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Aviation Leader Emphasizing Communication Skills, Attitude, Work Ethic

Real success in the business and professional world requires far more than just academic and technical skills. That is the message from senior vice president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Katie Pribyl. She addressed Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduates during their Dec. 16 commencement.

“One really important thing that you probably aren’t expecting to hear – but it is really important: Have the discipline to put your dang phone down – and listen and think,” she told the more than 200 students graduating from the world’s largest accredited university that specializes in aviation and aerospace.

She explained it was far more important to look people in the eye and listen to their messages than it was to watch a screen. “There’s a message we send when we look at people front and center – and build a relationship that has genuine caring, commitment and attentiveness. Think more about how to make people front and center.”

Pribyl, an executive with the nation’s largest private aviation association, emphasized that career success requires far more than specialized professional or occupational abilities.

“Your technical and professional skills may get your foot in the door, but your people skills are what will blow those doors wide open. Your work ethic, your attitude, your communication skills, your interpersonal skills and a positive attitude will make problem-solving, delegating, motivating and teambuilding so much easier for you,” she said.

Pribyl, herself a graduate from ERAU in 2000, continued, “You have to have the heart to share appreciation for multiple opportunities, and most important, for understanding the need for resourcefulness and resilience to adapt to an ever-changing society. These are soft skills that will be crucial to your career success.”

Acknowledging that intellectual and academic skills graduates gain at a university are important, Pribyl nevertheless emphasized that personal and human relationship skills are the most challenging to mature. Those kinds of skills are linked to personal character, and “…they take a conscious commitment to ongoing practice and self-development to develop,” she said.  Pribyl credits those skills with landing her a job where she now travels the world meeting with aviation industry top leaders, writing and working with nationally and international media, and being responsible for the “You Can Fly” program and the Air Safety Institute.

The Montana native grew up on a ranch and graduated from a high school class of 15 students. During her years at ERAU, Pribyl was a member of the Golden Eagles Flight Team and was on the 1999 NIFA National Championship Team.

After graduating, she became a commercial airline pilot at age 21, flying for Canadair Regional Jet until the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, when airlines across the nation went through difficult times.

She then worked briefly for General Aviation Manufacturers Association until she accepted a position at AOPA.

Following Pribyl’s address, ERAU Chancellor Frank Ayers conferred degrees upon more than 200 students from four colleges: Aviation, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Security, and Intelligence. Also during the ceremonies, the Prescott campus announced its first doctorate degree, earned by ERAU Assistant Professor Timothy Sestak. QCBN


By Ray Newton, QCBN

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