The aviation industry is full of executives who have embraced their love for technology, engineering and flight and have followed unique paths to build the careers they have today. Each month on Connected Aviation Today, we will be featuring a new aviation industry executive and share with our readers their story, including defining moments in their career and advice that they have for a new generation looking to enter a similar field.

In February, in honor of Black History Month, we had a chance to connect with Maureen “Mo” Woods, who paved the way for African American women, by being first in many of her jobs. Even though she spent her career in the aviation industry, Mo never showed an interest in aviation as a child. In fact, despite her father’s love for aviation and childhood family outings to nearby Cleveland-Hopkins Airport to watch planes, she often considered it “boring.” But soon, her father’s passion became her own and she spent her career as a former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) executive and an industry leader at ARINC before retiring.

We asked Mo to reflect back on her career and share her advice with us. Here is what she had to say:

Connected Aviation Today (CAT) Editors: Over the course of your career, there were probably several defining moments.  Can you share the ones that stood out for you?

Mo Woods (MW):  I began my career at the FAA as an air traffic controller (ATC) at a time where most ATCs were male, ex-armed services personnel. As a newly hired African-American woman, it was a challenging work environment. But I quickly rose through the FAA ranks, landing in the Great Lakes Regional office in Chicago, Illinois.

From there, I eventually moved to the Regional/Washington D.C. headquarters office where in 1996, I was the first African-American female to be appointed to the Senior Executive Service in the ATC organization. In 1998, I was promoted and became the Deputy Director of Air Traffic Services, AAT-2—essentially, the second in command of the entire organization. As AAT-2, I oversaw over 26,000 employees and a $2.3 billion budget, and I was the first woman appointed to hold that job as well.

CAT Editors: As you look back, what moments are you most proud of?

(MW): All of the above because it helped to shape me into the person that I became: someone with high integrity, strong interpersonal skills and a true appreciation for maintaining a sense of self. I did not compromise my personal values in order to get ahead.

CAT Editors: For other minorities who are in this industry or are looking to enter into this industry, what advice do you have for them?

First and foremost, know and do your job to the highest degree. Secondly, know yourself and your potential; be honest with yourself. Third, know where you want to be in your job – have a career plan, discuss it with a supervisor or manager, and seek HR assistance in your career planning.  Be an active participant in your career; don’t expect management just to pick you. There are others who are seeking the same career experiences.

CAT Editors: Now in retirement, how do you like to spend your time?

(MW): Since retirement, I bought a townhouse in Edgewater, MD; I have traveled to Amsterdam and Senegal, and looking forward to more adventures. I also picked up on my reading and spent a lot more time in Ohio visiting with my mom.

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