Employee Stories: Tonya Sonnier

Tonya Sonnier

Tonya Sonnier testimonial image

Tonya Sonnier

Senior Staff Assistant, Research & Development (R&D)

I joined the U.S. Navy as an Intelligence Specialist working with Special Forces and Surveillance Units, e.g., Navy SEALs and P-3 Orion Aircrews. In these roles, I would gather pertinent information regarding missions briefing the sailors on threat, recognition, topographical and enemy background information. At my next duty station, I joined the Atlantic Fleet Admiral’s briefing team during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. As part of the briefing team, my responsibilities were to get confidential message traffic every morning and decipher topics of importance to present. These topics often included troop movement, fatalities, mission debriefs and general information on the conflict. This information was then disseminated to various high ranking figures, including the U.S. President, to make decisions that were ultimately carried back to the fleet.

Before I joined Praxair 14 years ago, my father worked at the company on the East Chicago Pipeline for many years so I already felt familiar with the culture and was part of the family. Praxair’s workplace environment is something that has always stood out to me. The organizational structure is disciplined, yet autonomous – similar to the military. Employees are given independence when getting their work done and are expected to do it correctly. Like pieces in a puzzle, individual employees play an important role in the success of the organization. If we don’t do our jobs correctly, it can impact the entire team. The same holds true in the military.

The need for attention to detail, and the focus on accuracy in my military roles were imperative and have transferred to my position at Praxair. As sailors, we were all ultimately responsible for fellow sailors’ lives. I always had to be proficient and detailed about the important topics that I was conveying. When information was incomplete, I had to do extra research, reading or reach out to other people on my team. These experiences have contributed to my success at Praxair.

As a Senior Staff Assistant in R&D, I need to be able to speak with conviction about technology procedures and new safety initiatives in the pipeline. I also need to be bold enough to reach out to fellow employees when I don’t know the correct answer. Detail and accuracy are especially crucial when it comes to our safety procedures. If we don’t follow them exactly, our employees can get hurt. One of our basic but very important safety procedures is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). SOPs are step-by-step guidelines on how we run technology. These safety procedures are put in place so team members have a background on the equipment and can run it in the same safe sequence every time. The procedures also explain what to do in the event of a hazard. If an employee does not follow our safety procedures precisely, he or she puts the operating team at risk and compromises the effectiveness of the equipment.

When I was in the military, my first class Petty Officer would always say, “A danger foreseen is half avoided.” This proverb proved valuable then and still does at Praxair. Preparation for what could happen is the best step toward avoidance and at Praxair and in the military, I have seen the positive impact of preparation, accuracy and detail orientation first hand.

At Praxair and in the military, I have seen the positive impact of preparation, accuracy and detail orientation first hand.