Aryn: Thanks for catching up with me, Jessica! I’ve had the pleasure of working with you before, but can you share a bit about your Hispanic heritage for our readers?
Jessica: I was born in Colombia and lived there until I was about three years old before my family made the move to the United States. I was raised in Florida where I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by my family and a strong Latin culture.
Aryn: How has being Hispanic impacted your experience in achieving your dream of becoming a pilot?
Jessica: Growing up as a pilot’s daughter, one would think that I would have been inspired as a little girl to be a pilot but it wasn’t until I was about 17 years old and applying to colleges that I decided I wanted to become a pilot. The lack of visibility of pilots who looked like me created a barrier to realizing what my dream could be. All it took was for me was to meet someone like me.
The moment when I really envisioned myself being a pilot for the first time was meeting one of my dad’s friends who is a Colombian female and was a corporate pilot. The seed was planted in my head and I scheduled my Discovery Flight shortly after. If I had more role models who looked like me I might have started on the track way sooner!
Aryn: That is amazing—I wonder if she knows what an impact she had on you! Such a testament to the power of representation. In what other ways do you feel the Hispanic culture prepared you or empowered you for this career?
Jessica: Community and family are the roots of Colombian culture and I try to carry that as much as I can into my work. Of course, it doesn’t always happen in those fast-paced days but my best work is when I am connecting with my flight ground crews and having a good time.
Aryn: I love to hear that you’re able to bring a sense of fun to your career. How do you see yourself inspiring other Hispanic youth, specifically Hispanic females, to explore a career in aviation?
Jessica: I have been lucky to be involved with numerous non-profits to help inspire the next generation of pilots and help them be successful in their careers, including Dreams Soar and the Professional Pilots of Tomorrow.
Dreams Soar was amazing to be part of as that was direct outreach events aimed to plant the idea of becoming a pilot to youth around the world. It was led by Shaesta Waiz who became the youngest woman to fly around the world in a single engine aircraft and utilized a team of college students including myself to create outreach events to women minorities across 30 countries.
Professional Pilots of Tomorrow is a community of pilots who believe in the value of mentorship, especially in the beginning of a pilot’s career. Through unbiased mentorship, pilots with few flight hours can be pointed in the right direction to achieve their dream job and navigate the job selection process as a new pilot.
Aryn: Both sound like great organizations— can you tell me a bit more about your involvement with Professional Pilots of Tomorrow?
Jessica: My current passion project is serving as the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Professional Pilots of Tomorrow. As a non-profit, non-biased organization, there is so much opportunity to partner with minority organizations such as Latin Pilots Association, National Gay Pilots Association, Organization for Black Aerospace Professionals and many more. I work to make sure the least represented pilots entering the industry are welcomed into an equitable workplace that includes lending them a helping hand to make sure they are making the best choices in their careers.
In addition to helping my fellow minorities, I work to empower allies in connecting their less-represented friends with opportunities—this includes coaching them to recognize biases and standing up for their peers when needed.
Aryn: Your passion for the organization is contagious— how did you get involved with Professional Pilots of Tomorrow?
Jessica: I got involved with Professional Pilots of Tomorrow as a junior in college. At the time, I was feeling overwhelmed as I navigated each of my options in choosing where to begin my career and all of the information I had to take into consideration. I joined as a pilot who needed some guidance on what to look for and was paired with a wonderful mentor that has been there for me every step of the way. My mentor helped me throughout my application process for various corporate operations, airlines and even coached me through my first regional airline interview. She ultimately was able to reaffirm my decision that Republic Airways was the best fit for what I was looking for.
Since then, I have taken on the role of Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion after leadership reached out to me looking for a way to further Professional Pilots of Tomorrow’s efforts of not only creating a diverse industry, but an inclusive and equitable one as well—not just by supporting the buzz words of DEI, but truly understanding and embodying what DEI stands for as well.
Aryn: How do your peers support your involvement with PPOT?
Jessica: My peers believe in the value of not only having a mentor, but also having a network of mentors who will give share honest answers and realities of what it’s like to work for your airline. They understand that no one has had a career in aviation without the support of a mentor. My network has helped support me in various projects and in making connections to organizations who need the most support.
To learn more about Professional Pilots of Tomorrow, visit https://www.theppot.org/.