Photo by Heather Middleton
By M.J. Subiria Arauz
About 30 girls entered the Executive Conference Center, on the third
floor of the atrium at the world's busiest airport.
Selected girls from Creekside High School, in Fairburn, recently
participated in the "Dare to Dream: Women's History Month" program at
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Tabitha Dodson, 16, a freshman at the high school, said she enjoyed a
tour of Hartsfield-Jackson and learned that it takes far more than
what the eye can see to run an airport.
Dodson said she thought flight agents and pilots made an airport
operate, but she was introduced to many important aviation positions
that she wasn't aware of, which allow an airport to run efficiently.
"There are more job opportunities than what you see everyday ... Now
I am considering a career in aviation," Dodson said.
Dodson, along with her freshman, sophomore and senior classmates,
learned more about the unique careers at Hartsfield-Jackson through
women who served as guest speakers in the program. The professionals
shared information about their jobs and how they've attained success.
"The purpose of Women's History Month is to acknowledge the
accomplishments of women in the aviation industry," said Tracy
Gilbert, special programs manager at Hartsfield-Jackson.
The speakers included Sally Detter, risk management director for the
Department of Aviation at the airport; Sonya Lee, customer service
manager for standard parking at Hartsfield-Jackson; Nina Zieling,
operations manager for Aldeasa Atlanta; and Robin January,
supervisory transportation security officer for the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA).
Detter was the first speaker to share her career with the young ladies.
Detter said that in July 2010, a risk management position was created
for the Department of Aviation and she was the first woman to fill it
for the department. According to Detter, she is responsible for
purchasing all property and casualty insurance coverage for
Hartsfield-Jackson, and the Owner Controlled Insurance Program, an
insurance policy held by a property owner during construction or
renovation of a property.
She said that during her youth, she was interested in the medical
field and wanted to become a doctor. She said she enrolled in Spring
Hill College, in Mobile, Ala., and was part of the medical program
but it wasn't what she imagined.
Detter said that sometimes a person's initial interest in a career
may change and that's OK.
"Risk management is a great field," she said with a smile.
The second speaker was Sonya Lee.
"I just want to say it's wonderful to see you young ladies today,"
said Lee, as the girls enjoyed their lunches from Chili's restaurant.
She said she felt it was her obligation to reach out to the future
Lee said she has been a customer service manager for standard parking
for five years, at Hartsfield-Jackson. Her job allows her to
communicate with various people, including top officials from Fortune
500 companies. She said she takes into account the opinions of
passengers at the airport, in order to provide better customer
service for her area.
Lee advised the girls that once they enter college, they must use it
to their advantage. "College is a marketplace of ideas," she said.
"It will steer you away from what you don't want to do."
Nina Zieling, operations manager for Aldeasa Atlanta, said she
oversees one store in Concourse T, and another in Concourse E, for
the company. The stores sell items such as liquor, tobacco and
international chocolate, she said.
Zieling, of Germany, said Aldeasa's headquarters is located in
Madrid, Spain. She said her dream was to work in Spain, though she
did not know how to speak the language at the time. With persistence,
she got a job at Aldeasa in January 2006.
"In my experience, what you really want to do, you'll get it," said
Robin January, supervisory transportation security officer for TSA,
was the last featured guest to speak at the event.
January said her parents taught her the value of hard work, which has
allowed her career to progress with TSA.
She advised the young ladies that if they don't enjoy the people they
work with, "take a cue from them and don't do what they are doing."
DeAllous Smith, a spokesman for the airport, said the Women's History
Month program was held for three different high schools on different
dates -- March 18 for Tri-Cities High School in Atlanta, March 24 for
Creekside High School, and March 30 for North Clayton High School, in
The goals of the program are to inspire leadership in female
students, educate students about the changing roles of women in the
current workforce, enlighten young ladies about the various career
choices that are available and expose them to high-ranking female
professionals, he said.
Smith added that 25 students from each high school, with at least a
3.0 grade-point average, participated in the program. The students
had to participate in an essay-writing contest, have solid attendance
at school and be chosen by their high school counselor.