to be creative and changing the world that they miss that connection.

Jill:

Yeah, the optics are so important that we can see our skin suit in someone who [crosstalk 00:17:33]

Lorraine:

Whoever you think you are.

Jill:

Whoever you think you are. That's right. Doing ... Yeah, yeah.

Lorraine:

That people like me can do that and be successful and be rewarded and have joy from doing it. You have to bring examples to those young girls. Going to the schools, bringing scientists in there and that study also said that a lot of times it doesn't have to be in the school. :

It could be the soccer teacher who is female on the Saturday soccer field who also happens to be a biology research person and brings that story to the soccer team about who they are, that they can be this and you can be this and this is really fun and cool. :

Outside the schools are really important. When I speak to college campuses or even workplaces about this issue of diversity inclusion, I'll end by saying every single person in this room needs to find three girls in the next three months because you do interact with that many young girls and go bring them your story. :

Go bring this to life for them so that they know that at Math and Science and tinkering and understanding things, that they can see that personification of what it could be and this research says that can change everything.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lorraine:

We have a job to do.

Jill:

We have a really big job to do. I've many years ago was invited to a camp, a college campus as a panel of women in STEM to talk about our jobs and what we did. Those things have been happening, but I don't think they happen with as much purpose as they need to. :

Maybe one of the things that we need to be doing is saying, "Hey, I'll volunteer for that. Could you put something together?" Then just to ask the questions, ask the questions. :

My son has been part of a robotics team for the last couple of years and it's organized by this world organization that pulls it together and I pay attention to the girls that are on these teams. :

First, there aren't many and then I started adding up how many of the girls are driving the robot? Not many. The optics of what I'm ... Then I started asking questions of the organization like why aren't there ... Why aren't the girls driving? :

I got answers like, "Well, they really like to do support and I went." Then someone caught their words and said, "Yeah, we need to be challenging in asking those questions, right?"

Lorraine:

You've just sparked something for me because I think this is just as pertinent in the workplace.

Jill:

Yes.

Lorraine:

Making sure that we all bring our voice to the table because there are times like in your robotics example that I think some women don't come to the table or they don't bring their voice to the table and that's part of the coaching I've been doing is know your stuff, know your craft whether it's safety or whatever it is. :

Know your craft and then bring it because if you're not, you're the only one who can choose not to bring your voice. Somebody else can choose to try to shut you down, but you're the one choosing not to come to the table.

Jill:

Yeah, and ask those questions.

Lorraine:

Yes.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. You made the decision to do a career shift after 30 years with Lockheed and said yes to the safety council. What made you say yes?

Lorraine:

After 35 years in the aerospace industry, with the Air Force, I was at a point especially with looking at the nonprofit foundation, we set up with saying, "How can I give back?" :

I looked at a variety of nonprofit activities in the world, this one really rang a bell because not only do I get to bring some of my experience of being in the workplace and seeing safety as a incredibly important piece of how you get your work done, I also can bring the business side of what I have. The National Safety Council as you can see does big things.

Jill:

Yes. Right.

Lorraine:

We're sitting here on the expo floor pulling this off. It takes a team that really does know a lot about management and schedules and planning. 35 years of doing very complex business and product development. I can bring some of that to the council and not all foundations, and not all nonprofit organizations have this kind of complexity. :

We also build products at the council so we have training products and materials that have to be high quality and produced efficiently and distributed to the folks that need to get them and some of the experience I've had in business can be brought to bear there. :

Incredible mission, the nonprofit focus I was looking for and a business side of it that I can bring some of that experience that will be rewarding for me to contribute, but also help the organization grow, I hope.

Jill:

Right, right. You've been at the job for ...

Lorraine:

97 days.

Jill:

You're pulling off the ... I mean, isn't this touted as the world's largest?

Lorraine:

It is the world's largest. Yeah, we have over a thousand exhibitors on this floor here. 14,000 attendees.

Jill:

Wow.

Lorraine:

We had the opening ceremony yesterday which I was honored to address and I think there were some, I don't know, 9,000 between the main floor and the overflow rooms that we're hearing, our keynote speaker who was amazing. Yeah, it's big.

Jill:

Yeah. 97 days into the job. Congratulations.

Lorraine:

Well, I have an incredible team. I can't take any credit really for that. They're an amazing, passionate team that comes to work every day literally to save lives.

Jill:

Yes, absolutely.

Lorraine:

If you're looking for a next journey, what is better than that to wake up every day and say, "How can we address workplace fatalities and injuries? How can we address the opioid crisis around our country?" :

We're starting to look at issues having to do with fatigue in the workplace, looking at cannabis and the complexity of that as companies try to navigate it.

Jill:

Yeah. Are those some of the things that you have in your mind right now as the focus for your tenure?

Lorraine:

Yeah. We follow the data. We first need to look at what is causing injuries and fatalities in the workplace and in our community. We are looking at the challenge from the workplace to any place which is what our heritage has been and the issues in the workplace are the same issues that are in our communities. :

Number one, fatality in workplace is still driving. We ask a lot of employees to get in vehicles or to be around vehicles and unfortunately, many of them have incidents associated with that. :

We've got to double down on defensive driving techniques and we have some toolkits for workplace on the issue of driving. Next in line though is impairment and it comes in all kinds of forms. Human beings come to work ...

