This month is Women’s History Month, an annual month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. Aireon would like to honor the achievements of some of the great women at Aireon and look-ahead at the opportunities that await future generations. We’ve asked a handful of women at Aireon a few questions about their roles working in aviation, a primarily male-dominated industry. For our second post, we sat down with Jessie Hillenbrand, Director of Public Relations and Marketing.
Jessie Hillenbrand, Director of Public Relations and Marketing
What led you to public relations and marketing?
Growing up and now, I have this gregarious personality. I loved being able to shine the spotlight on incredible things going on in our neighborhood, my family, friends, etc. I would always help friends running for class president, I was an editor of my middle school, high school and college newspapers, I loved hosting events throughout my personal and my collegiate life. My first internship in college was at Sally Jessy Raphael. Once the Head of Public Relations (PR) at Sally realized I had some decent writing skills, he scooped me up for the three-month summer duration. Boy, was that an incredible experience! I was promoting and marketing one of the longest-running, most iconic talk shows in television history. The next summer, I interned at Bill Blass Couture, one of the most famous and oldest fashion houses in New York City. I was in the PR department and spent my time promoting the new seasonal line to all of his VIP customers. It was a crash course in the Who’s Who of New York City and an incredible summer.
Once I was approaching the end of my college tenure, I had no doubt in my mind that PR and marketing was my calling. It energized me. It make me wake up every morning and run into work. The incredible energy around this professional path was enormous. I quickly realized I enjoyed marketing for highly technical companies. It made me use more than the PR and marketing part of my brain, but the genres of education I touched upon throughout high school – AP calculus and AP chemistry, and the ton of math and science classes I took in college. Being around some of the brightest and smartest people is key. It challenges you to be on par and in many cases, better. I stumbled upon the aviation industry about 12 years ago and never looked back. Yes, TV and fashion were always great conversation topics, but aviation is fulfilling, smart and innovative. I’ve met some of the smartest people I’ve ever encountered in this industry and I look forward to what he future holds.
Who inspires you and why?
I look to incredible women who defied the odds and persevered like Margaret Sanger, Kathleen Cleaver (whom I had the pleasure to learn from during college), Naomi Parker, Betty Friedan and Jane Goodall. These incredible women carved out niches for themselves and never stopped moving forward. They took paths less traveled and made their deep impressions in culture and my personal growth. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention my late mother, Nancy Vangrofsky. She was not a pioneer or a revolutionary, but she pushed me to be an individual and forge my own path.
What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a woman starting in the aviation career?
I am not going to confine my advice to just women in aviation, but women in general, whatever you decide to pursue as a career – Keep pushing. Keep speaking. Keep innovating. Embrace change through leadership. Be approachable. Be smart. Love what you do.