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OBAP conference harnesses virtual networking

The 1,136 who registered for OBAP Forward networked in large and small groups, engaged in virtual chats, sought out others for one-on-one sessions, or participated in live Q&As that accompanied 106 on-demand videos and 12 live sessions presented by aviation business, military, and private industry leaders.

The most popular sessions were a FedEx Outlook and Recruiting Information workshop, a United Airlines Industry Briefing, two keynotes, and the general member meeting, said OBAP spokesperson Candace Williams-Brown. A Raven Careers Industry Update that included job preparation tips, hiring process information, and an inside look at “who’s doing what” also attracted a lot of interest. “We’ve been really, really pleased with the way members and non-members adopted the platform,” said Williams-Brown.

The virtual format allowed attendees to network directly with one another, or to reach out to aviation business leaders for a quick online chat. They could also set up virtual board rooms, roundtable discussions, and other options to talk about a specific topic.

Williams-Brown emphasized that participants who intended but were unable to join in the discussions, workshops, and presentations during the original August 11 through 13 national convention have a year to soak up the learning via archived sessions. “Anyone who registered and couldn’t make it last week can experience the networking features, content, and presentations for the next 12 months” for $35 if they are OBAP members. Nonmembers can access the archived materials and receive a year of OBAP membership for $100. (Yearly membership is normally $90.) The $30 yearly student membership fee was reduced to $15 and includes the same online access to archived programming for 12 months.

United Airlines participated in the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals Forward convention. Photo courtesy of OBAP.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University master’s graduate Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., who in June 2020 became the first Black U.S. Air Force chief of staff, delivered an August 11 opening keynote about diversity, equity, and inclusion. He emphasized that confidence begins with an individual and he urged others to “accept our fellow aviators for who they are” because “strength … comes from diversity.”

FedEx Express President and CEO Don Colleran gave an overview of pilot recruitment, flying for the package delivery firm, and the company’s diversity efforts. He said that building a foundation that better reflects the community it serves was “indispensable.” Colleran also stressed that increasing diversity was “an issue of great importance to FedEx; to many of our colleagues; and to me, personally.”

FedEx Express pilots and leaders Pat DiMento and Robin Sebasco fielded career questions and clarified that the company’s pilots don’t “just fly at night” while the rest of the world is sleeping. “We fly eastbound around the world, and we fly westbound around the world. If you want to be based in Hong Kong, or in Europe, we’ve got that, too. There’s no better flying in the industry than flying for FedEx,” DiMento said.

Entrepreneur and Shark Tank reality TV program cast member Daymond John, who founded global clothing company FUBU with only $40 in the bank, delivered an inspirational closing keynote August 13 and shared some real-world hiring tips. He directed attendees to seek mentors in the community because “you are not by yourself.” John encouraged attendees to “keep their grit” when applying for jobs and suggested that they ask questions during the interview process to “show that you care” about a potential employer.

OBAP leaders announced the 2022 annual conference in Phoenix is intended to be an in-person event to capitalize on building personal relationships among aviation and aerospace industry leaders, although virtual components may also be included.

“The last three days have been nothing short of incredible,” said online host and United Airlines First Officer Tomica Adams. “We’re so thankful to each speaker, sponsor, and attendee for pivoting with us and joining with us in this virtual platform.”

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