1 in one hundred million

Welcome to a celebration of the inspiring individuals who make today’s workforce of one hundred million ― strong. Featuring thought-provoking video interviews that reflect the character, commitment, and passion of people who work on the front line ― from blue collar to white, from organizations small and large, and within industries of all kinds. 

Jennifer Miller: Part saleswoman, part psychologist

In fine jewelry sales, Jennifer often finds herself in the middle of her customers’ relationships — and they love it. “I find that I’m a bit of a psychologist behind the counter,” she explains. For her, a successful sale isn’t about carat size or dollar amount. It’s about helping customers make the most of important life moments: Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays. A people-person by nature, it’s no wonder Jennifer took her expertise halfway around the world to work with women who create handmade, recycled jewelry to help eradicate extreme poverty. “To serve a bigger purpose,” says Jennifer, makes every day a success.

Mike Perez found the recipe for success 

Mike is in the business of making parties perfect. Whether he’s cooking for a party of 30 or 1,000, he pours his heart and soul into every meal he creates. Slicing, dicing, mixing, and plating, Mike is at home in the kitchen. There was a time, though, when Mike’s professional track wasn’t so clear. In fact, he attributes his success to his boss at Hearty Boys Catering. “He took a chance on me when nobody would, when I didn’t think I had a chance.” Today, in the kitchen, Mike has purpose — passion — and he’s proud to say he’s found his place.

 

Loving, protecting, zookeeping: Jenny Theuman does it all

Jenny Theuman never imagined she’d be a zookeeper. In fact, she spent the early years of her education pursuing culinary arts, but cooking just didn’t inspire her. When a college counselor suggested zookeeping, she was instantly intrigued. Now, thirteen years later, Jenny’s grateful to have found her dream job. While zookeeping is hard work — and constant action — Jenny’s passion for her profession has only increased with time. “I’ve been excited every day,” she says. And her dedication is strong as ever: “They’re living, breathing animals,” she says with a smile. “They need you to stick around and finish what you’ve started.”

Living the dream: Zach Feary, pinball pro

Zach grew up playing video games. And today, he plays pinball all day, every day, relishing his responsibilities at Stern Pinball, one of the few pinball machine factories left in the world. Testing each machine for quality, consistency, and amazing play, Zach is passionate about giving players a top-notch game. “All the visuals have to be perfect,” he explains. “The game should look flawless.” And with the rising popularity of “barcades” — bars with classic arcade games on tap — Zach is proud to be part of a pinball renaissance that’s slowly but surely sweeping the nation. 

On the road: Shannon NeSmith drives with purpose

Where some people commute to work, Shannon NeSmith commutes for work. Hauling up to 18,000 pounds of cargo at a time, Shannon carries everything from military equipment to log flume boats in her 18-speed big rig. “I call each new load an adventure” she says. “You never know what you’re gonna get next.” And for Shannon, that’s true in more ways than one. She’s learned firsthand that you never know what’s in store around the next corner … and it’s that sense of excitement and adventure that keeps her on the road and the odometer rolling. 

Wild work: Royce McMullen wrestles gators

Handling one of the world’s most powerful predators — it’s a shot of adrenaline, to say the least. But for Royce McMullen, it’s just another day at Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery. A family man and National Guardsman who’s served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Royce couldn’t be more at home in his career in gator wrangling and conservation. For him, it’s a role that challenges him to break out of his comfort zone. And it’s rewarding in unexpected ways: “Seeing kids’ faces light up at what amazing creatures these guys are” makes his conservation work all the more fulfilling.    

Justina Pratt: Saving lives with swim class

“I still remember the first time a parent called me and told me a child had rescued themselves. I was in tears,” says Justina. As a Water Survival Instructor and mother of two young children, Justina’s work is personal. She’s seen its life-saving power firsthand, after all, and knows the life-or-death difference it can make.  And from the heartwarming feedback she’s received from parents, she knows she’s found a lifelong calling. Having taught 250 kids to date, Justina spends up to 5 hours a day in the water at her local YMCA — and considers it a privilege.  

