Lily Xu, Airport manager, Seattle

Describe your current job? I am the airport manager at one of the most beautiful cities that we currently fly to which is situated in the Pacific Northwest. It’s known for Starbucks coffee, Boeing airplanes, and lots of rainy weather. Oh and don’t forget the Seahawks, the multitude of tech companies, and the plethora of outdoor activities despite the weather. It’s a coffee lover’s dream and it is undeniably Seattle.

I am essentially responsible for the overall business unit at the airport and its related functions. I interact daily with all levels of staff within Virgin Atlantic and its sister companies under the Virgin brand as well as all governmental bodies in the US and UK, the Port of Seattle, and all of our 100+ suppliers. I am a brand ambassador for Virgin Atlantic in our city and am here to ensure the superior level of customer service we are known for is provided to our guests and partners.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why? I wanted to be a veterinarian because of my love for animals. I wanted to save each and every one that was hurt or sick and it got to the point where one day when I found out we needed to dissect frogs during biology class in middle school, I got right up and walked out of class. I could not fathom doing this to any creature. Of course I got detention but it was well worth it!

What in your job has given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfilment? 
I believe that it is absolutely necessary to work in a field that inspires you. As Richard Branson said, “There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions in a way that serves the world and you.” If you love your work, then really you do not feel like you are working, but instead contributing to a greater cause which breeds motivation and productivity. I would say the greatest satisfaction I get from my role is that I am able to interact with a diverse group of individuals on a daily basis and that’s ever changing. This has allowed me to see views I otherwise would not have realised. The ability to travel around the world also helps broaden my knowledge and if there was one thing I could say was the most important factor in my life, it would be that I had the chance to continue to learn something new every single day.

What women have inspired you? The RBGs! This is what my group in Springboard named ourselves and it is in appreciation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Not only did she pioneer the way for women in law but she led the fight for gender equality overall. She didn’t just stop there but continued advocating for LGBT causes and racial equality. She was a trailblazer in her field as the first Jewish female and second female justice ever to serve on the US Supreme Court. Her determination to succeed would not allow for any obstacles and she refused to concede to how others viewed her ideas and beliefs. She is a pop culture icon and is an inspiration to women and girls everywhere.

Michelle Obama is also one who I admire greatly. She advocates for education for girls around the world through her initiative Let Girls Learn which I believe is so important. Education should be available to all but unfortunately, as quoted on their website, “a girl who could change her world for the better is locked out of that future by the circumstances of her birth or the customs of her community and country.” She is also a big supporter of helping working women balance career and family. I would love to see her run for President of the United States someday. We shall see!

How do you think women’s equality has evolved and what needs to happen next? This is quite a debatable topic but we are definitely headed in the right direction. Who would have thought that in 2020, women would still be fighting for equal pay and treatment. I believe that our voices need to be heard and that every voice matters. Speak up when you aren’t being fairly treated and never settle. It is utterly devastating that in some countries in the world, women are still being exposed in detrimental ways with no access to education, rights, or to vote. Or simply wanting to choose who to marry. I believe we need to collectively come together to fight for our equality. Advocating and standing up for each other instead of tearing each other down is the only way to continue.

How does Springboard help our women? The Springboard program speaks about many areas that aren’t necessarily spoken about in everyday life. It shows how ideas can be looked at differently than might have otherwise been considered because women are made to think we have to act and feel a certain way to be accepted. It includes inspiring stories from real women in real situations and how they overcame professional and personal obstacles. It makes you realise you are not alone and that other women experience the same issues each and every day.

How has Springboard helped you? Where do I start? Springboard has helped me in such a great number of ways. I feel more confident in the decisions I make professionally and personally. I was promoted during the time I attended the sessions and I believe what I learned helped me achieve my professional goals. I moved to a new city and started with a brand new team. I met an inspiring group of women within my company that I would otherwise have never have crossed paths with. They all had their own personal stories they were willing to share and this really influenced how I perceived myself and how I thought others perceived me. The courage they all showed in the stories they shared and the walls they had let down in order to do this was enough to start the waterworks in some of our sessions. I feel so proud to have met these incredible women!

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