What does a normal day at Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) consist of for you?
Honestly, there is no normal day! One of the things I love about my role is the opportunity it presents for me to be involved in such a broad range of projects, from engaging externally with suppliers, to implementing new internal system capability. Launching the production programme means we are working hard to be match fit in our business systems, processes and of course supply chain. Making sure they are not only suitable but also scalable for the significant job ahead.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your work at HAV.
I have an inherent curiosity in transformative design and find myself drawn to the mavericks in any given scenario, so already you can see why HAV would naturally appeal! I have a degree in Sustainable Product Design from Falmouth University and post graduation I worked for several years in the public sector, focusing on human centred design. This motivated me to always put people at the forefront of innovation, looking at direct engagement and impact, but also resulting opportunities and risks. Following this, I spent several years in a large global organisation, where I progressed to become European Programme Manager. Given this blend of sustainable, impact and opportunity driven design and corporate project management I couldn’t have asked for a better fit than to work on Airlander could I?
I have recently become a Mum and it is imperative for me to show my daughter that no door is closed to her, that her voice matters. Returning to work has emphasised to me even more that what we are working towards with Airlander is not just an exciting thing to be part of, but that opening up the world and making aviation greener is an essential thing for future generations.
What brought you to HAV?
Put simply, I wanted to be part of something unique. Anyone who was lucky enough to witness Airlander fly, to see the aircraft on mast or in the hangar, will know that feeling of excited anticipation. The belief that this was the beginning of something special, a product that would challenge industry and ask big questions of those responsible for our futures. Many good intentions fail as soon as they leave the drawing board, but Airlander was in the air and already forcing people to acknowledge that we need to do better, be greener. I had to be part of the team that will make this common place in our skies.
How did you end up in a career in aviation?
I got lucky! My background is quite varied but many of the skill sets are transferable, with demonstrable experience in change management, NPI and large fleet management (albeit locomotives), plus my degree in sustainable design. At HAV, there’s a lot of emphasis put on hiring the right personalities for the team, that align with the company values, believe in the product, and will step outside of their comfort zone and challenge the norm.
What do you enjoy most about your job in project management?
I can oversee a project from inception to installation and beyond, the kind of lifecycle management rarely afforded in roles. The culture at HAV fosters collaboration across all functions and levels of the business, meaning that I can help to influence the strategy going forward as we move into production. You have to adapt and respond to fast moving situations, and this agility really pushes people to be at their best; everyone in the team believes in the art of the possible and the unique nature of Airlander attracts the most creative minds, all of whom constantly challenge each other and the business to be at its best. It makes for an intense but highly rewarding environment to be in.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Dare I use the “C word”…?
Covid. During this time the aviation industry was hit hard, but it really shone a spotlight on the necessity to clean up our skies and highlighted the role Airlander could play in this. However, it felt like the world was frozen in time waiting to see what the next lockdown would bring before it responded, so sitting on the answer, the frustration was palpable. Yet in this bubble we made significant strides internally. We moved from being a company flying a successful prototype aircraft to a business configured for multi-aircraft production. This was a huge leap in all aspects, not least mentality, and to make such vital changes during a global pandemic, when the world was adjusting to a new way of working was incredibly challenging.
What advice do you have for those interested in a career in STEM?
It sounds so cliché but believe in yourself. If you want something, work for it. Barriers will be put in your way for any number of reasons, but instead of letting them stop you choose to let them make you stronger. STEM itself is all about challenging the status quo, resilience and hard work, attributes that you can start building now. Opportunity follows attitude.