This week BAA Training has been posting many relatively uncommon but commonly engaging and inspiring success stories of women of aviation, including female managers. These women know who they are, what they want, and what steps they need to take to achieve their dreams. They all have different backgrounds and career goals, but it seems like each of them has been “bitten by an aviation bug.“ It is nice to admit that BAA Training has many senior female managers. These ladies are a valuable asset to the company and challenge-hungry, self-fulfilling personalities. One of the female managers – Head of Ab Initio Ground School, Agata Pradedovic – is taking her time today to speak about women in general and herself in the aviation context.
Working at BAA Training
What and when brought you to aviation?
I found myself in the aviation field rather accidentally. In November of 2011, I took an opportunity to join BAA Training that a recruitment agency offered me. Frankly speaking, I knew very little about pilot training back then but was curious to learn and explore. I right away joined the rapidly expanding Ab Initio school as a Project Manager Assistant. Shortly after, I was promoted to a Training Project Manager role. A couple of years later, I started working with product development, then operations management followed, and gradually I reached the stage I am today. Through these almost ten years, I’ve gained a lot of versatile experience, and together with the team, we have been creating value for those launching themselves into aviation.
The beauty of working in aviation
I am aware that once you were on “a break “from your aviation career, but then you came back. Does it signify that something is captivating about aviation? What is it for you?
It is true. Anybody can get tired of the fast pace at work accompanied by stress, challenges, and unforeseen circumstances. However, when you suddenly get deprived of these, you actually start missing the uneasy yet habitual and meaningful environment. This is what happened to me personally. I realized that I wanted to continue to be challenged and grow professionally.
When working with clients signing up for initial pilot training, you feel the level of value you create for them is immense at the end of the day. I mean here that some of these people’s destinies are taking a turn right in front of your eyes, and you make your contribution to it. The feeling of satisfaction with your own actions and happiness for them is indeed priceless. One more aspect that played a role in me coming back to aviation work is a multicultural environment and a wide scope of activities.
Changes in theoretical pilot training
You are responsible for the initial pilot training theory part, which is the basis that later on allows a student pilot to get on a plane and start their flight training. What changes, if any, is the theoretical pilot training going through these days? What is important to instill into a future pilot to ensure they fly passengers safely?
Theoretical pilot training is reorganized with the Area 100 KSA (Knowlege, Skills and Attitudes) philosophy being injected into it. In line with the EASA provision, we are adding this subject to Ab Initio training programs to ensure student pilots get competency-based education instead of conventional methods that are now viewed as outdated and failing to perform their function.
The learning objectives are to develop and access ICAO core competencies. These include communication, leadership, teamwork, problem-solving and decision-making, situation awareness, workload management, and knowledge application. Exposing students to real-world situations, encouraging them to develop effective strategies, come up with the right behavioral patterns during emergencies is our main focus. Besides introducing functional and operational changes, we have to change the students’, instructors’, and employees’ mindsets, and it is the most important.
We, as a company, have been moving towards competency-based training for a while now. We launched a non-technical skills training in 2019, albeit it was not mandatory by regulation. Therefore, it has served as a good introduction to a competency-based approach.
Online instructor-led theoretical training
How difficult was it to introduce distance learning that the pandemic has urged?
Once the pandemic struck, we were forced to do something we had never done before. In my opinion, we were prompt and efficient in responding to the abnormality. The quarantine started on March 16, 2020, and on March 17, 2020, we launched our online instructor-led training. Our Ab Initio students were not only able to progress with their theoretical training but also they could take their examinations online. Consequently, they did not face any further delays during their theoretical training. Thus, they were happy using their time efficiently during the lockdown, especially since many were stuck in a foreign country.
Thoughts and feelings
Do you like traveling by plane? What fascinates you most about it?
I do like traveling, but as ironic as it may sound, I also fear flying. When I think about it, I conclude that it may be because of an inevitable loss of control once in the air. Nevertheless, I have tried flying as a passenger on small airplanes, such as Cessna or Tecnam – the adrenaline was pumping for sure! I must admit that since I work in the aviation industry and see how things are done day to day, the fear of flying is definitely getting alleviated little by little.
What would you advise a girl who dreams of becoming a pilot but is puzzled because this path seems to be just too drastic?
I would advise any girl to pursue her goal as long as she really wants it. No matter if the girl wants to be a pilot, a doctor, a politician, an engineer, or a mother. She should not listen to others saying she cannot or will not succeed. However, only wanting is not enough. If you only want but do not take any purposeful actions – you’d better don’t.
For instance, a pilot profession will surely not suit someone who thinks they will do just fine if they attend classes and occasionally take notes. By training to become a pilot, one undertakes a serious responsibility level, so doing your own thorough analysis before committing to it is crucial. You have to make this choice consciously but not emotionally. Make as much research about “what is behind the scenes“ in this profession. If you eventually realize you are capable of doing it and will enjoy it – don’t let anyone stop you.
Are stereotypes alive?
You work with pilot training instructors daily, while the vast majority of them are still men. Do you face any challenges at work that are somehow related to the fact that you are a woman?
I am fortunate to work in a company full of smart, confident, and happy female managers. And I personally do not feel and never felt discriminated against, let down, or in any way treated not as I should be due to my gender. When collaborating with pilots and instructors, I feel they all are eager to explain and support. They know their subject inside and out, so every time there is some specific component of their role I need more information about – I go and ask. I cannot remember a case when I was left alone with a lack of clarity.
Do you ever notice that female students (future pilots) have to “fight for a place under the sun “with their male peers, or is it just a stereotype?
Yes and no. People are different, and so are their views and beliefs. It is not a common scenario that females or female managers have to prove their suitability and potential for the profession. Still, if it happens, usually it does not take long for them to do so. Females who are or have studied at BAA Training are intelligent, diligent, and goal-oriented – it cannot stay unnoticed!