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#STEMStories: Debbie, Web Analyst at American Airlines

Debbie works as a Web analyst in American Airlines. She has been working for the company for 23 years and gained experience in different roles and departments.Throughout her career she encountered different challenges and agreed to share her experience with the Geeky Girl Reality community.

Say hi :) who are you what do you do?

Hi my name is Debbie and I’m almost 51 years old. I have worked for American Airlines for 23 years in various roles. Today I am in the International dot com department as the Web Analytics Analyst.

How did you arrive at this career? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

I didn’t plan on this career, when I left school I had no idea what I wanted to do and left with 6 O levels (yeah it was O level’s when I was in school). I worked in an electronics factory back in the 1980s, in the stores, keeping track of all the materials needed to make electrical components. I did Accountancy O level in night school during this time with a plan to go into some sort of Accountancy role. I had always enjoyed mathematics and numbers in school.

I moved away from home to London when I was 21 and ended up in a Jewelry shop, where I worked my way up from store consultant to assistant manager, I stayed there for almost 7 years.

I joined American Airlines as an International Reservations Agent. The great thing about joining a large company is that there is the chance to move around and get experience in several roles and departments. I was lucky enough to do this and worked in Payroll, Finance, Sales and now dot com.

What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark winter mornings?

work with a great team, who help and support each other. You spend the majority of your adult life with work colleagues and so having good people around you, people you enjoy being with is essential to enjoying your work.

What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story?

Work can be stressful; you have to find out the best way for you to deal with that. For me it is taking time out, walk away and take a break. It’s also having those supportive colleagues, friends & family around you. Sometime it’s just getting on with it, keeping busy and knowing you are doing a good job and doing your best work.

I was working for American Airlines on 11th September 2001. That was the saddest, most stressful and hardest time of my working life. One thing that came out of that is how we all worked together to help where we could.

I came back from lunch with a friend and everyone was in the conference room watching the TV. We couldn’t believe what was happening. I walked around to my desk and passed the PR office, they were all out of the country and the phone was ringing. I didn’t once think that it was not my job to answer that phone. I picked it up and dealt with it. The person on the other end had a family member travelling on an AA flight and wanted to know if they were OK. I didn’t have that information but I calmed them down, took their details, gave my name and promised I would get someone to call them back. I followed up on this later to make sure the person knew that their family member was safe.

Everyone was running around doing what needed to be done. We got through that time working together and helping each other where we could. My main job during that time was to receive calls from the press and give out the press releases by PR. I remember when the first flight was able to take off from LHR, we all cheered, that was such a great stress relief.

Don’t let stress build, talk to people, deal with it and don’t let it build up.

Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?

I don’t have one role model; I have had different ones throughout my life. It is not anyone famous, I look to people I know and respect. As a child it was my grandmother and mother, both of whom worked hard and brought up a family. They both loved and cared for me and gave me sound advice. I remember being an early teenager and thinking how liked and respected my mother was and how I wanted to be like her. More recently it is people I work with or friends. Motivating managers or people who have gone through difficult times yet still achieved success.

What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?

Don’t worry that you didn’t go to university, or that you don’t know what you want to do. There is a lot of life left and plenty of time to work towards anything you want. If you want it bad enough you can achieve it. Don’t spend all your wages each month, put a bit away and live within your means. But enjoy yourself.

Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?

  1. Do something you enjoy and want to do, not something someone else thinks you should do.
  2. Don’t let being female stop you from doing what you want. It shouldn’t make a difference.
  3. Don’t let work take over your life. Enjoy yourself and find time for friends and family.

How do you measure your success?

I measure my success by how I am thought of by others. If people come to me for information and advice, it feels like I have succeeded and that I am respected.