Operations may be the backbone of Airways, but without technology, the spine would have no nervous system. Wes Penny has been an integral part of the Airways IT department for many years. Here’s our interview with him:
AF: You started with Airways as a full time IT programming engineer on August 30th of 2012, but your history with Airways began many years prior. Can you spend a little time explaining how you came to Airways initially, and how your position has evolved over time?
WP: I began my relationship with Airways in May of 2003 when I decided to start my own computer consulting and services business. I purchased the business from Johnice Cross who had been consulting with Airways for several years. When I began, I expected to be working with Airways for several hours a week. However, over the next 9 years, my time and interest in Airways grew. Then I decided to approach Denny about coming on full time and I’m glad I did!
AF: We’re glad you did too! Now what about prior to your computer business? What interested you in systems technology initially, where did you receive your education, and what course of study qualified you for the field?
My interest in technology began with my dad. He worked for IBM as a hardware technician beginning in the mid 1960’s. He started in Little Rock and then was transferred to Pine Bluff, which is where I grew up. Eventually he opened his own business where I worked part time for him. After graduating high school, I decided that since my dad was “hardware”, I would be “software”.
I studied programming at Arkansas College of Technology, in Little Rock, where I received an Associates Degree in Applied Sciences. I was then hired by Business Service Corp of Pine Bluff and worked there until 1999. After that, I moved to northwest Arkansas to work for George’s Inc. (chicken not lounge). After several years with George’s, I got the bug to be on my own. And that’s when the opportunity to start my own business came about.
AF: Your contribution to maintaining and upgrading the custom programs that keeps the Airways operations system running can’t be understated. Tell us a little more about your daily work at Airways.
WP: My job includes creating or modifying apps as needed, helping users and customers with various questions or problems. The biggest asset I believe, besides knowing the code, is listening to the users and customers.
AF: A good point. In every aspect a key strength of Airways has always been the willingness to listen and adapt quickly. And of course the computer systems play an essential role in this. So when you’re not coding or listening, what is a pass-time or hobby that you enjoy in your leisure time?
WP: Most of my off time is spent with my family, be it playing basketball, ping pong, pool, watching NASCAR, or working on projects around the house. Also, I collect stamps, jigsaw puzzles, NASCAR diecast, and model trains.
AF: Interesting collectibles. What about the family? Your wife Vicki is a talented writer and frequents the NPR radio cast “Tales from the South” with her humorous stories. And you have two boys living at home, right? What are their ages? Do they have big plans after high school?
My wife, Vicki, and I will have been married 30 years next January. She is quite a story teller! She has appeared on the NPR radio show “Tales from the South” 8 times with quite a variety of “tales”. Most of her appearances are on Youtube. She also appears occasionally on another locally produced radio show called “The Everything You Need To Know Radio Show” that is on KUAF 91.3 (local NPR station). Before having children, she was a band director at a couple of schools in southern Arkansas. I was once asked by one of the band parents “Why did you marry Mrs. Penny?”. I replied, “For the challenge!”.
I have 2 sons. We chose to home school them. William, 18, has finished his high schooling and is beginning at NWACC in a few weeks. His interests are varied but he is focusing on theater and video. He works part time with the Walton Arts Center and Wal-Mart AMP. He has worked various load-ins, load-outs, or as a stage hand. He has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Weston, 13, is at the 8th grade level of schooling and is working on his 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He enjoys science, reading, and video games. His plan for the future is to sell exotic cars!
This week we are interviewing one of Airways’ more recent hires. Zack Osburn has grown up around Airways since childhood – his mother being Patty Osburn the Trade Fairs Manager for International business who has been with Airways since 2006. Zack joined Airways on February 18th, 2016.
Here is our interview with Zack Osburn:
AF: So Zack, you have been with Airways for a relatively short period of time. What brought you to decide Airways was the right place for you?
ZO: I have been to many Airways gatherings growing up, and have always been impressed with the family-like atmosphere Airways provides to the employees.
AF: Since your start with the company, you have been gaining valuable operations experience on the night shift. Do you have your eye on working in any particular area of the company, should the opportunity arise later on?
ZO: I enjoy working on the night shift. Our night crew gets the opportunity to work with every department in operations, therefore we are learning new things every day. If the opportunity were to arise to move to a particular area of the company, Domestic Product would be my preferred department.
AF: You’re right, and I don’t think anyone would argue the fact that the night shift makes or breaks Airways from an operational standpoint since most of the operations staff started out on nights. Now what about your life outside Airways? Can you give us a quick run down of what Zack’s life is about when you’re not at work?
ZO: I recently got married so when I am not at work I spend a lot of time with my wife. I enjoy being outdoors, whether it be doing yard work, hunting, fishing or riding bikes.
AF: Congratulations on the marriage! Riding bikes…motorized or the kind you pedal?
ZO: Thanks, I appreciate it! A bicycle that you pedal.
