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NWSEO Member Spotlight - Ashley Nickerson



Ashley Nickerson, Meteorologist at the WFO Las Vegas

     Hi Ashley, Why Did You Join the NWSEO?

 

I'll be honest, I first joined the union due to interpersonal issues and was concerned that my job needed protection due to outside conflict. However, after joining NWSEO, I quickly learned there’s more to unions than conflict and grievances. I was invited to participate in larger local and agencywide conversations involving change and the agency's future. I was able to network and meet people across the NWS early in my career, which is invaluable when you're new. I learned about workers' rights, conflict resolution, mediation and gained perspectives that I never considered on what was important in the agency and where we were heading next. The concerns over job protection and conflict have since been resolved. Still, I continue to be a NWSEO member so I can have a voice in where we are heading in the NWS. I continue to learn more about how the agency works, and help others who may be facing hardship or conflict. 

 

●     What assistance from the NWSEO impacted you most?

 

I have a joint condition that results in chronic pain and has required numerous major surgeries. In 2016, I required back-to-back shoulder replacement surgeries. As someone with a chronic medical issue about to have significant surgery that would take me out of the office for over 3 months, I was not going to have enough leave to cover my entire recovery period. I was added to the Voluntary Leave Donation list, at which point the union helped advocate for leave donations from other union members on my behalf. Through the help of the union and employee leave donations, I was able to cover my ENTIRE time out of office to recover. The stress lifted by not worrying about pay and health insurance while recovering from surgery was invaluable. The union has had my back on numerous disability-related issues, including discrimination, telework, and understanding processes such as Schedule A hiring and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Schedule A hiring refers to a special hiring authority that gives federal agencies an optional, and potentially quicker, non-competitive way to hire individuals with disabilities and veterans. NWSEO has been an important ally, and I appreciate their effort to ensure inclusion means everyone, not just some.

 


Kevin Huyck (WFO Duluth), Alexander Gibbs (WFO Quad Cities), Ashley Nickerson (WFO Las Vegas), and Ken Graham came together in October 2023 for a conversation on the importance of disability inclusivity at National Weather Service.

●     What does Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) mean to you?

 

I spent much of my life feeling small. Whether it was because I was low income, a woman, disabled, or another outside force. I spent so much time trying to fit into a society that was set up against me or judged me. I constantly felt like I had to fit a mold; over-performing and losing my sense of self along the way. I had to hide my struggles and who I indeed was; it was exhausting. In recent years, I have worked through much of that stigma and become increasingly comfortable with who I am. I have healed from my past and am more true to myself. It is such a WONDERFUL feeling; I want that for everyone. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility is important to me because I want people to come to work feeling safe, seen, and understood. Having to mask who you are, dealing with work-life imbalance, and handling toxic work environments is a significant stressor in a job that is already inherently stressful. As the NWS continues to change, focusing on inclusiveness and healthy work-life balance, I am proud to be part of that conversation. I want my NWS coworkers to find harmony and enjoyment in a job they are passionate about. 

 

●     What's your experience working within the NWS?

 

I started my NWS career in 2010 in the Student Career Experience Program at the Boston CWSU, where I first learned what the NWS was and how to work closely with partners in the decision-making process. After graduating college in 2011, I was hired as an intern at the NWS Green Bay, WI. I spent 6 years in Green Bay, focusing my time not only on becoming a proficient forecaster but also on leadership skills, community outreach, and communications. I was honored to participate in the Central Region Leadership, Excellence and Development (LEAD) class of 2016-2017. In 2017, I moved up in my career to General Meteorologist at the NWS Las Vegas, NV, where I still work today. Here, I am the Decision Support Services program leader, assistant hydrology program manager, and co-lead for the office Culture+Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity (BIDE) team, and I run the office winter weather program. In the past few years, I've discovered my passion for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility topics such as employee wellness, leadership, and inclusion. Specifically, as someone who is disabled, I have a passion for speaking up for disabled employees. I serve as a Special Emphasis Program Manager for Disabled Individuals on the NWS Diversity Management Council, where we hope to advocate for change, raise awareness across the NWS on disability topics and issues, and be a resource for NWS employees who may have questions or concerns related to disability topics and employment. I am also a facilitator for the Differently-Abled Employees Slack Channel and a member of the NOAA Employee Resources Group for Persons with Disabilities (ADAPT). I am an ambassador with the National Weather Service Culture Network. Most recently, I was accepted to a Leveraging Abilities Needs Talents Energies Resources Network (LANTERN) position to help Ken’s 10 Team for Staffing Requirements and Ops Models. I've spoken on my disability as well as inclusion-related topics openly on panels and with people across the NWS, including Ken Graham! I enjoy working to make the NWS a better place for everyone.

 

-NWSEO-

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