Jill:

Yeah, talk more about what that is.

Lorraine:

Yeah, human beings come to work to do very tough things. We ask them to put new processes in place, be it more efficient, look out for the next hazards. Sometimes they come to work tired, perhaps they had issues at home. :

Perhaps they've been prescribed medicines that caused them not to be as alert as they should. They all say, "Don't operate heavy equipment." They could be struggling with a substance misuse issue and we need to know how to keep them safe as they come into the workplace and those around them. :

We are actually unveiling and I announced it yesterday, two new toolkits for workplace, one on opioids and one on fatigue. You can go by our booth, I think it's around the corner there to get some assistance in your workplace on these very critical issues of how to see it, how to do something about it, how to have dignity for employees that are struggling with things and how to help them return to the workplace. :

As all the data says, "If employer steps in to help somebody who's struggling, they are a higher performing employee on the other end of that than your average employee." Let's step up.

Jill:

Yeah. I've recently been talking with and had a guest on the podcast who has actually two guests talking about mindfulness and safety and it's connection. We use terms like pay attention, be present, pay attention to your job, be here, but that's a really hard piece for people to be present. :

How do we teach that? Two individuals have done research and they've done some research and studying on mindfulness, and then there's a practitioner and they've been marrying these things together successfully and in teaching people like really how to get present when they get to work so they can shed some of those things possibly from home that might be a distraction or from work and the pace of work so that the task at hand can be focused on.

Lorraine:

It's really powerful.

Jill:

Right?

Lorraine:

Yeah.

Jill:

I think it's just really interesting research that's just starting right now.

Lorraine:

There's a lot of cognition and I'll just use that generally to say how a human being is able to be either present like you said for the task at hand or whether or not they're being impaired in their ability to be present and how do we not only get them to the right state, maybe through mindfulness techniques or know that they're not, and make sure that we're taking the right actions. :

I think this issue of cognition and the human being in a workplace is going to continue to be something we focus on especially as we bring technology into the workplace and we start to have automation and other things that are doing some of the more manual activities that human being in their mind and how they're interacting in that environment with a lot of technology is going to be so critical for us to navigate and navigate well.

Jill:

The things that we used to call a soft skill is really a hard skill.

Lorraine:

Exactly, exactly.

Jill:

Yeah. Well, one of the things that you said yesterday when I was listening to you on stage, I believe you were repeating leave no one behind.

Lorraine:

Yes.

Jill:

Right? That's where we're at right now. What does that look like for you? Maybe for the next Congress 2020 when you have more time to be thinking about ...

Lorraine:

Thank you.

Jill:

Right? Educational equity and collaboration and not leaving people behind as you continue to put in ...

Lorraine:

It's going to take all of us. The accidental safety professionals ...

Jill:

Yeah, what can we do? Yeah, you've got an audience of safety professionals, what would be your ask of us?

Lorraine:

I gave a little bit of that call yesterday and I think it is to show up where the work is done and go to where we're asking employees to do things, whether it's construction sites or whether it's their office work environment or in my case, getting inside the wings of a C-5 to try to address the fasteners in there. :

Go as a safety professional, ensure that you're in the workplace and seeing what human beings are struggling with or what they're putting themselves into potential hazardous situations and ask yourself, how can I change this situation and what can I do to partner with them to resolve it? :

I say that not only to our safety professionals, but I say it to all leaders in all organizations. This is your job and this is how you asked me at the outset. I became an accidental safety professionals. :

It is because when I was a leader in a big organization, helping organizations build complex systems. I made it my job to show up to the workplace and see what people were struggling with. :

Sometimes it's struggling to get the job done on time and on schedule and sometimes they're struggling because there's hazards in their way.

Jill:

Yeah.

Lorraine:

If you don't go and ask the question to the people doing the work, what's in your way? What's hard right now? You can come up with very simple questions.

Jill:

That's right.

Lorraine:

Open-ended and you're going to get a flood of information.

Jill:

Exactly. Show me how you do your work. I want to do ...

Lorraine:

Then do something about it.

Jill:

Right. Yes.

Lorraine:

Which is sometimes we ask and then don't follow through and then nobody's going to tell you anymore.

Jill:

Right. All credibility is lost.

Lorraine:

You've got to have your ears open and then you have to take action. We need to go and we need to be a call to arms to show up, be a leader, ask the employees what's what they most need and make sure we're providing it.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Lorraine, thank you.

Lorraine:

Thank you.

Jill:

That's wonderful. Appreciate it. Appreciate your time. Good luck with your position.

Lorraine:

Thank you.

Jill:

Yeah, I think this is a great Congress. You're getting a great start.

Lorraine:

Thank you so much. Appreciate it Jill.

Jill:

Yeah, you're welcome and thank you all for spending your time listening today and more importantly, thank you for your contribution, making sure your workers, including your temporary workers make it home safe every day. :

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