For those just starting out in aviation or thinking about getting into aviation, I offer the single most important advice my father ever taught me. This can apply to every industry, but it’s especially important in ours.
<Always protect your reputation, it is everything>
The aviation industry, in particular the aftermarket side, is a small small world after all. There are plenty of companies in the space, but the people you start to deal with on daily basis, start becoming friends and family. It’s an odd phenomenon, but if you ask most people they will tell you that they work among friends, not colleagues. This can be a really positive thing, or a really negative thing depending on your circumstance. But the most important concept to realize is that because it’s such a “small” space, how you treat people and the promises you deliver on (or don’t deliver on) can follow you around for life. Most people work on a basis of trust and a trend of experiences they’ve had dealing with you. If you’re sharp, treat people the way you want to be treated, and become TRUSTWORTHY, this industry will take care of you for the long haul. But, if you cross people the wrong way, do shady things that call your integrity into question, you’re not going to last very long.
My father has been in aviation for 30+ years and some of those same people who worked with him in the past, still reach out to him because they know he is a man of integrity and has the experience to back it up. This is what I aspire to in my career, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job. There’s an unspoken code among aviation professionals and you can easily tell who’s “got it” and who doesn’t. You need some experience under your belt before you’re fluent, but just remember the golden rule. No, it’s not he who has the gold…trust me on that one. It’s treat people fairly, don’t talk up a big game and choke in the first quarter, and don’t forget the second most important piece of advice from the father.
<The day you think you know everything, is the day life will make you realize how little you don’t>
My dad is fond of saying that after 30 years, he still learns something new everyday. It’s true. A man who has been around airplanes all of his life still finds them fascinating because he can never truly grasp everything there is to know about them. Because aviation is so fluid and constantly evolving, I think that’s what keeps things fresh and interesting in our industry. But don’t ever think that you know it all. I’ve been around guys like that and it’s sad sometimes…you have the right answer 15 ways from Sunday and they don’t want to listen. They don’t want to learn. They don’t want to evolve. They’re the old propeller planes in an age of Dreamliners, (nothing against the old school, just the old school that’s stuck in their ways).
So to recap, always protect your reputation, once it’s gone it’s gone. People don’t forget in this industry. You can never know everything there is to know about this industry. The day you think you do is the day you get in trouble. Stay curious, stay above the clouds, and keep a positive attitude (no pun intended with that last one). You just closed on some good advice.