AF: So do you ride competitively, or just for recreation? Road bikes or off road mountain biking?
ZO: Just for recreation, I have actually just started riding road bicycles but I’m working my way up – looking forward to mountain biking in the future.
AF: What about hunting and fishing? Any fish stories or hunting adventures you’d care to share?
ZO: I have been on countless hunting and fishing trips with friends and family growing up. Deer hunting is actually my favorite. In 2012 I got an 11 point in Huntsville, Ar. Hopefully I will be able to surpass my own record this year.
At Airways, one of the things that defines us as a group is our collective desire to help – help our customers achieve their shipping goals, help our vendors to maintain vibrancy in their businesses as they help us operationally, and help our sales agents in providing all of the services essential to their clients – thus making the wheels of the company turn for us all.
As alike as we are in our collective business goals at Airways, we are proud of the diversity of the individuals who make up our company. From so many backgrounds and outside interests, the organization is stronger because of it.
Recently, we sat down with Albert Kirk – another of our Domestic Operations Managers who has been with the company since January 16, 2006. Here is our interview:
AF: You have been in operations for a long time. Give us a rundown of your time here so far.
AK: I started on night operations, and was there for 1 year before moving to days in January of 2007 where I have been for the last 10 years. As a domestic operator, the job is fast paced most days – quoting shipments, booking orders, and providing customer service to the agents and customers that make Airways what it is. There isn’t a dull day. Each shipment requires attention from the time it’s booked to the time it’s invoiced.
AF: I know you were born and raised in Arkansas but now reside in Oklahoma. Can you share what circumstances took you across the border?
AK: I moved to Oklahoma in 2009 after I got married. My wife, Tashina grew up in Colcord, OK and didn’t have interest in moving to Arkansas. We bought a house close to Siloam Springs because it wouldn’t cause me to drive any further (to work) than where I lived in Arkansas. We have now built a new house in Colcord to be more comfortable with the 4 kids.
AF: Wow, 4 kids! Boys and girls? What are their ages? Is the house still under construction, or have you already moved in?
AK: We have 2 boys and twin girls. Logan is 7, Eli is 5, and Kaylynn and Rylee are 3. We completed construction on our house in December 2016 and moved in 2 weeks before Christmas.
AF: I know you’re into gardening. How big is your garden and what crops do you grow? Are there any other farming projects (livestock, etc.) that you do?
AK: I do enjoy gardening. It’s a hobby that I hope one day my kids will appreciate and grow to love as much as I do. This is a first-year garden, and is approximately 25’x60′, I plant the basics – squash, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, corn, onions, watermelon, and cantaloupe. I am trying my luck with brussels sprouts this year. At this time, I am not involved with many farming projects. From time to time I will help my Father in law with his beef cattle. I am hoping by this fall we will have our fence fixed and able to get a few cattle of our own to raise; primarily for beef, but we are also discussing getting a milk cow for fresh milk. I enjoy farming and would one day like to transition into it has a full-time profession.
AF: So farming’s on the bucket list, that’s cool. What else is on your someday dream list? Any travel, vacations or other activities that spring to mind?
AK: I am a pretty simple guy. I like to stay at home most of the time. I’m not a big traveler. No trips are planned in the immediate future. I enjoy woodworking. I have repaired and restored cedar chests, the oldest of which was built in 1951 by my wife’s grandfather when he was a Junior in high school. I typically mill my own lumber for my projects. I have built custom cedar furniture for a few family friends. I hope that this fall I will be able to get back into doing that.
Dale Chihuly, a world renowned glass sculptor from Tacoma Washington brings his indoor/outdoor exhibit to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Using glass as a medium in many varying forms, the artist has created iconic works dating to the early ’70’s, and continues creating contemporary pieces today, both of which are on display at Crystal Bridges from June 3 throughout the summer.
In contributing to the exhibition, Airways Freight was honored to provide transport and logistics services from Tacoma to Bentonville. The project required five dedicated 53 foot transport trucks with lift gates and full logistics to secure the delicate art for it’s ride to the museum. Once on-site, Airways personnel were present to supervise the off-load into three 40 foot containers, which Airways arranged to have shuttled on-site for the storage and safe keeping of the artwork. Weather conditions being an added challenge on the delivery, there was no margin for error, and we are pleased to report that everything arrived in perfect condition.
For additional information about the exhibit, along with photos of the fragile art Airways transported, visit the Chihuly Exhibition page on the Crystal Bridges website http://crystalbridges.org/exhibitions/chihuly/.
*pictured above along with the artist, Dale Chihuly (center). and his wife Leslie, is Alice Walton, Crystal Bridges Chairwoman of the Board, and CB Executive Director Rod Bigelow. Joining them for the opening reception were several Airways execs including Michael Beckers and his wife Tracy, Ken Center and his wife Rebecca and Dale and Prudy Caudle.