Blazing a New Trail at Pratt & Whitney

Some may know Tyler Lublin as the “numbers guy” who works in Quality & Process Engineering in East Hartford, Connecticut. His boss uses another term to describe him: Trailblazer.

Lublin, who lives with autism spectrum disorder, joined Pratt & Whitney after Hank Sikorski learned of his aptitude for statistics and invited him for a job interview. Sikorski has a son with autism and is committed to fostering opportunities for young people who are on the spectrum.

Many individuals on the autism spectrum have a normal IQ but struggle with social skills, preventing them from passing a normal job interview and gaining meaningful employment. The unemployment rate for individuals with autism who have a college degree is 85 percent.

“You shouldn't judge a book by its cover,” Lublin said. “[People with autism] may seem like they're not listening or paying attention, even though they are. They just aren't that good at showing it.”

Lublin, who holds a degree in mathematics from Central Connecticut State University, started at Pratt & Whitney as a co-op while he was still in college. He now works part-time as a quality support specialist.

Sikorski envisions an internship program that could extend similar opportunities to other young people who are on the spectrum. A pilot program is in the works, in conjunction with the Empower Ability Employee Resource Group.

“Tyler is the first. I keep telling him, he’s the trailblazer here,” Sikorski said. “Tyler is our person who is going to help us cut the path. I’m happy to see that he is succeeding. The little successes we’ll build on to make the big success if we can actually create a program.”

Learn more on this episode of Pratt Chat. 

___________________________TRANSCRIPT 

Rob McGuinness: You may remember Tyler Lublin. He now works part-time in Quality & Process Engineering. Tyler, who lives with autism spectrum disorder, is known for his attention to detail and his impressive work ethic. Today - on World Autism Awareness Day - we catch up with Tyler and his supervisor, Hank Sikorski, who learned of Tyler's skills with statistics and saw an opportunity for him to succeed at Pratt & Whitney. I'm Rob McGuinness, and you're listening to Pratt Chat. 

Rob McGuinness: Hank, I understand that you and Tyler share a significant bond. Would you tell us a little bit more about that? 

Hank Sikorski: Sure. Tyler is on the autism spectrum, and I have a son – [who is also on the spectrum] – who is pretty close to the same age as Tyler. So we've connected on that level. So I think I understand what he deals with every day and can help with that in the work environment. 

Rob McGuinness: And how did you first meet Tyler? 

Hank Sikorski: My son and Tyler shared a job skills coach. The job skills coach and I were having lunch one day and she said to me, do you have any use within your organization for someone who is really good at statistics and math? And I said I think we do. 

Hank Sikorski: I talked with Tyler, got his resume, brought him in here and interviewed him. I talked with him and pulled him into the organization, with a lot of help from HR and others as well. 

Rob McGuinness: Did you find the company and your colleagues to be supportive of your proposal to bring Tyler onto the team? 

Hank Sikorski: One of the unique things, and I think it's not just our group; it's the whole organization at Pratt & Whitney. It's a very good culture for acceptance. And our group is a very warm group. I've been fortunate enough to meet some of our senior executives and I'm so comfortable with them that I knew they'd be very supportive of this. If you don't have the support at that level, it makes it a lot tougher, but the group, in general, is always willing to help and reach out. They've been very supportive, and so has the leadership. 

Rob McGuinness: Tyler, what attracted you to Pratt & Whitney as a potential employer? 

Tyler Lublin: What attracted me to Pratt was its focus on data analytics, which is an area I do particularly well in, as well as the ability to stretch out and do statistical analysis as well. 

Rob McGuinness: Let's talk a little bit about your job as a quality support specialist. What are some of the things that you work on as part of your role, and how do you support the team? 

Tyler Lublin: For my job, I keep track of the MCL - Materials Control Lab - supplier risk data. To put that simply, the SMCs, or supplier metallurgical controllers, conduct visits to the company suppliers and perform risk analyses on them. Then, I get the reports from them to input. And I keep track of the distribution of risk assessments as well as who has submitted risk assessments and for where. 

Tyler Lublin: I also handle scanning of the company's 35-year-old microfilm and 20-year-old microfiche, converting the images from the film to images to .PDFs. 

