July 26, 2021

The aviation community has created a national support network of allies that can help tomorrow’s industry leaders find a voice for their authentic self and create the foundation of a network that will guide them throughout their career, noted a panel of experts during the inaugural event of NBAA’s 2021 Collegiate Connect webinar series.

Authenticity is becoming more important in today’s workplace, said Tennessee Garvey, programs co-chair at the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP). “Employers are transitioning from hiring people based purely on their technical skills to hiring people who embody the organization and who will improve the company or corporate culture,” said Garvey. “Technical skills are still required, but employers are hiring people who are true to themselves, people who are authentic and I think people who show these traits will see a lot of doors open for them.”

View: Being Your Authentic Self in Aviation; Finding Your Allies So You Can See It, Be It.

That authentic voice can be hard to develop, but finding support networks that represent you and your values will provide an encouraging and enriching environment to nurture and strengthen a sense of self, noted Brian Gambino, president of the National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA).

“I did not know about NGPA when I was in college, but I know that it would have been an asset to me,” said Gambino. “I am extremely lucky to have parents who were engaged in my childhood and my aspirations, but there are a lot of people within the LGBTQ community who unfortunately lose their family when they are their authentic self.

“At NGPA, we see ourselves as a new family, an affirming social network of like-minded individuals that gives people the confidence to be authentic,” Gambino added. “Confidence is so important in bringing your authentic self anywhere. If you are not confident in yourself, you are not going to be willing to show your authentic self to the world.”

Support networks strengthen as careers blossom, said Allison McKay, CEO of Women in Aviation International (WAI). “It is important for people, especially young women, who may find themselves in a collegiate program where they don’t see a lot of other young women, to have a network that they can turn to and utilize throughout their education,” noted McKay.

“Building a community that may be more like you will benefit you beyond college,” she explained. “Career paths are very fluid, it’s always going to be changing and you are going to get opportunities you didn’t even know existed when you were in school, so forming a network early on will only serve you as your career navigates that flow.”

Scott Vlasek, national president of the professional collegiate aviation fraternity Alpha Eta Rho, recommended that future professionals take advantage of the college environment to develop skills that will prove useful in a career. “In 75% or 80% of classes, there are group projects. I would encourage students to step up and take charge of these groups,” said Vlasek.”This will help you develop those leadership skills and mentoring skills that will really help your career.”

He also encouraged students to take writing, public speaking and communication skills courses “because those are the skills that are going to help you develop your career,” and to attend events hosted by the likes of NBAA, NGPA, OBAP and WAI to appreciate the importance of professionalism and timeliness in a business environment.

For student aviators interested in a military career, Brig. Gen. Christopher Walker, special assistant to the director of the Air National Guard for diversity and inclusion, noted the importance of “the right stuff” as well as technical excellence. “Military aviators fly into situations that most people would fly away from, and you need a certain mentality to do that. First and foremost, this requires someone to value service before self,” he explained. “We need people who are willing to do the right thing despite what the popular thing is, and we need people who listen to understand because when you are a leader, you also need to have all of your people feel as if they are being heard.”

NBAA’s Collegiate Connect program is a three-part webinar series that prepares college-aged students headed to NBAA’s 2021 Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) in October.

Learn more about the Collegiate Connect webinar series.