BCA's Bill Garvey with API's Sheryl Barden - Fast Five Column

Earlier this year, I (Sheryl Barden) had the pleasure of being interviewed by Bill Garvey, the Editor of “Business & Commercial Aviation,” one of the industry’s premier trade publications.

In every issue, Bill writes a Fast Five column in which he asks a thought leader five questions.

Bill recorded our phone conversation, in which we go more in depth than the print article. Topics included resume writing, college degrees, projected industry growth, the pilot shortage and compensation.

I’ve also included a transcript of our conversation below. Or, if you’d like, you may click on the YouTube video to listen to the audio.

Bill Garvey’s “Fast Five” with API’s Sheryl Barden

Following is an edited transcript of our conversation:

William “Bill” Garvey: “Good day, this is William Garvey, Editor-in-Chief of “Business and Commercial Aviation” magazine. Today, we’re speaking with Sheryl Barden, the President and CEO of Aviation Personnel International, or simply API, a renowned, business-aviation-oriented placement, recruitment and advisory firm based in San Francisco.

She is also a member of the National Business Aviation Association’s board of directors, and is Vice Chair of NBAA’s Associate Member Advisory Council.

“I know in your job you’ve reviewed many thousands of business aviation resumes. What makes for a good one? Or, conversely, what makes for a bad one?”

API’s Sheryl Barden: “Well, it’s very interesting because I’ve had some very new and different resumes come across my desk. I think we’re changing styles, but, for me, some of the most important things in a resume are to really tell how you had positive the organization that you work for.

“So, I don’t want to just know that you piloted a global express worldwide operation; I want to know maybe where you did that. But what I really want to know is how you’ve returned value to your organization. Have you been able to save them money? Have you implemented new technologies or new programs? What are the things that you’ve done that have improved the organization, versus just to operate or maintain, or schedule?”


WG: “Considering that piloting—and mostly we’re talking about piloting but I guess maintenance as well, but piloting really is a technical pursuit. Some airlines around the world do not demand a bachelor’s degree they want technical proficiency. How important is an academic degree to an aspiring business aviation pilot?”

SB: “That’s a really good question, Bill. And, of course, most of the airlines have always said they want an academic degree, and most of the corporations have also wanted an academic degree. But not necessarily. For anybody coming up in today’s world, a bachelor’s degree is as necessary as a high school degree was maybe 30 years ago. It’s become a standard, and I think it’s fairly important. I know many corporations, when you are dealing with the level of executives that are your clients, they want to surround themselves with people who are at similar levels.”

“I know many corporations that require it. I also know many corporations now that are beginning to think if they do require it maybe it’s something I can flex on as we are in such a competitive marketplace.”

“I also know some amazing directors of aviation who have been top leaders that do not have an academic degree. But I think they are of a different generation, and in our next generation it will be very hard to rise to that level without some sort of a degree. And, in our industry, I think a degree is so easy to get, from the standpoint of the distance learning that we have and the amount of time somebody’s on the road. If you’re on the road and you’re RON a hundred nights a year, take some of that time that you’re sitting there and use your computer for a distance-learning degree, at multiple organizations where those are very highly respected, especially our own.”


WG: “You mentioned competition and, as the airlines expand operationally and passenger growth is climbing worldwide, and that combines with a forced retirement of a whole generation of pilots. That has the airlines scrambling for their replacements, so, just broadly, why would or should an aspiring professional pilot choose business aviation over a career with the airlines?”

SB: “That’s another great question, and it’s a very hard question to answer. I think you need to dig deep into yourself and learn what it is that motivates you and what feeds your soul. Will being an airline pilot doing similar things for the rest of your life without a lot of dynamic change (and I say that in comparison to a business aviation career); will that satisfy you? Or would you much rather be in some place where there are growth and opportunity and a performance-based culture versus a progression based culture.

“Now, I think many of our millennials will find that the airlines and that progression-based culture will be very good for them, because that allows them schedule and time and compensation to do some of the other things that they want to do. Perhaps they’re things that contribute back to the community, or contribute back to society, or just other great pursuits that they have.

“I think it really goes to looking at what are your drivers, and what are you going to need to do to stay satisfied. An airline career is a long career. My nephew joined Virgin America (now Alaska) when he was 24 years old. He’s going to have two lifetimes more in front of him practically before his retirement. Will he be satisfied with that career, or will he be somewhat locked into it? I also think that career will still have its cycles, as we’ve seen in the past.”


WG: “I’ve known a number of airline pilots who have worked for four different airlines because they keep getting furloughed, or the airline fails.”

SB: “And I think you know we are riding a great crest, and we’re not at the top of the wave yet, I don’t think. The numbers and the compensation today are intoxicating, but will it sustain? I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do know that that everything is cyclical, and we’ll see those cycles again. And we’ll see them in corporate too; nothing is forever.”


WG: “We’ve been speaking with Sheryl Barden, President and CEO of Aviation Personnel International. This is William Garvey, Editor of “Business and Commercial Aviation” magazine. Thanks for your interest, your time and your attention.”


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