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International Women’s Day 2020

The discussion around International Women’s Day will continue throughout March and for many, the issue of gender diversity in the aviation industry is a hot topic.

Aviation has some way to go to overcome its gender divide – in the sector, fewer than 9% of engineers are women and, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the proportion of women holding C-level roles is just 3%.

At Air Navigation Solutions, we’re proud to support greater gender diversity in aviation. In early 2019, we signed up to the Women in Aviation & Aerospace Charter, and several of our departments are split 50:50 women to men or higher.

To mark our continuing progress, we sat down with some of the brilliant women across our Engineering, Finance, ATC operations and Administrative departments to ask them about their roles, and what advice they’d give to women wanting to get into aviation.

We spoke to Watch Manager, Amanda Seddon, Air Traffic Engineer trainee Triske Abdullah, Head of Finance, Sharon Utting and Julie Pentland, Operational Assistant.

  1. Tell us more about what you do at ANSL? 

Amanda: I’m a Watch Manager at our Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tower in Edinburgh, responsible for managing tactical service provision to the airport by my team of air traffic controllers. I also specialise in procedure production for ATC use, such as writing instructional documents and performing risk assessments on new or improved ATC procedures.

Triske: I’m a Specialist Graduate Engineer in training – my job involves learning about air traffic systems.

Sharon: As Head of Finance and Financial Controller, I oversee the day to day activities of ANSL’s finance team and ensure the integrity and accuracy of the company’s financial information and systems. This also involves supporting all commercial finance matters and providing financial insights and trends.

Julie: I’m an operational assistant based at Edinburgh. I’m responsible for the day to day administration of Edinburgh Airport’s Air Traffic Control, such as publishing instructions, organising and co-ordinating tower visits and being involved in the daily and weekly operational tasks.

  1. What do you enjoy most about your job?  

Amanda: I have always enjoyed being an air traffic controller. I get a buzz out of moving aeroplanes, providing busy arrival sequences and maintaining good runway utilisation. It’s as enjoyable as the day I first validated my license – I always tell people I wouldn’t change my job for the world. I love the daily change of traffic, the constant challenges and using my brain and talent to be the best air traffic controller I can be.

Triske: I enjoy practical and interchangeable experiences along with continuous learning. I particularly enjoy the excitement that reaching different milestones brings. It is extremely encouraging and motivating.

Sharon: I love the passion of the people within ANSL and the possibilities for the company in the future.  It is exciting and I really love being part of that and working with people who feel the same. We are at the start of our development as a Finance Department and it is going to be challenging at times but ultimately rewarding.

Julie: I absolutely love my job. Everyday feels rewarding and I’m lucky to say that I have such job satisfaction. At ANSL, I have worked in many jobs where people would give their right arm to enjoy this level of satisfaction!

  1. How did you get into aviation and how has your career progressed? 

Amanda: I always wanted to be an air traffic controller or pilot and during work experience, aged 15 at Manchester Airport, I was swayed to ATC. Since arriving at Edinburgh Airport in 1999, my career has progressed quickly. I was able to train other people by the age of 22 and assess other people’s competency by the age of 24. I became a deputy Watch Manager at 25 and a Watch Manager at 28. It’s quite unusual to achieve those roles at those ages. I was significantly younger than the majority of my peers.

Triske: At university, I studied Electronic Engineering with a focus on microelectronics. When it came to applying for jobs, Air Traffic Engineering stood out to me as it incorporated everything I had studied on my course. This allowed me to put theory into practice.

Sharon: I never set out for a career in finance, much less one in aviation. I started work as a customer services executive after graduation and moved through several departments over 14 years. I eventually ended in Finance, where I studied for 8 years to gain my AAT and ACCA qualifications. I joined ANSL in February 2019 as Financial Controller and have recently become the Head of Finance. My goal is to be the first Finance Director at ANSL.

Julie:  My career began in Security at Edinburgh Airport back in 1994. Over the years, my career path has weaved in and around the aviation industry. In 2004, I returned to Edinburgh Airport and worked in Security Compliance and then Airside Operations. I am now on secondment in my current Admin position until later this year.

  1. What is your top tip for women who want to pursue a career in aviation? 

Amanda: Do it! It’s challenging but rewarding!

Triske: You shouldn’t make the decision based on ‘Gender’ as anyone can be anything they want. There are women in every department and if you do what you want to, you will never regret it. Don’t knock it till you try it, right?

Sharon: Just follow your passion. I read once – “Don’t be intimidated by a room full of men, or even a room full of people you do not know. If you follow your passion, learn as much as you can, and do good work, people will have no choice but to respect you – and if they do not, then they do not deserve your energy”.

Julie: I would say to any women who are keen to pursue a career in aviation… GO FOR IT! It is the most unique, challenging and interesting industry to be a part of. There are so many different avenues that you can venture down. Personally, no other industry would come close to working in aviation.

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