2021 40 Under 40: Amy Hughes-Nevill

Nov. 23, 2021
Amy Hughes-Nevill, Marketing Manager, Citibus | RATP Dev Contract Operator
  • One word to describe yourself: Effervescent…picture Phoebe Buffay
  • Alma Mater: University of New Mexico | Anderson School of Business
  • Fun fact about yourself: If you could have any superpower what would it be? My answer would be to fly…and I’m doing just that! I’m a student pilot! The second greatest feeling in the world is flying…the first is landing. I had to take a break from flying during the pandemic (because flying is EXPENSIVE!) and it was really hard to find instructors during the shutdowns. I’m about halfway through my required flight hours to get my license. I hope to finish my flight time by the end of next year. Then, I’ll officially be able to say I can fly! What’s your superpower?
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): Union Station in Salt Lake City, Utah, is my favorite station. I have a friend who held her wedding reception at the train station. The architecture, windows, molding, flooring, everything was absolutely gorgeous. It was definitely one of the coolest wedding venues I have ever seen.
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): Durango/Silverton Train. The historic train ride takes you through breathtaking views of the Colorado mountains and canyons. The renovation of the old cars and wooden seats prove to transport you through time for the duration of the trip.

Marketing Director Amy Hughes-Nevill does it all as marketing director for Citibus out of Lubbock, Texas, including sales, data research, promotions, graphic design, advertising, public relations, social media, web design and more. Hughes-Nevill joined transit at possibly the lowest point for morale in the modern era: Citibus laid off half of its staff and lost co-workers and family members to the pandemic. Hughes-Nevill, who joined the transit system after being laid off herself, set her sights on boosting morale. She recognized that when employees aren’t engaged, customers feel the outcome. She listened to employees, heard their frustrations, mourned with them through their losses and developed a plan to get everyone back on track.

Hughes-Nevill re-branded the company values: Do your P.A.R.T. (Professionalism, Accountability, Respect and Trust). She laced every piece of communication with this mantra. She installed vinyl artwork around the entire office, reminding employees of the values they should align with.

Second, Hughes-Nevill reinvented the communication within the organization. She created a monthly newsletter, re-branded the system’s social media campaign, created digital monitor display messages, sent out email communiques and installed posters throughout the office building. She also organized a quarterly employee forum where executives briefed the company via virtual meetings on everything happening from the top down, then solicited questions and input from staff. This open-communication platform reconnected frontline employees to the executives in a way the company hadn’t seen since the pre-pandemic era.

Third, Hughes-Nevill created a Culture Committee with peers from every department to meet, discuss and implement events, ideas and structure to engage employees. This included events like “Free-Dance Fridays” where executives would come in to pump up the morale before frontline shifts. Citibus held pet-adoptions-for-the-day with the local animal shelter where the shelter would bring pets to the office to enjoy some much-needed one-on-one attention from employees. The other benefit to this pet event was the emotional support the employees received from the pet’s presence. Simply having a pet to cuddle provided exponential benefits to Citibus staff.

Lastly, Hughes-Nevill created a customer service training program to refocus the entire staff’s perspective from moving people to human-centric services beyond transportation. Over the course of three months, Hughes-Nevill trained more than 150 employees in customer service relevant to their specific roles. In those three months, not only did ridership increase, but the agency’s customer service ranking went from 3.8 to 4.9 out of five; employee retention increased and job applications converted to new-hires increased.

Most importantly, Hughes-Nevill instilled a connection for frontline employees to connect riders with social services available to them. When drivers see a non-destination rider who is in need of a shower, they take them to the Salvation Army to help get them the personal care they need. Another employee started a supply drive for hygienic items, food, bottled beverages and clothing to bundle in bags and hand out to people in need.

Relative to her job-specific role, Hughes-Nevill applied her skillset towards the promotional development and implementation of Citibus’s new On-Demand Services. To supplement the reduced capacity on the fixed-route services, an on-demand curb-to-curb service was implemented in conjunction with Medicaid and Medicare transports. Around June 2020, ridership plummeted due to COVID-19. Once Hughes-Nevill joined the team, she found unique ways to promote the use of the service, and in two months' time, ridership reached levels higher than pre-pandemic numbers. Her promotion focused on the demographic of people who didn’t typically use public transportation and how they could utilize the service in conjunction with their own vehicles. For instance, she recognized the dilemma customers had when finding a ride to and from the auto repair shops. Or, when people run out of gas, rather than hoof it to the gas station, they could call on-demand to give them a ride to the gas station and back to their vehicles. This exposed a new demographic to the ease of service and created new loyalty among a population transit would not have otherwise served.

Is there a specific experience that led you to where you are today?

