In this month’s spotlight, we catch up with our engineer-in-training, Stella Freiderikou, as she tells us about her change in career, her aspirations in Aviation and her journey as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
1. Hi Stella! Let’s kick things off, what do you like to get up to in your time outside of work?
In my spare time, I like to travel either to Athens to visit friends and family and spend time with them or travel to other destinations. Travelling is liberating, educational and it relieves the stress from work. I also enjoy reading, listening to music, go-karting, or studying for aircraft maintenance.
2. Have you always wanted a career in aviation? Was there a defining moment that made you realize this was what you wanted to do?
Our educational system, unfortunately, pushes teenagers to decide what they want to do in their lives at a very young age. When you are 18 you haven’t seen the world, you haven’t experienced truly what could be your calling work-wise. So, after school, I got into the American College of Greece and I got a Bachelors degree in Communications and Public Relations, a degree that I admit helped me a lot for handling life in general, but it wasn’t till 14 years later that I discovered what I truly wanted to do in life. A defining moment for me was when I took my students to a hangar visit and I saw the F-110 engine being tested at the engine test cell. I was always drawn to engines and speed since a young age, but that moment seeing this engine I knew! My mentor Kostas Christodoulakis played a defining role in my career till today. He became my teacher, he supported and believed in me since the beginning that I expressed my view for the future, to become an aircraft engineer.
3. What steps are you taking to become a licensed engineer?
I started by studying to take my modules for B1.1, B1.2, B1.3, B1.4, and B2. It required a lot of effort, as my educational background was not from a technical school. I was working in the Hellenic Aerospace Industry and in parallel, I was attending courses at Ikaros Aviation Training Centre 147, Cyprus Larnaca. After I completed all 17 modules, I got an offer to work as a junior aircraft engineer for a civil aviation company on B737s based in Napoli, Italy. Bostonair came in a moment which was somewhat unexpected, in the middle of the Covid 19 pandemic and after I was made redundant from my previous company. I now fill in my logbook which is mandatory for applying for a license, and I keep on studying and hoping to learn as much as I can to be ready to acquire my license.
4. Did you have any worries/anxieties about starting a career in such a male-dominated industry? If so, how did you overcome them?
Well, after I discovered my passion which is aircraft maintenance, I never thought that men would stand in my way. The anxiety kicked in when I started working because some people tried but I never allowed them to stand in my way. Discrimination, lack of support, having to prove yourself every single day, etc., is a fact in aviation towards women, but it has to do with each woman’s character from then onwards on how she will react to overcome that. Aviation to women is not a walk in the park and only if you are determined to succeed, you’ll make it. As Alexander The Great has said, “There is nothing impossible to him who will try”. I am fortunate enough because at Bostonair and particularly in my shift, I have wonderful colleagues who return the respect, I am being treated equally, we help each other and they teach me every single day.
5. What is a typical day working with Bostonair like for you?
We start the shift every day at 07.00 a.m. during the day shift. I’m assigned my tasks for the day. We work on A300s and B757s mostly, we check the work packs, check the aircraft documentation for deferred items and open entries in the TLB. After that, we study the manuals, we check the availability of spare parts that might be needed, we prepare our tooling and we head to the aircraft to complete the maintenance tasks needed. Most common everyday tasks include wheel and brake changes, fault isolations, trouble shootings, nav data updates etc. and more rare tasks include engine replacements and APUs, and certain scheduled tasks as A checks and L checks. Since I am up for a B1-B2 license in the future, I am working with my colleague for my B2 tasks who is excellent and highly experienced and for my B1 tasks, I work with another colleague who is a brilliant teacher as well. The whole team is extremely helpful and caring and although we are all from different countries thus different cultures and backgrounds, in the end, we collaborate perfectly as one.
6. You’ve gone from teaching to becoming a mechanic who is well on her way to achieving both her B1 and B2 licenses, how does it feel now being so close to achieving your dream job?
I was teaching young mechanics from the Presidential Guard Of UAE, Technical English for Aviation Maintenance, and because of that experience, I moved on, to what I discovered I truly wanted to do. I am already in my dream job, every day I’m living the dream! The things I will acquire more are experience, knowledge, and eventually a stamp. I feel somehow accomplished in the sense that although it was hard in the beginning, now I have managed through hard work to shift any negativity and turn the disadvantages into advantages.
7. What would you say to other women looking to get into the industry?
Do not hesitate to go for it! If aviation is your passion, then trust that your passion will drive you to success in this profession no matter the obstacles you will encounter because you will! But determination and hard work will get you to places you’ve never imagined. There is a feeling of accomplishment once you start becoming better and better, that will be your reward and will make every hardship count as a blessing in the end. And to quote my favourite poet Charles Bukowski, “I am a series of small victories and large defeats and I am as amazed as any other that I have gotten from there to here”. Being consistent and persistent in your dreams will make you a winner no matter what!
8. If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
If I could go back in time, I would change the fact that I allowed other people’s opinions to stall my dreams because of their ill advice. I would not pay attention to those who told me when I wanted to start, that it would be too hard to get there, so I should probably skip it as it is too late for me. This advice made me 4 years late. I would have both my B1 and B2 by now! Today, I am not allowing fear to stall me anymore so I have in the end to thank these people for that great lesson. It is never too late; I am the proof!
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