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Reflections on the 2012 Women in Aviation Conference

March 14, 2012  |  Events

By Cynthia Badiey, XOJET Senior Director of Marketing

When I first heard about XOJET, I thought the company made airplanes. I’d been working in high-tech marketing for almost two decades—before joining XOJET, I was director of marketing communications at a software company—and though I was ready for a change, I didn’t think I wanted to work for an airplane manufacturer.

And then I realized while doing my research that private aviation meant private jets. My first in-person “interview” with my boss was at the launch party for Gentry Wealth magazine. On a Challenger 300 jet. In the hangar of the Signature FBO at San Francisco Airport.

But it wasn’t the planes that got me excited about XOJET. It was the people I met that night, as well as during subsequent interviews, and their vision for the company. Over and over, people referred to XOJET as a “family.” XOJET is the first company I’ve worked at—in the last 20-some-odd years of my career in communications—where it’s actually true.

And we’re hiring, which brings me to why I was at the Women in Aviation Conference in Dallas last week. Even though aviation is stereotypically a male industry, about 10% of our pilots are women. We always find great people at this conference.

Day One: The Conference Begins

On the first day of the conference, I joined the rest of the XOJET Team in the Exhibit Hall. Here’s the XOJET booth during the calm before the storm:

XOJET at WAI 2012

And here we are, ready and waiting for the doors to open:

The XOJET team at WAI 2012

(I’m the only one not smiling or looking at the camera, second from the left. Someone was about to walk right in front of the camera, and I was concerned. That’s my job. To look concerned.)

Once the doors opened and the rest of the team got busy talking to prospective employees, I took a circle around the exhibit floor.

The Marine Corp was in the booth right next to us, using slightly stricter screening techniques:

Northeast 20120308 00052

I had to restrain myself from bidding on several different items at the Silent Auction:

Silent auction at the WAI conference

Now, how did they get a helicopter in?

Air Evac Helicopter

I chatted with all sorts of people from every aviation-related organization you can imagine, from the FAA to the EAA to the local Dallas chapter of Women in Aviation, the “DFW Mustang Sallies.” I returned to our booth to find the team swamped with potential pilots.

I also had the chance to meet Peggy Chabrian, president of Women in Aviation (here with XOJET’s Michelle Bauman):

XOJET's Michelle Bauman with Peggy Chabrian, president of Women in Aviation

At 5:45pm, the conference folks ushered out the attendees so we could pack up our booth and gather our wits. The Opening Reception offered up great cocktails and sliders, and a live band:

Live band at WAI 2012

What you can’t see in this photo (hey, I never claimed I was a professional photographer) was the packed dance floor. But at the end of a long day, our team just needed to sit down and collect ourselves:

Team lunch at WAI 2012

That’s me in the middle—smiling, finally.

After a few strategic libations, we all headed upstairs to change into comfortable clothes and “de-brief” (notice how I’m really getting up to speed with the aviation/military terms) about the day over pizza.

Day 2: The Crowd Grows

Which brings me to Friday. I was up bright and early to escort our Chief Pilot and two of our co-pilots to the Press Room, where a writer interviewed us for an article that will appear in an upcoming issue of Aviation for Women.

After the interview, it was back up to my room and my laptop. You see, strangely enough, my workload didn’t lighten while I was at the conference. I had ads to review, deadlines to meet, blog posts to edit. Suddenly it was 11:30am. I rushed back to the Exhibit Hall to find our booth packed!

Crowded XOJET booth

Even more crowded at the XOJET booth

I particularly enjoyed talking to one pilot who had brought her 10-year-old daughter for “Bring Your Daughter to the Conference” day. I thought about what great role models these women are, and I wished there had been something like Women in Aviation (but for girls wanting to be writers) when I was growing up.

The Exhibit Hall seemed more crowded today and the energy even higher. As it turned out, attendance at this year’s conference was a record 3,350! There were women in business suits, women in uniform from all branches of the military, and even women from outside the U.S. According the conference blog, women from 12 different countries attended the conference, including 112 registered from Nigeria!

Women in Aviation from Nigeria

I also enjoyed visiting the booth belonging to the Women Military Aviators, where I learned about the variety of scholarships that are available for women studying to pursue aviation careers (you don’t even have to be in the military to apply).

I got back to the booth just in time for lunch, where I scarfed down a crab melt sandwich (yum, cheese) and the team reviewed the applicants they’d met. Interestingly, it wasn’t just women who came to our booth—several enterprising guys stopped by as well to drop off their resumes.

Before I knew it, it was time for me to head to the airport. A part of me regretted not staying longer: the afternoon schedule featured all sorts of seminars that would have been interesting even to a non-pilot like me. But I was anxious to get back to my family.

To sum it all up, the Women in Aviation Conference is a great experience for pilots and non-pilots alike. The XOJET team, for example, included not only pilots but our vice president of procurement, our chief inspector, representatives from Human Resources, and last but not least, even marketing gals like me!

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