Happy International Women’s Day 2021! This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallengeand that resonates strongly in the aviation industry that’s been a historically male-dominated field. From challenge comes change and we look forward to creating a more inclusive industry and encouraging women to seek out careers in aviation.
In honor of the holiday, we talked with a diverse group of women at Gogo to see what attracted them to the business aviation industry and Gogo, and how they think we can #ChooseToChallenge and inspire change.
“As a child, I flew often on the airlines and fell in love with every aspect of the flight experience so when I saw an opportunity to work on the Customer Support team at Gogo (at the time Aircell), I was intrigued and hired,” says Liz McKenzie, Regional Sales Associate.
McKenzie joined Gogo in 2011 and previously worked as a buyer in the supply chain industry. She loves the opportunity to work in business aviation at Gogo as she knows she'll learn something new every day. McKenzie is a great example of Gogo's value of being mission minded by constantly anticipating the needs of our customers and being passionate about finding the right solution for them.
McKenzie's sales role serves the great states of Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Annette Scheihing, Director, Sales Operations, also came to Gogo when it was still Aircell and joined the Customer Service team. She tell us that, "I was looking to change direction and going from commercial aviation to business aviation seemed to make sense - little did I know how much I had to learn! I wasn't sure at the time if this was the place for me long-term but it didn't take long to figure that one out. Special thanks to Krista Crandall, who I worked with in my past life, and for really helping me to see what was special about this company!"
Suzzette Maisano, Sr. Director – Technical Operations, also got her first taste of the aviation industry as a child. “I started my aviation career in the sixth grade when I had the opportunity to take my first intro flight with my brother, who had his private pilot’s license.” She then attended Metropolitan State University before becoming a flight instructor. “I had a first officer position with a Part 135 charter operation flying a Learjet 24 and 25. I transitioned to flying for Skywest Airlines and shortly thereafter for United Airlines on the awesome Boeing 727.”
Maisano adds, “After 9/11, I was fortunate to be a part of the Boeing Company for 16 years, where I led several teams responsible for developing navigational data and an Operational Excellence team focused on quality and supporting a problem-solving culture.” This makes Maisano a perfect fit at Gogo as one of our core values is being “bold problem solvers.”
Yen Mai, an Engineer in Network Operations, also embodies the value of being a bold problem solver for our business aviation customers and adds that, “When I joined the business aviation team, it was at an exciting point its evolution and it has continued to grow and expand. I have worked on many of our technologies, such as ATG, ATG4, 2KU, and other business aviation products. I love the ability to help solve our customers’ problems and see their satisfaction.”
Mai started as a Systems Integration Engineer at Gogo in 2010 and now supports our vendors and internal teams with flight tests. She holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, and prior to joining Gogo has worked on lighting systems for taxiways at airports, designing test equipment, and implementing control systems.
“I have been at Gogo for almost four years and am enjoying supporting our customers, and our technical and customer support teams to carry out our vision of connecting lives with the highest value of communication services,” says Maisano. “I chose Gogo and business aviation to share my experience with an incredibly innovative and creative company in a fast-paced, demanding industry.”
Nicole Greczyn, Manager, Systems Engineering, holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas and a Master’s degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and she explains how she became a valued Gogo employee more than eight years ago, “During graduate school, I was introduced to Eric Lemond, who at the time was looking to fill an internship position at Gogo. I did not know a great deal about the business aviation market at the time but luckily many people at Gogo were willing to teach me about our market, our products, and our customers.”
Greczyn has also been recognized by the National Business Aviation Association on their Top 40 Under 40 list. Gogo is lucky to have her!
Giving a nod to another woman featured on our list, Greczyn adds, “Annette Scheihing was an early influencer for me; as a smart, respected person at Gogo and among others in the industry, she allowed me to see a bright future in the male-dominated field of aviation.”
“I chose Gogo because I was looking for a growing technology company where I could leverage my talents to make a significant impact on the business. I wasn’t necessarily looking for an opportunity in aviation but I easily connected with our products and I knew when I was introduced to Gogo, that I had the opportunity to connect my love for travel with my passion for building and scaling teams and organizations to deliver against our business strategy in a dynamic industry,” says Karen Jackson, Gogo’s Chief People Experience Officer.
She adds, “It’s been a wild six years, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Jackson has been with our company since 2015 and is responsible for Gogo’s talent strategy, culture, and human resources, while also supporting internal communications, safety, and facilities. She holds a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Illinois and an MBA from the Fuqua School at Duke University.
McKenzie says about Gogo, “the sky’s the limit when it comes to opportunities here.”
Lucy Nicol-Lints, Director of Marketing Operations and Demand Gen, adds to the conversation saying, "I think there's a visibility issue that can be off-putting to women, when you don't see yourself reflected in an industry or career it creates a perception that you aren't welcome, or there isn't a place for you. Providing visibility to women across different career paths within the industry would build not just a greater sense of inclusivity but provide insight into the variety of options that are available to build a career in aviation."
