My Experience at the 2019 Women in Aviation International Conference

Written by: Yasna Taieb

I am incredibly honored to be able to share my experience after having attended the 2019 Women in Aviation International Conference this past March through the Abingdon Foundation’s It’s About Time Scholarship. I came across the Abingdon Foundation on Instagram, and immediately googled them to learn more. After exploring their website, I read about all of the remarkable women who comprise of the Abingdon team and continue to build the Foundation through their diligence and experience. The Abingdon Foundation exists to empower females in non-traditional fields of STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. After more research, I came across the It’s About Time Scholarship and immediately knew that I wanted to apply once I read the application criteria. The scholarship asks applicants to submit a creative submission, which I believe is great idea as it does not limit the content of the applications –your application is whatever you make it to be. Before I get into my application and continue onto my experience at the conference, I will tell you a little about me.

The captivating world of aerospace and aviation has lead me to be always be extremely involved in the aviation community. After obtaining my Glider and Private Pilot License through the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Program, I am now working on my Commercial Pilot License in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada in conjunction with the Conestoga Institute of Technology. After aging out as a cadet, I continued to be involved with the Air Cadet Program by becoming an adult staff member in order to use my skills to help develop youth and support them in carving their own path to success. In May of 2018, I was sworn into the Canadian Armed Forces as a Reservist in the Cadet Instructor Cadre. I currently hold the rank of Second Lieutenant. During my summers, I am employed at Canadian Forces Air Base Trenton, operated as an Air Force Base by the Royal Canadian Air Force, where I teach a Basic Aviation Course to youth between 13 and 16 years old. I have organized educational tours for the cadets to the 8 Wing Trenton Air Mobility Training Centre, the CC-130 Hercules flight simulators and military Air Traffic Control towers. Throughout the year, I work with two Air Cadet units in Oakville and Kitchener. As a Ground School Instructor, I teach youth between the ages of 15 and 18 the fundamentals of aviation at the private pilot level. My team and I dedicate hundreds of hours each year to prepare them to apply to two of the most prestigious courses that an Air Cadet can be accepted to in Canada.

As a first generation Canadian, I am also very connected with my Afghan roots through my involvement with the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan Organization. I want to ensure that females and females of minorities are given equal opportunities in their career paths. Through the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan Organization, I am able to inspire girls from my home country to ‘taboo’ fields and jobs. Of my many role models that I look up to, Shaesta Waiz, a female Afghan pilot who set the world record for the youngest female to fly around the world solo, is one of them. She has inspired me to set goals that I would once never dream of reaching for, and this is what the Abingdon Foundation hopes to do for others.

Through all of my experience and specific skills that I have developed to date, I believed that the most effective way that I could potentially contribute to the Abingdon Foundation was through mentorship. This ultimately lead me to create a complete Mentorship Program for the Abingdon Foundation, which I submitted as my creative application. I included a complete 6 step action plan in order to successfully launch the program, amongst other things. To me, mentorship plays a vital role in the lives of youth, especially young females who may not have the same opportunities as others. Females simply do not have the proper amount of exposure to their field of interest, and it is even less for fields in STEAM. I am ecstatic to implement the mentorship program for the foundation, and to inspire the next generation of female STEAM professionals.

Now for the focus of this report – my experience at the 2019 Women in Aviation International Conference in Long Beach, California! I have included several photos at the end of my report that capture some moments of my amazing experience.

Finding out that I was the recipient of the Abingdon Foundation’s It’s About Time Scholarship was a moment that I will never forget. The experience and opportunities that this scholarship gave me before, during and after the conference has left me speechless time and time again. The It’s About Time Scholarship is special because it does not limit applicants with an age limit – if you are truly passionate

about something, the Abingdon Foundation will not only encourage you, but they will also support and help you succeed and excel. While preparing for the conference, several members of the foundation gave me great advice that taught me useful skills for the conference and beyond. For example, it was thanks to their advice that I decided to create and bring personal business cards with me to the conference. I met hundreds of amazing people, each with their own incredible network and group of connections. Giving business cards to the individuals that I met allowed me to make a lasting impression on them as well as allowed me to follow up with them after the conference.

