Bristow Employee Spotlight: Sarah Abson

This interview features administrator Sarah Abson from our Search and Rescue team. This feature shines a spotlight on one of the women who makes Bristow soar. Sarah shares insight about her duties and advice to others about her success in the Bristow aviation/administration field.

Talk about your role at Bristow and what are you currently working on?

I am the search and rescue administrator in Aberdeen. I couldn’t function without the support of the base admins. I help them with their needs, and they help me with mine. My main job is travel bookings for various teams. We have a lot of people coming and going from different places, and it’s my job to orchestrate all the details. In addition to managing all the travel, I keep our office running – whether it’s ordering supplies, making sure the printers are up and running or answering employee questions, I’m here to help! I enjoy working hard to make sure everyone is happy in their job.

While not officially part of my duties, I take my role in our Uplift corporate social responsibility committee very seriously. One of my favourite times of year is breast cancer awareness month in October. I make sure our office and employees are decked out in pink to celebrate. I do all the related marketing, I pass out sweet treats baked by colleagues, distribute pink attire and accessories, and I make sure we get nice photos to commemorate the occasion.

Our office is always busy, and my workload can be hectic at times, but keeping people upbeat and smiling is always a priority for me – it’s always better when people are happy. If someone is having a bad day, I work to support them through it and listen when they need to offload.

What is a recent success you're particularly proud of?

During lockdown, I secured accommodation that was COVID-secure so our crews and engineers could continue to operate throughout. I also made cross border travel arrangements, dealing with legislation in the UK and Europe, to ensure crews could travel with minimum risk of exposure. I coordinated the logistics in the background, so our crews could focus on the mission at hand.

It was quite the dynamic experience, with lots of considerations to ensure our crews were productive. We all needed to be flexible and adapt to an ever-changing situation to make sure we delivered to the client and the community.

What in your background prepared you for this assignment? 

To be honest, I don’t think anything can prepare you for jumping into this job! I’ve learned a lot of things on the job, and I get a lot of support from team. There is no particular experience that has helped me. More important than experience is being organized, flexible, a good listener and a fast learner!

What are some challenges you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome them? 

COVID is a major challenge in my role currently. Working from home and changing the ways in which I typically do my job has been challenging for me and for everyone else, but we are resilient and adaptable, so we’re figuring it out. On top of the typical challenges we’re all dealing with, particular to my role is the flight schedules that are forever changing, flight cancellations and accommodations closing due to lockdowns across the UK. Through it all, I’m thankful people have been so flexible and understanding when they need to make changes due to the pandemic. It has become common for people to have to drive long distances because flights and Bristow-approved accommodations are not available. This can be a nightmare in some instances. I do like a challenge, and there have been plenty of those! We have always been able to solve each challenge as it has arisen.

Who inspires you (work, personal and / or historical)?

There’s not one particular person who inspires me; I’m inspired by the people around me. Everyone has experience and advice to offer. There is inspiration everywhere! Everyone is going through something and has overcome their own obstacles!

Some notable inspirations for me, though, are: my mum – as a teacher, she adapted at lightning speed to the strict rules and mountains of paperwork; my dad – he’s worked in dangerous places in his oil and gas career, but he always finds the joy and opportunity in each experience; my brother – he picked up and moved to a different city to pursue his dreams, then came up with a plan B when things didn’t work out; Bristow senior vice president Sam Willenbacher – she always encouraged me to do better and I look up to her and truly miss her in our office; my managers and team – for giving me support; flight crews – the dedication with which they carry out their responsibilities to do their jobs on a daily basis; engineers – working round the clock to keep the aircraft serviceable and ready for action; office staff – for the work that they do behind the scenes to keep everything functioning.

What advice do you have for women just beginning their career?

Be yourself. Know when to ask for help. No one will question you for asking for help. While it’s been difficult for me to ask for help, because I’m a little bit stubborn, it’s often worth pushing through the discomfort to get the help you need. There was a time when we had several new crews starting, which resulted in quite an influx of people. It was initially just me dealing with all their travel, booking a new batch of 30 – 40 people every couple of months. It got to a point where the workload had become too much, and I asked for help. Thankfully, I got support from Jade Duthie, who came on board temporarily – then took on a new role as training coordinator to stay with us, so we continue to work alongside and support one another. I am also grateful for the support of our base admins and the wider team - they are always there for me to count on!

What is unique about your journey to your current role?

Most people don’t know I have a graphic design and animation background. I won a “highly commended” award in an end-of-year show with my college. From the show, a university offered me a place in third year, but I also got a job offer. The job offer was unexpected, but I took the chance to get a foothold in the design industry. From there, I did a complete u-turn and decided to join Bristow, when Sam Willenbacher offered me a job in 2013. I’d like to think I’ve done her, and all of the leadership team proud.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love going for walks and exploring, and I’ve been able to do a lot of that during lockdown. Along with everyone else, I’ve explored the area around my home more than I ever could have imagined. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed finding new and interesting things and places during this time. It’s amazing what is right on our doorsteps.

I have big plans for after lockdown, too! I have a new motorbike that I’m eager to hop on after the pandemic and I’m planning on doing the North Coast 500 in the far north of Scotland. I have a Ford Mustang I enjoy driving, too. I’ve been to the west coast of Scotland and tried many different new activities – surfing, quad biking, paddle boarding, etc. I live for trying new experiences and, daredevil that I am, I’m really looking forward to new opportunities when it’s safe.

Do you have any fond memories with Bristow?

There are so many fond memories I have with the company, but I cannot possibly mention them all.

One that left me in shock was, shortly before Sam Willenbacher moved from our office in the UK to the US, she presented me with an operational excellence award. It was such a rewarding experience being recognized for the commitment to my duties and one that I will cherish.

What have you learned from your role?

Apart from expect the unexpected, one of the biggest things I’ve learnt in this role is that you can never please everyone. You do try and make sure everyone is happy, but at the end of the day, you do your job to the best of your abilities. The team you work with are there when you need them, and everyone has something to offer – knowledge, advice, and support.