Interview by Mariana Valencia – Customer Service Manager of Eurodistribution
We continue with the interviews with women who develop their profession within the Euroairlines Group. Today we interviewed Mariana Valencia, from the Euroairlines Group headquarters in Mexico, who currently works as Customer Service Manager at FLG Aviation.
What is your specific role in the airline industry and what skills are needed to carry it out successfully?
Currently my role in the industry is support or back office to different areas or processes of airline companies. Some examples of the support I provide are, for example, BackOffice for commercial management, service to airports/stations, passengers and agencies. More than skills, I believe that it is necessary to know in depth the processes that are carried out since these vary depending on the area or process in which the support is given and, normally, the attention adheres to the guidelines of the clients (airlines) that usually They require high multitasking skills or average times in the procedures to be carried out.
What is your current position in the airline industry and what are your main responsibilities?
My current position is Customer Service Manager for the Euroairlines Group, which includes different companies such as Euroairlines, FLG Aviation and Eurodistribution. I am based in the company's headquarters in Mexico and my responsibilities include both operational management (knowing and attending to the processes mentioned in the previous question) and administrative management (training and distribution of personnel, statistical and/or quality reports in the efforts carried out at a general and other relative level where the support and leadership of a team of attention to various areas focused on aviation intervenes).
What motivated you to look for work in this sector and how did you get to where you are now?
Although I graduated as a Software Engineer, working in aviation is one of the things that I am most grateful to my father, may he rest in peace, and to whom I owe my entire career in this field since, without him, I would not be where I am now.
I started with a work permit for minors (15 years old) in the same company as my father, but in separate areas. While my father maintained and supervised the equipment and processes used on the air ramp during the airplanes' ground periods, I went to direct passenger service at airport departures and arrivals (Traffic Agent). This early approach and the fact of working side by side with my father on the same flight, but in different areas, was what indirectly directed my career towards aviation and the global vision of the processes since this (the global vision) is something that is lost when we work in the same area for a long time.
Have you encountered any obstacles or prejudices in your career due to your gender? If so, how have you overcome it?
I have not perceived obstacles in relation to gender, but in relation to my lack of experience and my age I have. I remember that in my beginnings in aviation and in my first position promotion to supervising ground operations, it was very difficult to be accepted by my peers because I was inexperienced and relatively “young” for the positions held, thus causing me to receive few learning opportunities and support. or growth and it was not until my adaptation, organization and learning skills were highlighted that I gained the respect and collaboration that I would have liked to receive from the beginning of my career. This same respect and collaboration is what I currently try to convey when we have new entries at our station in Mexico.
Luckily, at the Euroairlines Group I can carry out my work with absolute freedom and I have the trust that they have given me for more than 8 years to be able to lead the department independently.
Could you share an interesting or exciting anecdote that you experienced at work?
In aviation there is always something new and interesting to tell. I fondly remember my first day at work where I guarded a minor in the departure lounges and they sent me, ironically, since in my first job I had a minor work permit (15 years old). and the minor whom I took care of at the request of the parents was 17.
Another not so pleasant but interesting memory from my first years in the industry is that, on one occasion, a flight was delayed due to windshield failure and a part replacement was estimated in a time that finally tripled due to predictable causes and poor cost calculations. repair times and part replacement coordination. On that occasion, although the clients were taken to rest in a hotel while it was resolved, due to poor communication and calculations, there was a commotion of more than 250 passengers in the departure lounges for bringing them 12 hours before the departure of their flight.
Here I was able to perceive both the fatigue of all the workers who had to endure poor planning that led to excessive hours of work and poor treatment of clients, as well as the anger and the panorama of frustrated, tired and clearly affected clients, there was even a majority of passengers (who finally convinced the majority and which caused the case to be escalated to the authorities to calm the environment) who simply assumed that the airline did not want to pay for another day of accommodation and that is why they were brought early when it really was poor communication, which could have been prevented, between areas of the same flight. Here I was able to perceive the mettle that must be had in the face-to-face attention of a large group of annoying clients and the great social skills that must be developed in this type of positions with face-to-face attention and in real-time operations.
Could you share a project you have worked on that has had a significant impact on the airline industry or the company you work for?
I always move towards optimizing management and organization. Some projects that I carried out as a traffic agent in my first years of career at airports were the organization of personnel and stationery resources (boarding passes, labels, etc.) since in high seasons there were no controls of consumed and remaining resources. as well as tasks for collaborators, which is why I worked in critical seasons in assigning work roles to my colleagues with permission from my supervisor at the time and discovering shortcuts in the systems for greater speed.