Nicol-Lints has been leading the demand generation marketing team for more than two and a half years and holds a BSc degree in Management Sciences from Loughborough University, England.
Greczyn remarks that companies need to be more aware and mindful during the hiring process to ensure women are included and welcome. “Hiring managers tend to unconsciously gravitate to candidates like them (it is human nature). But this means if you start from a mostly male leadership team, it requires extra attention to inherent gender biases,” says Greczyn. “It means paying more attention to the qualifications and qualities of a candidate, rather than the volume of a voice or the firmness of a handshake (which can be mislabeled as a level of confidence).”
Jackson focuses on the experiences and benefits aviation companies can provide to be more inclusive to women in the workforce. She tells us, “Gogo embarked on a journey to attract and retain more women several years ago, and while we still have much work to do, we recognized right away we needed to assess the whole experience of working at Gogo. That included reviewing any policies and programs to ensure they were flexible and accommodating to all employees, but especially to women who tend to carry a heavier load at home for their families.”
To reach that goal of being more accommodating, Jackson helped drive change for women in aviation at Gogo by:
Adjusting our parental leave policy to include up to 14 weeks paid leave
Adding a paid 6-week family caregiver leave
Shifting from paid time off to a discretionary time off policy
Jackson notes, “We wanted our employees to know we will support them when important family matters need to and should take priority. Taking steps like these can go a long way in welcoming more women into aviation.”
McKenzie says it’s rewarding to share her enthusiasm with other women who are interested in this diverse industry and speaks highly of women-led aviation organizations to find support and help other women by acting as mentors.
Mai echoes this sentiment and focuses on starting the conversation early with more awareness of aviation careers at the educational level. “We can provide greater exposure in school, college, and other events to promote awareness to the next generation of young women.” She recommends partnering with these programs, such as STEM, to encourage women to seek out careers in aviation. She also brings a broad perspective to it by highlighting the different areas of business aviation availabe to work in, such as engineering, finance, IT, networking, technical support, and management.
“By joining and attending organization events that benefit women is a great start. You’ll make new friends and find mentors who will help you achieve your goals,” McKenzie advises. She talked about Women in Corporate Aviation as an excellent resource for networking, mentoring, and scholarship opportunities.
Nicol-Lints agrees with McKenzie's train of thought and adds on to it by saying, "Don't hold back, if aviation is something you are passionate about just go for it - be yourself, work hard, and deliver your best work. Your actions and contributions will speak much louder than your gender. Also, seek out other women who work in aviation, there are great networks out there that are full of advice and opportunities - and of course support!"
“Although the industry has been hit hard by the effects of COVID-19, it’s in that inflection point where you’ll find the most opportunity. Aviation will hit its stride again and being a part of helping a company reinvent or build itself back up will give you skills, relationships, and experiences you’ll leverage for a lifetime,” adds Jackson.
Greczyn tells us, “The same advice I would give to any woman in any industry – go after what you want and do not let the current state of affairs intimidate you. The business of aviation is interesting and exciting, and the only way we will create a more diverse industry is if you keep showing up.”
Scheihing's advice aligns with Greczyn's and she draws inspiration from her own Gogo career by continually developing and moving up, from customer service to sales operations. Her advice to other women is, "The same advice that I would give to women looking at any career - take some time to research the industry and the careers/positions available. Put in the time and effort needed to be qualified for those positions, whatever that might be. Try other positions that may not be exactly what you want to start with, but give you the opportunity to learn and grow. As that happens, more opportunities become open to you."
She also recommends leaning on committees and industry associations to drive change. "Contact some organizations like Women in Aviation, CABA, NBAA, Women in Corporate Aviation, AEA, and any other groups that can support and promote your learning and growth in this industry. In my experience, hard work pays off. Period. Just focus on that and you’ll be okay. And you just might have some fun along the way!"
Maisano adds, “My advice to women looking for aviation careers is simple: set your sights, never give up, find a few friends along the way, and remember that anything is possible.”
Our President, Sergio Aguirre, joins the conversation and adds that women play an integral role in making business aviation a successful and empowering industry. “Women have been an important part of aviation from the very beginning with the likes of E. Lilian Todd, who started designing her first aircraft in 1906! Because lives are on the line every time an aircraft takes off and lands, we have to have the most talented and dedicated professionals designing, manufacturing, maintaining, and operating these aircraft. Companies and managers that neglect to consider 50% of the workforce will never be able to compete successfully in today’s market.”
At Gogo, inclusivity is built into our values and our success is earned by putting the right people in the right roles and creating extraordinary harmony by recognizing and celebrating our diverse talents, attributes, and experiences.
We want to say a quick thank you to everyone who shared what it means to be a woman in aviation and encourage you to #ChooseToChallenge in 2021.