My journey started while I was in college. I worked full-time by day and went to school full-time at night. At the time, I worked in healthcare on and off for 12 years before transitioning to commercial construction where I spent the next eight years. Shortly after relocating to Lubbock for a construction opportunity, the pandemic hit and I was laid off in February 2020, eight days before the world shut down due to the pandemic. After months of job searching, I took a gamble and started looking into other industries proven to be “essential” during the pandemic. Transportation was among the potentials. After a lot of research, it became obvious the tenure in transit was much more stable. I applied for every position I could find and once I landed the job, I haven’t looked back. If you would had told me 20 years ago I would be working in transportation I would have laughed, out loud, probably awkwardly. However, today I am thankful for the unexpected change in my life as it has truly allowed me to grow professionally and personally. I am so thankful to work with the team I have at Citibus and I hope to add to the growing tenure of our staff.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Graphic Design. In my interview for my current position, they asked me a question about my knowledge and comfort working with Adobe Creative Cloud. My response: InDesign and Photoshop are my drugs of choice. My immediate thought: Oh my gosh, I just told a potential employer I’m a drug addict! Luckily, they understood my passion for graphic design and the amazing tools available for professionals. Spoiler Alert: I got the job! I regularly attend design conferences, like AdobeMax, to learn the newest trends in design and technique for editing. I then translate those trends into applicable mediums for the transit agency. I love designing bus wraps that steal your attention and really make you think about the design. I also enjoy photoshoots or short videos of the people within the company. My favorite saying is, ‘Don’t worry, we can Photoshop that later.’ Too often, people shy away from the camera, but when they think there is a safety net to ‘fix’ it later, they naturally relax and I am able to capture an organic moment. The majority of the time, I don’t have to touch up anything because the photograph or video is perfect the way it is, simply because people were showing their true self.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

People. I feel like the human element of transportation is lost behind the infrastructure of function. Think about the last movie you saw that didn’t have a train, bus or plane…I’ll bet you can’t name a single movie that didn’t have public transportation in it. The hardest part of my job is trying to get people to see past route schedules and bus shelters and see the human element behind the service. Picture an 80-year-old woman who is alone, without a car and just needs a ride to the salon so she can get her hair done. When they understand her need for independence or her desire to have her hair washed and styled so she can feel beautiful again – that’s the moment people understand the role we play in her life by providing transportation. When people have to take away the keys from aging parents, but can’t take off work to drive their parents to an appointment, that’s when they see the value of our role in public transportation. When you see a blind student riding the bus to go to Texas Tech and they are able to get a degree because public transportation took them to school – that’s the big picture; the human element. When you meet an operator who has worked for Citibus for 37 years and knows her passengers by first name – that’s when you understand our employees are real people who devote their lives to the service of their community. If I can move the perception of transportation from an environmental/political necessity, to instead focus on the people we connect to our community, then I feel like I will have met the challenge of my role in transportation. There is so much beauty in people, the community and life in general; I want to show the connection between the transit industry and the human element of our service.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

The accomplishment I would say I’m most proud of would be obtaining my degree. I didn’t have scholarships. I didn’t come from a wealthy family. I did, however, come from a family who instilled an unrelenting work ethic to never give up. I found jobs that would let me work days, nights, weekends, anything to work around my school schedule and then went to school full-time (or as many classes as I could afford) in order to get my degree. I held three internships on top of a full school schedule and full work schedule. Spring Break meant I was able to get a full paycheck and get caught up on school assignments. Summer break was the once-a-year time to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in nine months. I mastered the culinary art of Ramen noodles, peanut butter and Tic Tacs. I could have replaced the technology in metal detectors to find loose change between the couch cushions. I learned how to shift into neutral when going downhill in order to stretch the tank of gas just a little further. I could tell you where to find every calculus tutor in New Mexico. It was the longest seven years of my life, but the moment my name was called and I got to see the smile on my professor’s faces, got to shake the hand of the dean and was able to turn to the crowd with my diploma in hand, THAT moment was the greatest accomplishment I had ever achieved. I have my parents to thank for instilling a strong work ethic in me and teaching me to never quit or give up. I truly believe it was their guidance which led me to any success I have experience in life.

Best advice/tip/best practice to share from your area of expertise?

Apply extreme ownership to everything in your life. When you stop blaming others for your situation, you start to own the variables which determine the outcome. Did you plan for every contingency? Did you communicate the right message to the right people? When you can truly master the mental concept of owning every outcome in your life, then you truly have the power to change the world. Don’t make excuses, EVER! If it failed, it’s on you. If it succeeded, it’s because you prepared your team to operate within the parameters which you provided.