Standing in the shadow of a Boeing 747 jumbo fuselage after an Everett, Washington, factory tour, Suellen dos Santos Frank was determined to become a Boeing engineer. The year was 2007 and Suellen was new to the United States, far away from the small town where she grew up in São Paulo, Brazil.

Today she leads sustainable strategy development for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and takes a leadership role connecting teammates with employees in Latin America—bridging the gap between global employees and helping U.S.-based colleagues gain cultural awareness.

“I noticed differences in American and Brazilian cultures and communication,” she said. “In the work environment in Brazil, we're more accustomed to staying quiet and not expressing ourselves openly. I adapted by speaking up, understanding and valuing different ways of communication. It was difficult, but this helped me learn there’s strength in our differences.”

Suellen’s leadership style, which empowers teams to share their perspectives, was heavily influenced by her early years in the U.S. adapting to a new culture.

Achieving her goals

"I leaped into the unknown, arriving in the United States from Brazil as an au pair without knowing a word of English," Suellen said. "In Brazil, I worked as a laboratory technician.” Yet, English presented a significant communication barrier for her with English-speaking collaborators.

Coming to the U.S., Suellen was able to sharpen her English skills and knowledge of airplanes by speaking with her Boeing-engineer host father during her stay.

After earning an engineering degree and gaining work experience, Suellen achieved her goal and joined our company as an engineer.

Her experiences have molded her into a leader who’s unwavering in her commitment to help others in her community pursue similar career aspirations.

Suellen standing in front of a poster
Suellen is the first person in her family to earn a master’s degree. She’s now pursuing a doctorate in sustainable engineering. (Marian Lockhart photo)

Catalyst for progress

As chair of her local Boeing Familia, one of our Business Resource Groups, she connects teammates in the U.S. with employees in Latin America to help them build new relationships as they work toward their development goals.

“Suellen’s example and support has helped me professionally and personally,” said Luis E. Villa Martinez, a fellow Boeing Familia member. “She encouraged me to seek new opportunities.” With Suellen’s encouragement, Luis applied and was recently accepted into the Engineering Career Foundation Program, a two-year leadership-focused rotation program.

"Embracing representation is a catalyst for progress,” Suellen said. “Reflecting on my journey, I recognize that acknowledging diverse voices and experiences is vital. I want to foster paths for the next generation and strengthen the future of the company.”

Suellen and family
Suellen accepted the Boeing Familia Service Award at the Latinos Hall of Fame event. Pictured here with her husband, children and her host parents, Suki and Jiwan. (Boeing photo)
Suellen and her Mentor
Mentee, Luis E. Villa Martinez, was there to congratulate Suellen at the Latinos Hall of Fame event. (Boeing photo)
Suellen standing in front of group of people
As keynote speaker, Suellen spoke about her journey to the United States at the U.S. Naturalization and Citizenship Ceremony at the Museum of Flight. (Boeing photo)

Learn more about our efforts to advance global equity, diversity and inclusion.