Professional Women Controllers Training Conference Part 2

Whilst the PWC was interesting as a stand-alone set of presentations and discussions the real benefit for me was how it challenged and ultimately changed some of my thinking. Each presenter taught me a different lesson and provided me with something new to consider.

The talk presented by Dr Christine Darden was awe inspiring and made me realise what’s possible when you put your mind to it – or as Christine says, Perceive, Plan, Prepare, Persist, a mantra I have taken away with me. To hear her discuss the fight she faced to just get an education, let alone a career in NASA, was inspiring.

Dr Christine Darden

Listening to Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, talk about the work she undertakes was inspiring in itself. The joy on Gwynne’s face whilst presenting the Flacon Heavy launch was infectious, she was clearly passionate and invested in what she does. However, what really resonated was a montage of all the failed booster landings that SpaceX had produced to demonstrate that success isn’t easy – it generally involves many failures before you get to it. They also use it to give them a chance to laugh at themselves. There were many valuable lessons to digest from Gwynne’s presentation – breaking down challenges in to small parts, have belief in what you’re doing, the importance of perseverance, accepting failures as part of the road to success, and having a laugh at yourself sometimes! It was a very rewarding talk.

Listening to the Women In Aviation International (WIA) discussion made me realise that much of the work undertaken by this organisation would benefit us in the UK. Whilst WIA holds annual conferences (this years’ conference in Arizona hosted 162 companies & organisations, with 3,200 attendees) and gave out $695,000 worth of scholarships to women at all stages of their aviation careers this year there is very little comparable activity in the UK of a similar nature. Many aspects of the work undertaken by WIA could be hugely valuable to the UK aviation industry and NATS if we could set up our own similar initiatives.

The presentation from Mine the Gap co-founder Jessica Grounds was an eye-opening experience. One statistic that was astounding was that women wait to be asked on average seven times before they run for office and feel they have to be excellent to get involved or put themselves forward for positions. Listening to Jessica describe what she does made me realise that much of the work she does is to encourage women to believe in themselves and just go for it in the same way that many successful men do.

Out of the various breakout sessions I attended the one which I gained the most benefit from was the Empowering YOU session. This session gave us an overview of various tools we can use in our day to day life to advance us both professionally and personally. I found this session particularly useful as many of the topics they discussed resonated with me in the way in which I interact both personally and professionally. I have definitely brought back some tools from this session.

I found the conference to be thoroughly enjoyable, rewarding and a fantastic learning experience. I met many inspirational and professional women and have come away with a plethora of ideas and initiatives that we could bring into not only NATS, but the UK aviation industry and the UK as a whole. I learnt about so many organisations from whom we can learn much to help us work towards gender balance in our workplace.

Personally, I learnt some really valuable lessons about my own self-belief, attitude, outlook and mindset in both my personal and professional lives. The conference is enriching in so many ways for those who attend and I would strongly encourage anyone who gets the opportunity to attend in future to go along and advocate NATS and the ATCOs’ Branch to do all we can to facilitate this.

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