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Working at Heathrow means living my dream, every single day. I had always wanted to work at a large hub airport so the opportunity to kick start my career at Heathrow was impossible to resist. The sheer scale of the organisation means there is something for everyone, regardless of your field of study or area of interest, and the graduate programme gives you the opportunity to work on significant projects while learning about the airport and exploring your options. Heathrow is also committed to developing colleagues, and you will have opportunities for formal and informal training in addition to the learning that comes from your placements.
My first placement with our Business Resilience team allowed me to work on our incident response processes and develop positive relationships with operational colleagues. I was then able to contribute to Heathrow’s strategic planning, further honing my stakeholder engagement skills at public consultations and contributing to evaluations of our preferred Expansion masterplan. Finally, I worked on planning the airfield infrastructure necessary to support an expanded Heathrow as part of the Future Heathrow – Airfield team.
Seeing one of my projects used in our decision-making and incident response process will always remain a highlight. During my first placement, I worked to refresh a key tool used at Heathrow for operational decision-making and incident response. I was trusted to deliver an impactful and crucial piece of work that assists our operational colleagues every day, and through it developed stakeholder management skills and built relationships that have helped me develop in many ways. It was a proud moment when I saw a marked up and dog-eared copy of the framework, I delivered on the Airport Operations Manager’s desk during an incident response shift.
It came as no surprise when early 2020 found me huddling around the very same desk with my operational colleagues, having secured a permanent role as an Aircraft Operations Duty Manager following my time on the graduate programme. I became part of a team responsible for the utilisation and throughput of Heathrow’s two runways, alongside managing the impact of weather and air traffic regulation on our daily operation. Unfortunately, with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic my training was paused, and I was furloughed for four months. This was a particularly challenging time - I watched from home as many of my colleagues left the business or moved into new roles as part of an organisational restructure. When I returned to the AODM role, the airport was a different place entirely, with the operation scaled back to utilising just one runway and two terminals. However, I decided to make the most of the ‘slow-time’ and capitalised on the opportunity to spend time learning from those around me – culminating in being signed-off as an AODM.
When I started at Heathrow, I was aware of my long-term goals but unsure of a path to achieve them. Through the relationships I have built and honest conversations with my line managers, mentor, and other colleagues, I have been able to identify multiple paths that would help me achieve these goals while developing myself professionally and personally. These conversations also helped me realise that deviations from my original plan can be new opportunities in themselves – case in point, I now support our Airspace, Noise, and ATM Performance team in an ‘offline’ role, while still returning to cover operational shifts as an AODM. I could not have imagined the journey I’ve been on when I started at Heathrow nearly three years ago, but through it all, I’ve enjoyed my work and I’ve always been learning – two things that I always considered crucial to my job and career satisfaction. It has been challenging, but it has most certainly been worth it.
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