Rob McGuinness: I bet there are things about your job that push you outside of your comfort zone. Are there any particular challenges that you've had to overcome as you adjusted to your role? 

Tyler Lublin: One of the biggest would be interacting with people on a regular basis. I'm not very comfortable with small talk, unless it's something I'm well-versed in. 

Rob McGuinness: We often say that inclusion powers innovation at Pratt & Whitney. What do you like best about working with your team? 

Tyler Lublin: What I like best about working here is the atmosphere. People here are sincere, focused on their work and helpful. 

Rob McGuinness: What's one thing you'd like others to know about working with people who live with autism? 

Tyler Lublin: That you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. That they may seem like they're not listening or paying attention, even though they are. They just aren't that good at showing it. 

Rob McGuinness: Hank, what are some of the best things about having Tyler on your team? 

Hank Sikorski: When I give him a task, for example, I had one file that had 12,000 lines of data. Tyler could tell you the exact number. It was ... 

Tyler Lublin: ... over 13,000. 

Hank Sikorski: It was over 13,000. We had 13,000 lines of data and I wanted to look at the trend from the beginning. It covered about two years of inspections and I wanted to see the trend in that inspection over that time. 

Hank Sikorski: I gave it to him and what he brought back to me was absolutely what I was looking for, in three or four different formats. 

Hank Sikorski: From that perspective, getting the job done, he's really good. In fact, he gets the job done. That's part of what he does. 

Hank Sikorski: The other thing is that other folks in the group are becoming more aware of autism and are very supportive. They come to me and say what can I do to help? I think that's been another good thing about having him on the team. 

Rob McGuinness: How does it make you feel to see Tyler excelling in his role? 

Hank Sikorski: I believe we're all connected on some level with this because Tyler is the first - I keep telling him, he is the trailblazer here. I talk to Tyler's parents, which isn't usual when you have someone working, and I say, look, Tyler is our person who is going to help us cut the path. 

Hank Sikorski: And, as I talk about Tyler to other folks, even out in our supply chain, I've had folks in the supply chain say what a great program that is. And I say, well, it's a program of one today. But we'd like to see it grow. And I'm happy to see that he is succeeding because it's the little successes that we'll build on to make the big success if we can actually create a program. 

Rob McGuinness: One study found that young adults with autism had lower employment rates and higher rates of complete social isolation than people with other disabilities. The unemployment rate for individuals with autism that have a college degree is 85 percent. 

Rob McGuinness: Your vision is to establish a program at Pratt & Whitney - modeled after programs at other large companies - for people on the autism spectrum. I understand that you're working with the Empower Ability Employee Resource Group on a pilot program. What are some of the details? 

Hank Sikorski: We're looking at a small group of folks, probably about six. And we are focused initially on folks within the autism spectrum, because that's what I understand and that's also an area where other folks have focused, like Microsoft and Ford and even places around here, like Walgreens. 

Hank Sikorski: In that program, we'd like to bring in six interns. We'll work with the State of Connecticut - the Department of Developmental Services, which oversees the Department of Rehabilitation Services. And what we will do is set up the program, train the people, and at the same time, we'll educate the supervisors and make them aware. We will put them into positions for 12 to 14 weeks and then we'll do an after action review and see how we did and if any of those can be converted from temp to full-time, we'll do that. But it's the pilot that we need to get out there and get the awareness for that. 

Hank Sikorski: One of the things that I've noticed, with some of the articles we've had on mysite, is that people have reached out to me from all over and have said hey, I want to help. This group is growing quickly. We have quite a few people supporting this Empower Ability Employee Resource Group. And folks on our senior executive level, everyone that has reached out has been very helpful and have actually offered their support to keep this team moving forward. 

Hank Sikorski: If it wasn't for that type of leadership that we have in this company today, we couldn't do this. You really couldn't. And that makes such a big difference. It's much more comfortable knowing that you have their support to do something like this. 

Rob McGuinness: I think that wraps it up for this episode of Pratt Chat. I'd like to thank Hank Sikorski and Tyler Lublin for joining me today. For Pratt & Whitney Communications, I'm Rob McGuinness. Take care, everyone.

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