Andy Shelby, SCMA Board Member and MC3-Certified Mediator
MC3: I’m so glad to have this chance to speak with you, Andy. You are an MC3-Certified Mediator and you’ve been a strong advocate for mediator certification. I’m anxious to hear about lots of other things but, to start, I’d be interested in better understanding your thoughts about MC3 and the value of mediator certification.
Andy Shelby: I am absolutely a big supporter of MC3. In fact, I think I was among the earliest group of 10 or so people who became certified. I’d heard about MC3 through my work with SCMA, of course, and when initially asked about going through the application process, I didn’t hesitate and decided to give it a try.
I believe that the vision and strategies of both SCMA and MC3 are very much in sync with one another. Both organizations are committed to the support of practicing and aspiring mediators, helping them to do this work, and to build their practice in the best possible way. At SCMA we work to help mediators enhance their practice in a variety of different ways. We have numerous outlets for education, training, and we provide countless ways for mediators to network with and to learn from one another.
Although MC3 is a separate organization with a different mission than SCMA, the idea of MC3 mediation certification is, I believe, to ensure that mediators possess the education, experience and accountability to be able to do their work at the highest possible level. And I’ve always felt that both organizations were always very naturally aligned with one another.
MC3: Do you have any thoughts about the sorts of things that might further the progress of mediator certification?
Andy Shelby: Well, I think, there’s sort of a chicken and egg thing taking place right now. Mediators need to hear the message about MC3, understand the value of what MC3 is doing, and how being MC3 certified separates you from other mediators. Hopefully, that will grow the ranks of MC3-Certified Mediators. At the same time, the community at large, and specifically I’m speaking of mediators who are hoping to connect with mediation panels that will accept MC3-Ccertified Mediators for their panels, these mediators are looking forward to finding greater opportunities for more work.
Hopefully, progress on one side can encourage progress on the other and continued movement on both sides will allow mediator certification to take a greater hold and truly become a standard for mediation practice in Southern California and elsewhere.
MC3: I couldn’t agree more. If it’s okay with you, and because I’m always interested in the path mediators take that brings them to their ADR practice, I was curious about the work you did that preceded your work as a mediator. Can you talk a bit about that?
Andy Shelby: Sure. I worked in the aerospace industry which has always had a huge presence in Southern California. Although I initially worked for Hughes Electronics, Hughes was eventually bought out by Boeing. I basically stayed with this one company for the entirety of my aerospace career, which lasted for 36 years.
Throughout that time, I worked for different divisions of the company, but my work was always in Human Resources. My first job for Hughes was in Newport Beach where we had about 1,000 people. I had eventually worked my way up to be the HR Manager at this facility and I worked there for approximately 16years. Following that role I transferred to our El Segundo plant, which was eventually purchased by the Boeing Company and worked in a variety of HR management roles there for 17 years. The El Segundo site was enormous and one time we had over 10,000 employees.
MC3: Wow. That’s like a small city!
Andy Shelby: Yeah, that was pretty huge. One year, our 15 person staffing department hired 1,200 people. And the next year, we hired another 1,100.
Moving between Newport Beach and El Segundo was a big change. This new division was obviously much larger than the one I came from but, more important, was my awareness of a different environment at each site – the work they did at the plants were different (seminconductors at Newport, satellites in El Segundo), the people were different, how people interacted with each other was different. Not good or bad, just different. You have to operate differently, even to accomplish similar things you’ve accomplished previously in another workplace. And that was a real challenge for me.
Anyway, after 33 years and two sites I made one last big move within the company. I transferred to the Long Beach site where the company manufactured the C17 jumbo cargo planes.
MC3: The C-17’s. Those are those giant planes that are so big, they look like they’re big enough to swallow another plane. They carry trucks and other vehicles which are driven right up onto the plane, right?
Andy Shelby: Exactly. So, I worked there for the last three years of my aerospace life. And, unfortunately, we actually shut down the plant because the U.S. government made the decision to stop buying C-17’s and there were not enough international sales to sustain us.
MC3: In looking back on it, you spent a good long time in three different facilities. How did they differ? What kinds of things do you think about when you look back on your work at these three separate workplaces.
Andy Shelby: Although I was always working for one company, when I went from one site to another site, it couldn’t have felt more different.
As I moved between plant sites, I had to learn to adapt to each culture. The culture in a work environment can be very strong and being able to understand it and navigate through it is a real key to being successful. The things that I was responsible for – hiring, layoffs, resolving disputes between employees and management, between the union and management – were seemingly the same. However, because of the differences in culture, I was forced to learn, or relearn how to do my job differently, and hopefully better, in order to satisfy the demands of wherever it was that I was working at the time.
Looking back on it, and this is something that I only came to appreciate in retrospect, I think. The skills that I used throughout my HR work life were the same skills that would later come to be used in my life as a mediator.
MC3: What might be a good example of that?
Andy Shelby: Many times, Human Resources departments are often viewed as an extension of management. When dealing with an employee/management issue, the approach that I took was neutral in nature. I would push back against a management position just as hard as I might push back against the employee.
Also, for union negotiations, they can be really complicated. In fact, I came to learn that, with each union negotiation I worked on, there were in fact three separate negotiations taking place. There’s obviously a negotiation between the management side of the company and the labor side of the company. But as the lead negotiator you must also negotiate with your own bargaining team and also negotiate with senior management back at the plant or at Corporate. Everyone usually has their strong opinions on what needs to be accomplished and my role was to understand and prioritize everyone’s proposals and work towards decisions that best accomplished the overall objectives for all parties.
