The Airbus Family: we work hard but we have fun along the way which is important! 

Airbus Faces_Grainne_EM

What is your current role and where are you based?

I am based in Dubai and my role today is Head of Marketing for the Africa and Middle East region. In my team, we work with all our airline customers to help them understand our aircraft portfolio with respect to their own business models and operations. We discuss cabin layouts, aircraft performance, operating economics, the fleet and network fit, and overall how an Airbus fleet solution offers the best value for their operation. Such a discussion with an airline can last months, even years and can be a very different conversation from one airline to another, even for the same aircraft. We are a core team in the Aircraft Sale process and have the double role of being the voice of Airbus to the customer and the voice of the customer to Airbus. 

How long have you been working at Airbus?

Altogether I have worked at Airbus for over 18 years. I have also worked for an airline and a lessor, both of which were great opportunities to see the industry from another viewpoint.  However, Airbus retains the top spot for me due to the sheer diversity of the work scope on offer, the amount of meaningful interactions with other industry stakeholders and no doubt because of the Airbus Family. 

Which aircraft/products are you working on?

I work on the full portfolio of commercial aircraft, from the A220 on the smaller side to the A350 on the larger side. In the Middle East, we continue to work with the A380 which will be flying well into the next decade. Besides the aircraft themselves, I also work with our growing portfolio of services tailoring a more holistic fleet solution for our airline customers. Covering the breadth of all aircraft products is very rewarding as we then have the chance to interact with all airline customers and across all markets.

For me the need to deploy a mix of technical skills, commercial skills and leadership skills on a daily basis means I am constantly challenged and hopefully constantly growing.

What inspired you to be a part of the aerospace sector?

At school, maths was my preferred subject and engineering seemed a natural choice at university. I was always fascinated by aircraft and, across the engineering disciplines, aeronautical engineering was by far the most exciting choice. This path led me straight to Airbus UK and from that first job in 1998 I was hooked. I knew I would not leave the industry, there was just too much to see, do and learn. Marketing for me is the ideal position, as it combines both technical and commercial skills with a lot of customer-facing activity. Indeed, I have spent almost 17 years in this discipline. I also think that the limited number of manufacturers in the sector makes it an exciting place to be: competition is intense and there is a need to always innovate and be on top of the game.       

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Concerning the beginning of your career path at Airbus - what was the main drive that led you to apply and be part of this company?

I first joined the company through the Airbus Global Graduate Programme (AGGP) in the UK in 1998. Besides the opportunity to work for the leading European aerospace company, what I loved about Airbus was its tailored programme for graduates. It offered us the chance to work in four different departments in our first year, then do a full year in one department before settling into a permanent role. This allowed me to explore the company and discover the best fit for my skills and interests. 

For a fresh graduate, what better way to get introduced to working life! At the time, I had to do a two-day assessment to be accepted on the programme and I thought if a company is that invested in recruiting young graduates, then it is highly invested in its people. This was also very appealing. The global footprint and multinational roots of Airbus were also exciting as a culture and for future opportunities across the globe. 

Tell us about one of the most memorable experiences from your career at Airbus. 
What made it so special and unforgettable?   

The first flight of the A380 was a hugely emotional moment. The tension and anticipation before the aircraft take-off was enormous and then a gush of collective pride took over as the aircraft lifted from the runway and gracefully took to the sky. That moment represented years and years of cross-functional, cross-border teamwork for thousands of people. The fact that the whole world was watching made it even more exciting and memorable. Another special moment is the day you fly on an Airbus aircraft knowing that you personally contributed to the sale of that aircraft to the airline. This is a moment when your contribution is really tangible. 

What is the most important advice you have been given, and is there any important advice you would like to give?

A (very) long time ago my younger self dared to utter the words “We can’t do this because …”. My manager stopped me before I finished and asked me to rethink the challenge in the manner “How we can do this is by …”. And it has stuck ever since: nothing is impossible, it’s a question of what it takes to achieve it and then evaluating if that is the right strategy. 

What has been one of the most empowering moments at Airbus?

Perhaps not an obvious choice but I think recruitment is one of the empowering responsibilities of any manager. Not only are you selecting your own team which has a direct impact on daily office life, reaching objectives etc, but you are also recruiting people who are expected to take the company forward in the long term. That’s an enormous responsibility when you think about it. Living in Dubai we are very used to a multicultural environment and embracing this diversity in our teams is important, not only for creativity but to reflect and to really understand  the global industry in which we operate.  

Come along - there’s no better journey.  Be yourself, be confident, grab a mentor and let’s go! 

What are the benefits of working at Airbus?

I think one of the key benefits of Airbus is the sheer amount of career and learning opportunities available to people, as well as the numerous geographical locations. The opportunity to be in a diverse and multicultural environment is also very enriching. All of this is before acknowledging that working for Airbus means working for the best commercial aircraft company worldwide. Airbus’ history is relatively young and we have emerged from being the newcomer to now holding around 50% of the market through innovation and hard work; there is a sense of pride associated to this collective achievement. 

In what way do the values of Airbus relate to your own?

Integrity and respect are core values for me personally and for Airbus. Without these we are simply not nice people, not giving our best and not getting the best from others. Having grown up with parents who owned a shop, I have been customer-facing all my life so this value is part of my DNA. 

For me, reliability and teamwork are extremely important values too as no-one succeeds alone in the aviation industry: the products are complex as are the deals and it takes an equally complex web of skills and energy to succeed. And what is Marketing without creativity? Our industry’s challenges, our customers’ objectives as well as our own and our competitors, are constantly engaging our creativity skills to find new ways and set new standards. 

Do you have any hobbies? How do you enjoy spending your free time?  

Hobbies are a luxury these days with a busy work life and three kids. I really enjoy playing tennis, seeing friends and family, being outdoors and having a game night or movie night with the kids. 

The first nonstop trans-Atlantic flight crash landed just a few miles from my childhood home. Alcock & Brown were household names growing up. Perhaps living on the west coast of the island of Ireland with the wild Atlantic as a neighbour meant aviation was always my destination. 

Grainne's Career Path at Airbus


Airbus Global Graduate Programme

Airbus Commercial Aircraft
Filton / Broughton

Airline Marketing - Senior Analyst, Manager, Director

Airbus Commercial Aircraft

Head of Airline Marketing, Africa and Middle-East 

Airbus Commercial Aircraft

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