Managing 3,000 people and overseeing four functional groups as vice-president of global customer support sees Christi Tannahill travelling around the world for Hawker Beechcraft

Were you destined for aviation?

Despite growing up in Wichita, I wasn't necessarily interested in aviation when I enrolled in the business programme at Wichita State. However, my first job out of school was with Delta Air Lines and once I was in the industry, I was hooked. I later joined industrial group Koch Industries.

How were your duties at Koch Industries and Delta different from today?

I've enjoyed being in customer support throughout my career. At Hawker Beechcraft, I oversee four functional groups as part of our global customer support organisation, which is dedicated to improving the value of our aircraft. Our team is focused on delivering a great customer experience and our global footprint continues to grow.

Christi Tannahill Hawker Beechcraft
 © Hawker Beechcraft
Tannahill: a globe-trotting role at Hawker Beechcraft

While the scope of my responsibilities is much broader today, my positions at Delta and Koch prepared me by allowing me to learn about the aviation industry and interact directly with customers from day one.

At Delta I was able to get exposure to the customer perspective side and learn about commercial aviation. At Koch Industries I ran their travel department, which included a small fleet of business aviation aircraft. This allowed me to familiarise myself with the aircraft and learn more about general aviation.

Working globally, how do you overcome language and cultural barriers?

When travelling globally we spend a significant amount of time preparing and learning about the country and its people. We understand that, to earn business, we must find ways to communicate with our customers however it best meets their needs and culture. For example, when travelling to Bahrain recently, I learned that women have to be fully covered in parts of the Middle East. I was prepared with an abaya should the need arise to utilise it for business meetings. We are fortunate that many people we work with in this industry speak English, so language barriers have not presented great challenges thus far.

When dealing with supplier delays do you need to switch between friendly and stern?

It is critical to have well-established relationships with our suppliers. It is my job to make sure that our customers are taken care of, so in a situation where there is a delay I will relay the urgency to the supplier on the customer's behalf.

Can you see challenges coming or are there surprises?

We support 37,000 aircraft around the world, so there will always be surprises. We like to be as proactive as possible, but when maintaining and supporting that many customers, you can't always anticipate what's going to happen.

What's exciting or fun about your work?

The exciting part of my job is the people and places we get to see and the products we represent. We have a great team in place that is extremely focused on the customer and finding new, innovative ways to go above and beyond in tackling issues. We represent customers all around the world, so it is a privilege to have the opportunity to travel and meet many of them. Finally, it is an honour to represent and support the broadest product line in the world and the thousands of Hawker Beechcraft employees who stand behind them.

Source: Flight International