It is a challenging, time consuming and complicated process. My life in Human Resources was full of disputes and dispute resolutions of all kinds. However, there’s probably nothing I’ve done in all my years in the aerospace industry that prepared me for my life as a mediator than did the many union negotiations that I participated in.
MC3: So that’s a good place to make this transition to your mediation life. How were you first exposed to mediation and to ADR?
Andy Shelby: It was gradual. Although it wasn’t so formally named, the nature of the work within an HR department demanded that I develop mediation-like skills. There are disputes within every type of organization. And very often, it falls to HR to help to resolve them.
I was probably developing my mediation skills without knowing that it was taking place. Very early in my career, some colleagues and I were asked to attend a formal training in mediation specifically for the HR staff. It may have been my first formal introduction to the practice and, in fact, the training was taught by Ken Cloke. I can remember listening to what Ken was teaching and thinking, “Wow, this thing really works.” And I always kept it in the back of my mind.
Then sometime around 2010 I was getting a little bored at work, a little antsy maybe. And I was actually sitting with one of my employees, discussing his career development and he mentioned that he might be interested in getting involved in mediation. I told him I’d heard about the program at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Without going into too much detail, it turned out that he never pursued it but I eventually did. Unfortunately, because I was working full time, and work was always very demanding, I was mostly limited to one class per semester. That had me working and taking classes for quite a long time before I received my degree in December of 2015, which was also right around the time that I decided to call it a day and retire from my full-time work at Boeing.
MC3: That was quite a run you had in aerospace.
Andy Shelby: I loved working there. I really like HR. It was a great career, a good company. And, when I left, it was just sorta time.
MC3: So now you’ve just finished school and you’ve retired. Do you recall having an idea of the role you wanted mediation to play in your retirement life?
Andy Shelby: I certainly wanted to get more involved in mediation. My initial goal was to find an internship because I wanted to get some experience. So, I did one internship with the LA County Bar Association, which was mostly doing phone intake. But I wanted more and, in my last class at Dominguez Hills, there was an opportunity for me to begin doing mediation work in the court system.
I started working in small claims court and, later, in civil harassment court. I took small steps at first, like we all do, I think. I decided, however, that the only way you get better at it is through experience. I said, I just got to keep at it, keep at it. And I was pretty committed to it, to doing as many cases in the small claims court as I could and learning how to do the work.
That’s what started me and then I got involved in other things too. Through a class at CSUDH I was able to get connected to the EEOC and handling employment type mediations. I still do this today. And through SCMA I made another connection that got me involved in an organization that handles community mediations. That role just recently ended when the organization closed.
MC3: And, over time, you wound up getting more involved in SCMA, correct?
Andy Shelby: I did. I’d been a member of SCMA for a while at this point and I’d been meeting with other mediators while attending SCMA’s Professional Development Groups (PDG’s). Fortunately, (former SCMA President) Angela Reddock-Wright was starting a PDG in the South Bay which was just what I was looking for. Getting to know Angela better was a great thing and that sort of pulled me further into the SCMA world. And the rest is history (smiles).
MC3: I believe that you followed a path that was similar to Angela’s, at least as it concerned the SCMA. You were the President of SCMA in the year after her Presidential year. I’m curious if you could discuss some of what your biggest challenges were during your time as SCMA President? And what you felt were some of your biggest satisfactions or accomplishments during that time?
Andy Shelby: There were two big challenges I faced. I became President in 2020 and early into that year was when COVID hit. So, the biggest challenge was to figure out how we might change, how we needed to adapt to this new, COVID environment. That was transformative for every organization and company and it was certainly true for SCMA. The other big challenge was to enhance the infrastructure of the organization. SCMA had grown over the years as the mediation profession had matured but the infrastructure needed to also mature to be able to meet the demands of both our customers and the mediation profession.
I like digging in and really understanding how organizations work. I always took that approach in my aerospace life. I felt that I could do a better job for both the employees and the company if I had a deeper understanding of what all of these employees did. At SCMA, it was the same thing (although without the thousands of employees).
I worked hard to figure out what worked well, what worked not-so-well. We revamped our website, went to a new system for handling our back-end operations, and changed our staffing model. It was a lot of work with a lot of support from our SCMA Board and, from an infrastructure standpoint, I think we made some pretty great progress over my time as President.
And from a COVID perspective, SCMA had to adapt, as did pretty much everyone. We were an ‘in-person’ organization in so many ways. We didn’t know a lot about online meetings or Zoom but we learned, we adapted. All of our PDG’s transitioned to online. We had seminars and other professional development activities that went from in person to virtual. We held our signature event, the annual conference in November, let by Mark Lemke and our new administrator (now Director), Bouvier Eulen, as an all virtual event. That was a big deal.
All of that said, and it may be a gradual process, but I’m looking forward to being the ‘in-person’ organization we’ve historically been. I miss seeing and being with people. I think we all do.
MC3: Well, this was great, Andy. Hearing about your work life, it makes perfect sense that you would develop the interest and skills that would lead you to mediation. It was great to talk to you. Thanks for sharing so much.
Andy Shelby: You’re very welcome. It was nice for me too.