As soon as I arrived in California, I was welcomed by members of the Abingdon team. I felt like I was already part of the team – we were exchanging stories, experiences and opinions on such a wide array of topics! Personally, at 20 years old, I don’t have nearly as much life experience as many of the people that I met. I essentially was a sponge – ready to absorb as much as I could in the 3-day span of the conference. On the first night in Long Beach, I went out for dinner with some of the Abingdon team, which allowed me to meet some of them on a more personal level before the busy events began. On this first night alone, I met about 15 new individuals, all with different aviation experience and advice. They all made me feel so incredibly welcome and included. Though I was traveling to a new location alone and attending an event as busy as this one, the experience was anything but stressful or overwhelming. Abingdon Mullin, Bethany Miller and Natalie Berman made it a point for me to attend any and all of the different education sessions and events that were being offered. Some of my favorite sessions that I attended were: Aviation Career Panels, Stress Management, Networking 101 for Students, Perspective vs Perception, Pathways to a Pilot Career, How to Interview and Positive Leadership. They also made it a priority to make sure I visited every company booth that represented the aviation and aerospace community that I had even the slightest interest in. This included civilian and corporate airline companies, different educational institutions that offered opportunities in aviation and STEM as well as organizations focused on female and STEM empowerment. Through these networking opportunities, I met countless people who made an impact on me, and who I have since followed up and connected with further. This leads me into my next point, which is the skills that you will either learn or build upon during an event like this one.

Being in a fast paced, high energy environment such as the Women in Aviation International Conference will allow you to develop incredibly useful skills such as communication, professionalism, confidence and initiative. Personally, I can be quite shy when it comes to speaking about myself and my achievements. However, as the hours progressed during the conference, I learned that putting yourself out there and sharing your experiences and achievements will help you so much more by allowing you to meet more people, having more in-depth, meaningful conversations and building your confidence. Building these skills will prove to be useful time and time again in school, job interviews, careers and even daily social interactions. Of course, this may seem like an overwhelming amount of information to absorb in such a short period of time. Personally, I found it very useful to have apps on my phone and a notebook in my bag at all times. The app that I love using for these sorts of events is called Google Keep; it allows you to quickly jot down a topic, quote or name that will be automatically save and can be accessed from any electronic device. This minimized the risk of me losing all of my notes or misplacing them. I also carried a notebook when I wanted to take more detailed notes. This strategy worked for me, but I strongly encourage you to find what works best for you!

Attending the Women in Aviation Conference through the Abingdon Foundation’s It’s About Time Scholarship is valuable because of the incredible connections that Abingdon, Bethany and the rest of the team members have. They themselves have endless accomplishments, life experience and knowledge, and through this, they have met and connected with countless other amazing women just like them. I was constantly finding myself shaking hands, exchanging contact information and having in-depth conversations with individuals who I would have never met had I attended on my own. This scholarship is a privilege and an opportunity, so it is vital to truly take advantage of it. More times than once, I found myself striking up a conversation with individuals at lunch, who ended up being someone whose story I have been following for quite some time, such as Jill Meyers for example. I truly cannot stress enough how valuable the connections that I made during the conference are. You never know who you may be sitting beside. The conference also included numerous guest speakers, who took the time to speak and inspire hundreds of women. Some of these guest speakers included Dr. Christine Darden, Tammy Jo Shults, Gwynne Shotwell and many more. Each of these guest speakers brought their own experiences and stories. Guest speakers offer a different perspective on the world, and there is no better place to experience this than at the Women in Aviation International Conference. I love listening to guest speakers because it gets me to think outside the box and it allows me to continue to think and learn. It also provides a great opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with other like-minded individuals.

The 2019 Women in Aviation International Conference was 3 days long, but I left with

experiences, connections and knowledge that will last my entire life. Further, I aim to continue to help and inspire others to learn and excel using what I learned.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my experience at the 2019 Women in Aviation International Conference! I am always open to meeting new people. If you have questions about my experience or would like to connect, feel free to add me on LinkedIn or email me at taiebyasna@gmail.com.