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From Mott MacDonald and back again Helena-Jade Simpson

Helena has finally landed her dream job and it’s safe to say she has had quite the career journey. Here’s how her love for aviation started right here at Mott MacDonald.

"I graduated with a first class classification and was the first person on my mum's side of the family to achieve a university degree."

I was introduced to Mott MacDonald through my mum who was working in the aviation team at the time, and following a successful interview, joined the Group marketing team as departmental assistant (then graphics assistant later on). During my time there I made many visits to the aviation team, and after a conversation with my mum and one of the planners, I quickly gained interest in the world of air traffic control (ATC). I was given the opportunity to shadow three excellent air traffic control officers in Shoreham Airport (now known as Brighton City Airport) for two exciting weeks. This experience cemented my passion for ATC which then went on to ignite my drive to learn as much as I could about the aviation industry as a whole.

I decided I wanted to go to university to do this, but did not have any official college qualifications, due to two of my immediate family members being hospitalised long-term at a critical stage in my studies. However, due to the experience I gained with Mott MacDonald and my persistence, I was accepted as a mature student (20 years old at the time) onto a foundation degree at the University of West London, studying airline and airport management. I managed to achieve a high grade average in my first year of university, which allowed me the opportunity to move onto the full Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours, which was only afforded to a handful of foundation students.

Throughout my degree I worked in various industries, and chose a range of different roles (such as special constable volunteer for the Metropolitan Police, a lounge supervisor for No1 Lounges and student ambassador for my university) due to their flexible zero-hour arrangements.

In my final year I decided that my dissertation would focus on how effective airport terminal planning and design can optimise capacity. I made use of my contacts at Mott MacDonald and interviewed three members of the team in aviation for my primary research. My course supervisor was so impressed that she asked for an additional copy of my dissertation to share with the course management team. I graduated with a first class classification and was the first person on my mum’s side of the family to achieve a university degree.

I decided I wanted to travel the world and thought what better way to do so than to get paid to travel as cabin crew and gain some valuable experience at the same time. I flew with easyJet and Virgin Atlantic over two years, before joining Singapore Airlines as their first airport operations graduate.

The graduate opportunity with Singapore Airlines gave me great exposure to the ins and outs of running an airline, both at their outstation in London Heathrow Terminal 2 and at their hub Changi Airport in Singapore. I also had the opportunity to get stuck into the world of cargo operations. This involved some of my most exciting career experiences to date, including a Formula 1 cargo charter for the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix and the loading of race horses for the 2017 Melbourne Cup.

I then found my way back to No1 Lounges as a guest relations manager, where I later became project manager, helping to transform their customer support strategies through the introduction of new processes and software solutions.

All my experiences have led me back to exactly where I had dreamt of being, working in the very aviation team that sparked my interest into this exciting industry almost 10 years ago.

I am now an aviation analyst working on an extremely exciting project; the redevelopment of JFK Airport which aims to return it to world-class status. This role gives me endless opportunities for personal growth and the chance to put all my knowledge and experience together for the success of the company.

I have so much to thank Mott MacDonald for, and as my very first professional employer, I can see that the possibility of them being my very last is most definitely there. If I have learnt anything from my unusual career path that I could share, it would be to talk to as many people as you can, listen, ask as many questions as you can, whenever you can, and share what you love to do with others. Oh, and don’t let the requirements for a job or qualification put you off trying, there are so many paths to get to where you want to go.

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