From highway to the skies

Tired of admiring, Jacinta Njuguna wrote a letter seeking employment at KQ and got it. American motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar once said that “It’s your attitude, not your aptitude that will determine your altitude”. Ziglar had been inspired by Jesus who said that for everyone that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened (Matthew 7:7–8) Jessy is defined by this go-getter attitude which drove her from the highway to the skies. When I recently met her by accident in the parking lot of a Supermarket in Embakasi East in Nairobi, she sprung to her feet and announced: “I have been looking for you,” to which I anxiously responded, “here I am”. “I have been reading your articles in the AirSpace News Kenya pullout in The Standard on Thursdays. Can you do my story in December?” she posed. I responded: “Not in December, I will do it today”. “Gosh!” She exclaimed. “In fact, I am already on it,” I replied. And the interview began. WHO ARE YOU AND HOW WAS YOUR JOURNEY IN AVIATION? Most people call me Jessy, but my name is Jacinta Njuguna. I have over 17 years of experience in aviation, ranging from customer experience, and training instructor to lean management practitioner (Yellow Belt), with counselling psychology being the most recent. Even though it was occasionally difficult, my journey was one of the most exciting, adventurous, and enjoyable. HOW DID IT BEGIN? It began in 2004 when I worked at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) for Metro Shuttle, KBS (Kenya Bus Service) as an administrative assistant. I used to admire the charisma and confidence of Kenya Airways (KQ) uniformed staff. Tired of just admiring it, I took the initiative and wrote a letter seeking employment and took it to KQ headquarters. I dropped it at the reception and left. WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? I was surprised when I got an invitation for an interview after a couple of months. I passed. We then underwent three months of training before deployment. I was elated. I was in full KQ uniform, what more can a girl ask for? HOW MANY WERE YOU? Gosh, I can’t remember. We were both ground staff and cabin crew. HAD YOU FLOWN BEFORE? Never. My first flight ever was our familiarisation trip to Mombasa. Oh, my goodness. I felt important and rich. The take-off was like riding an elevator and landing like I was in a fast car. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS DURING WORK IN AVIATION? They are so numerous. I was tending to a 78-year-old man who was travelling with his 80-year-old partner and was confined to a wheelchair. He had trouble remembering where he had left his companion because of his advanced age as he made his way through the airport. As a result, we slowly searched the airport terminal as he narrated their beautiful love story before finding her. I discovered that day that age has no bearing on love. WHEN AND WHY DID YOU LEAVE AVIATION? Despite not practising, I am still applying the knowledge I learned to make a difference in the world. It was time to allow others the opportunity to experience what I had experienced after spending many years working in the aviation industry where I learned so much. I took a voluntary exit package in January 2021. WHAT ARE YOU ENGAGED IN CURRENTLY? I am a trainer, a lean management practitioner, a life skills practitioner, and an online instructor with a focus on assisting people in finding solutions to their problems. WHAT DO YOU MISS FROM MAINSTREAM AVIATION? Structure, systems, processes, procedures, and standard operating practices. Knowing what to do, when to do it, and how to do it are all part of the industry. WHAT ASPECTS OF AVIATION FASCINATE YOU? Being very process-oriented, it is the orderly progression of tasks and activities that are meticulously planned from the first step to the last step, all within a specified timeframe, to achieve the overall goal. HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE AVIATION AND WHERE YOU CAME FROM - ROAD TRANSPORT? Very similar in so many ways. The only difference is the mode of transport and the diversity of customer segments. Everything else is very similar.