Women’s History Spotlight: Joy Ekeruche

In honor of Women's History Month, Bristow is shining a spotlight on the women who make Bristow soar. This interview features Chief Inspector and Engineering Manager Joy Ekeruche from our Lagos operations.

Talk about your role at Bristow.

I wear two hats, one as engineering manager and one as chief inspector for our Africa Region. As engineering manager, I have general oversight and responsibility for aircraft management, ensuring continued airworthiness, as well as ensuring appropriately authorized personnel maintain and release aircraft in accordance with the maintenance programs, OEM manuals, airworthiness directives and Civil Aviation Requirements. As the chief inspector, I am responsible for ongoing analysis of operations to verify that all maintenance performed meets the highest standard of safety and airworthiness. This oversight is achieved by having quality inspectors at the bases. I also oversee maintenance planning and forecast, liaise day to day with the Quality and Safety team, Technical Records team, Supply Chain team, Training department and Global Fleet Support.

We operate a diverse fleet of aircraft in the Africa region, including the S76C++, S76D, AW139, AW189, S92A, Cessna 208 and Embraer 135/145.

What is a recent success you are particularly proud of?
I am the only female engineering manager in the Bristow group currently​. This is an achievement!

What in your background prepared you for this role?
As the eldest child in my family, I was raised by parents who instilled strong values in us growing up, which helped me thrive in my career over the years. I grew up in a predominantly female household, but my parents did not discriminate in their expectation of development, discipline, and achievement. They also placed a premium on quality education, so I was supported in my choice of an engineering career. On my part, I had an intense willingness to learn from an early age. I have an eye for detail and try to see the big picture. I specifically chose the opportunity of my first work experience as a trainee aircraft engineer (which was unpaid) over a paid placement in the oil sector.

I have had various mentors throughout my career. Of particular note, my supervisor at my first Bristow base who advised me at the time to acquire the EASA license, as the BCAR license was being replaced. I was determined, so over a period of two years, I saved my earnings to fund my engineering training and license exams in Oxford, England. This license and engineering experience opened doors of opportunity for me to work and gain more experience in Nigeria and the UK.

What are some challenges you've faced in your career? How did you overcome them? 
Challenges are part of a dynamic career but having an appropriate response to any challenge is key. I was fortunate to start as a trainee engineer at Bristow, fresh out of university with an engineering degree. But it was soon made clear to me that an aircraft engineer's license and relevant experience were prerequisite to a progressive career. In spite of achieving the relevant qualifications, I experienced some challenges in my attempts to develop myself in my career. I was turned down for my first leadership role, but this didn't deter me because I was given the feedback that the successful candidate was more qualified, so I stayed focused on acquiring knowledge and honing my skills. I eventually gained enough experience that I was able to make the leap into a management role, and the rest is history!

One other challenge I initially thought would be an issue was working with colleagues and supervisors from diverse cultural backgrounds, but this diversity helped shape my understanding of the team. Some of the nationalities at my first Bristow base of operation included British, American, South African, Dutch National, Indonesian, Malaysian, Filipino, Pakistani, Trinidadian, Chinese, Thai, Portuguese to mention a few. It was a great mix; the team of engineers and pilots were excellent!  

Who inspires you?
I am so thankful that my parents taught me to be God-fearing, ethical and conscientious. They live by this ethos and they encouraged me to always aim high. My dad was an engineer, and so I was exposed to engineering concepts very early and this piqued my interest. Although engineering was viewed as a male-oriented profession, my dad supported and encouraged my interest.

What advice do you have for women just beginning their career?
Don't be boxed in by the concept of the "stereotypical female." The narrative is changing, allowing more women to thrive in the workplace. Be determined, confident, reliable, hardworking and willing to learn. Do not expect opportunities to be handed to you. Find a mentor, set targets and put in the work to achieve them. Learn to work as a team, discuss ideas and offer solutions. Stay positive.

I had mentors and champions who provided critical advice and support. During my first work placement at the Bristow Warri base, the operations manager happened to visit, and, following discussions with my supervisor about my work performance, he offered me my first formal (paid) role with the organization.

What is unique about your journey to your current role?
The first day I walked into Bristow at the Warri Operations, everyone was welcoming. I was the only female on site, and everyone was keen to show me what Bristow helicopters was about. Within a few weeks, I was fully integrated into the engineering team, working to ensure aircraft serviceability. I constantly sought opportunities for my development; a few years into my work with Bristow, an opportunity was presented for me to work at our Norwich base in the UK, so I took it. I worked with an excellent team there, broadening my knowledge of processes, procedures, documentation, aircraft utilization and contractual obligations. By this time, I began to aspire to achieve more.  This led me to take up my current role in Nigeria.

Everyone I encountered every day and the spectrum of relationships that I've built over the years shaped my journey in various ways.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
We constantly tell ourselves as managers to take a break, but you find a lot of times we are on our phones as there is something needing our attention. I do take out time to relax, recharge. I love cycling, reading, travelling and visiting other places and cultures. I explored the sights and sounds of the four UK regions during my time at the Norwich base. I have also taken time to visit places in the United States, Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands. I had a pre-booked group holiday to Singapore for April 2020, which was cancelled with the onset of the pandemic, but I'm looking forward to finally making that trip once it's safe to do so.