Safe at home, thanks to Major William Saint

“I can’t think of a better job to have,” says Major William Saint. Spend one minute with him, and you can tell he means it. His desire to serve is bone-deep — a cherished family heritage. After returning from tour in Iraq, Major Saint settled into life with his wife and four children in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Settled, for him, means commanding a team of 22 who work behind the scenes to protect public events — events where we can feel safe because Major Saint and his team have the expertise to identify and thwart danger before it strikes. 

Brett Laxton: The MLB pitcher behind your home runs

Sixteen strikeouts — that’s the College World Series game record Brett Laxton set as a Louisiana State University freshman and landed him in the major leagues. But today, he’s traded the cheering fans and glowing spotlight for the shop floor of Marucci Sports. There, Brett stays behind-the-scenes, handcrafting the bats that players count on for their next big hit. At 100,000 bats to date and counting, Brett doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. For him, making the finest bat in baseball is a matter of pride, and a way to stay connected to his deep roots in America’s favorite pastime. 

Isheba Barker teaches children to fly

According to teacher Isheba Barker, fourth grade is when students should “leave the nest” — and it’s her job to help them fly. From the first day of school, “Ms. Barker” holds her students to a higher standard and helps them rise to the challenge of meeting it. Her friendly, straightforward style and infinite patience and energy inspire her students to want to learn. And you can see it in their excitement as they eagerly volunteer to solve a problem on the board. For Isheba, those moments when her students finally take flight is what teaching is all about.

Food makes the meal. Catie Boles makes it special.

Sushi restaurant server and new mom Catie Boles has what you might call a full plate. Serving her customers and caring for her 10-month-old baby girl keeps her running — but somehow, Catie manages to make it look easy. At work, she loves more than anything to delight her customers with the delicious food she serves. And as a long-time hospitality worker, her credo is “avoid saying ‘no’ at all costs.” A tall order? Maybe. But it’s Catie’s golden rule for always giving customers the excellent experience she believes they deserve. 

Nicco Annan: Star of the night shift

“When I’m nice to a person, it warms them up.” This is the work philosophy of Nicco Annan, hotel front desk agent and night auditor. Travel can be exhausting, but Nicco’s guests can always depend on him to take care of them when they arrive. From exchanging a guestroom because of undesirable Feng Shui to simply sharing a laugh with a lone business traveler, Nicco reads his guests and adapts his approach to give each person exactly what he or she needs. All with a warm smile, unfailing courtesy … and all in the middle of the night. 

Beth O’Connor: Merry and bright

Brightening the lives of others is a natural for Beth, both at home and on the job. Over her nearly three decades as a union electrician, keeping the power flowing has taken her everywhere from 420 feet underground to 70 feet in the air. A bright point in Beth’s job is working on the team lighting up the Boston Common for the annual holiday tree lighting — and the thrill of seeing them all come on at once. And her next project? Lighting up the lives of her three daughters this holiday season.

Leonel Medina: From new roots to rich harvest

From a small Guatemalan village where he labored in the fields beside his father, Leonel came to America at 17 to help give his parents a better life. After years of hard work, he married and had a family of his own ― and worked even harder to give them the opportunities he’d never had. When Leonel started at Russo’s Market in 1993, he immediately felt at home among the fresh produce and family-business atmosphere. He has thrived there. And his “American Dream”? It came true the day his eldest son went off to college. 

For Vanessa Barrett, today is not a drill

As an ER/trauma nurse for a Level III trauma center at a busy city hospital, Vanessa witnesses more human endurance and strength in one day than many of us will in a lifetime. From serious accidents, to massive heart attacks, critical injuries and some remarkable recoveries, what sees Vanessa through every unpredictable shift is her steadfast dedication, years of training, and ability to calmly deal with whatever comes through the doors. “As long as you’re caring for a patient there’s hope,” she says, “and as long as there’s hope, you just keep going.”

Where there's smoke — there's Chris Merrick

Chris has been a firefighter for 34 years. He and his crew share that deep, rare bond that comes from knowing you’ll always have each other’s backs, no matter what. As a fire lieutenant, Chris would tell you it’s his job to make sure his crew gets home to their families at the end of the shift. But for him, it’s also about duty. It’s about serving and having the courage to act in life-threatening situations. And it’s about protecting people ― even if that means just holding somebody’s hand.