Celebrating Women in Aviation: Olga Kovalova, Key Accounts Manager, Humanitarian Operations at Chapman Freeborn
To celebrate International Women’s Day at Chapman Freeborn we are shining a spotlight on women in aviation and the huge variety of roles available in the industry. Our Celebrating Women in Aviation series holds space for the experiences of our wonderful colleagues, giving you an insight into their roles, how they got to where they are today and their advice for other women and girls considering a career in the aviation industry.
Olga Kovalova joined the aviation industry 18 years ago when she began working at Chapman Freeborn. She didn’t specifically plan a career in aviation, however she fell into the industry after completing her studies in Transport Management and Economics, and the rest is history! “Aviation became my passion and a major part of my life as a result of joining this company and the people I work with, and I’ve never looked back!”
She vividly remembers one of her first tasks upon joining Chapman Freeborn; “I had been with the company for only 3 months and was tasked with finding three AN26 aircraft for a Turkish airline to distribute mail around 6 major cities in Turkey. It was a huge challenge involving a spontaneous trip to Ukraine with no prior knowledge of the aviation world – just the knowledge of speaking Russian and Ukrainian and a genuine desire to make the project work!” Olga ended up staying in Ukraine for 3 weeks of intense negotiations, which resulted in the tasks becoming a major, regular contract that lasted over 2 years, “This was my first ever foray into the aviation world!”
Olga’s role is now largely humanitarian-focused; “I am responsible for forging relationships with airlines, finding new business, nurturing relationships with major humanitarian clients, end-to-end project management, market research, networking and – most importantly – risk management and mitigation”.
Olga finds her job very rewarding and takes great pride in making things happen even in difficult situations. She explained, “In emergency response operations we are constantly working against the clock with tight deadlines and managing demanding situations. The ultimate purpose is to help those in need, and the effort can cause physical and psychological strain. But when the cargo reaches its destination and you know you contributed to someone’s survival, that’s all that matters.”
The gender imbalance across the aviation industry does not surprise Olga. She believes that aviation being a relatively young industry means it is still affected by archaic perceptions of what is suitable and acceptable for men and women. She believes that “mentality has to change around the world. The stigma of women only being suitable for certain jobs needs to stay in the past. Additionally, role models are very important in societies – every great example of a woman in aviation should be celebrated, and treated as an inspiration to a younger generation of girls to join our industry”.
Olga passionately believes that aviation plays a key role in bringing cultures closer and making the world more connected and accessible to everyone, “Although the stakes are high and the deadlines tight, the aviation industry keeps people and cargo moving around the world at an ever-greater speed; connecting the world, bringing cultures together and helping those in need”.
She wants to send the message to girls and women alike who are considering a career in aviation to “follow your heart and follow your dreams! Nothing is impossible if you have passion and you are determined to succeed!”