Aaron Deerey is a 2004 graduate from the Bachelor of Science in Safety Science program at the Daytona Beach campus. He has been working for the Lee County Port Authority in the state of Florida for 5 years. Aaron enjoys outdoor activities like hunting and fishing, and he is active with mission and volunteer work with his church. His newest hobby is trying to keep his pregnant wife happy!
Airport operations is a field of interest for many ERAU students and alumni. Tell us about your experiences in this industry.
As a Safety Science major, Airport Operations wasn’t really on my radar as I left Riddle in December 2004. My first job after school was actually managing the cargo operations for Delta Air Lines out of DAB. I made a whole $9.50/hour, and that was as a Supervisor. After searching for more gainful employment for a year and a half, a buddy of mine (ARFF Battalion Chief at RSW) called me from home and told me about an Airport Operations Agent position at Lee County Port Authority, which handles both Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) and Fort Myers Page Field. I applied and was hired.
For those folks that are unfamiliar, Airport Operations Agents run Part 139 airports. My second day on the job was the airport’s full-scale aircraft accident drill. I was attached to my trainer who was also assigned to be the Incident Commander for that drill. I was told that when I was fully trained I would be expected to fill that role at a moment’s notice. Pretty heady stuff for an entry-level position.
I was trained to inspect the airport from the ground (literally) up, how to make quick decisions on a vast array of subjects, perform wildlife control, and so many other things that I hesitate to try and list them all. That first year was like trying to drink information from a Crash Truck turret (1200 gpm), and RSW was the perfect learning ground. I was surrounded by great people who knew everything (so I thought) and were willing to share. I learned that no matter how much you think you know, you can always learn more and that there are no “standard days” in Airport Ops.
As I became more experienced, I eventually transitioned into a training role and was given more and more responsibility. Today I’m the Supervisor of the Airport Communications Center and assist the Airport’s Emergency Manager with developing the airport’s emergency plans.
What three traits or skills have made you the most successful in your career?
- Always be willing to learn. You don’t ever know as much as you think you do, and anyone can teach you something if you are willing to learn.
- Flexibility. There are few black and white things in my line of work. There are literally hundreds of ways to get the job done, and your way is rarely the best; adapt.
- Teamwork. In airport work, your team is everything. They are your eyes, ears and conscience. You will succeed together and fail together. Those who want to fly solo need not apply.
What helpful hints would you give to other students and alumni seeking employment?
I’ve encountered many people that think they know it all and think they are entitled to the best of everything. Don’t be one of those people. Be humble but don’t discount your strengths. Be flexible but know when to dig in your heals. Learn to take constructive criticism. Criticism is not a personal attack; work is not personal. If someone cares enough to offer suggestions, take them and learn from them.
Also, never be scared to use your contacts. If my friend, the Battalion Chief, hadn’t told me about the job and given me a recommendation, I’d probably still be throwing bags for Delta.
You often represent your company, Lee County Port Authority, at the Daytona Beach Industry/Career Expo. What tips do you have for students and alumni who plan to attend this event?
- Show interest and know why you are there. Don’t walk up and say: “So what are y’all looking for?”
- Ask smart questions, but don’t try to prove how smart you are in question form. For example: “What type of schedule do interns generally work?” is a good question, but “Why does your fire department use Halotron I as the secondary agent instead of a potassium-based dry chemical like most airports?” is a question that makes no sense in the context of you getting an internship.
- Be confident but not cocky.