When I changed from airports to back office and, together with the drive and ease of sales that I developed, I was able to aspire to more knowledge, extending myself to commercial campaigns for which at the time I received pleasant congratulations regarding the results. In these campaigns I ended up generating a template of basic dialogues, experience in dealings with travel agencies on behalf of airlines and an organized file with classifications on campaign follow-ups that helped replicate the process more easily with other colleagues who carried out this task after me.
How do you think gender and cultural diversity in the workplace benefits the airline industry?
I think that on a general level, working with different people regardless of gender and culture provides great learning in communication and listening, as well as in the way or perception of life that each of us has. To this we add working with different areas of aviation, different countries, cultures, gender and operational visions, resulting in a magnificent enrichment in the understanding of general processes both at an industry level and at a global level. For me, having worked in different aviation processes and having known a diversity of people and cultures has undoubtedly enriched me both personally and professionally.
What advice would you give to young women considering a career in this sector?
I think the most important thing is to first understand the processes that work entails and always aspire to better treatment conditions, positions, opportunities that enrich us and knowledge regardless of the fear that trying different areas or roles causes us at the beginning.
Aviation is a wonderful world that has many areas, companies and sub-companies where, even if you stray away, you find yourself back on the road. At 32 years old, of which 17 have been working in different aviation roles, I can confirm that I have been serving the same airlines more than once, from different roles and by chance of life, or reuniting with old colleagues in customer service positions. to the same clients or companies that I have served, so always remember, regardless of the position, to make good connections and be an excellent colleague with all those you work with even if it is not your area (From the person receiving your flight or from the mechanic from the plane to the aircraft cleaning staff or the telephone operator who provides support in the event of a reservation). Learning, being empathetic and teaching or optimizing what we learn and, above all, understanding the general picture and the weight of your work on a large scale, in my opinion, is what keeps you in the minds of your former colleagues throughout your career. and which constantly creates new opportunities for job growth and knowledge expansion.
What is the biggest challenge facing women in the airline industry and what can be done to address it?
Although there are countries that are more advanced than others, I believe that we must have a global vision when we work side by side with other companies, countries or colleagues. In my region (Latin America) women currently have more opportunities, however, there is still a fairly high gender wage gap. In addition to this, we must add the culturally complicated situations of some women with responsibilities and leadership roles in their family units and the tendency to hold them responsible for raising children. According to the Deputy Director General of Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO in Mexico, according to the latest data, women carry out 73% of the household work and unpaid care work and men only 27%” which means that, The absence of a woman at home is felt much more in the family nucleus than that of a man.
To address this problem both locally and globally, it seems to me that starting by being more human and more flexible in issues that do not reduce the quality of work is a fundamental and basic key to supporting women in circumstances where their personal life has a demand. equal to or greater than your job role. Depending on the role played, some benefits may be home office, flexibility in schedules, recognition of their role as a mother on the local holiday that warrants it, a work environment of free expression, opportunities for growth in knowledge and skills, social or public programs to support companies in favor of the worker, etc.
How do you ensure that you keep your skills and knowledge up to date in the field of the airline industry?
I think that with constant change it is inevitable to stay updated on general things. As a team leader, it is important for me not to leave aside operational management that continues to provide me with vision, experience, effectiveness and, above all, general understanding of operational processes regardless of my leadership role.
Another thing that I consider important is to review in detail the processes involved in areas other than aviation since this provides greater learning and possible optimizations of these procedures.
What steps can this industry take to foster a more inclusive and equitable work environment for women?
Training and new learning opportunities give women greater empowerment in their work roles.
Likewise, taking advantage of company support programs for the benefit of employees, such as health campaigns or external training, helps to create a comprehensive profile of our collaborators.
In our case, for example (Cancún), we have made an alliance of free psychological talks provided to companies by a public institution where we deal with issues of both work importance (stress, burnout, time organization, attention to conflictive clients, etc. ) as of personal importance and/or in feminine roles (regulation of emotions, gender violence, social skills, assertive communication, etc.). At the end of the day, it is the companies' responsibility to build a solid team through assessment, since the greater the turnover of personnel, the lower the quality of the work environment. The creation of opportunities and safe spaces to develop to the maximum both professionally and personally go hand in hand since, if you want a solid team, mutual growth must be taken into account.