Opa Nagahawatta-Jones is fuel efficiency project manager with TUI, Opa kindly shared what she does on an average day in her role, what it’s like working for international airline TUI and her key advice for aspiring aviation professionals.
Pursuing a career in aviation
Since I was a little girl, I always found technical aspects very intriguing. I studied electronics at school for O/Ls which became my favourite subject and then decided to choose engineering as my career path. I always found aircraft very interesting as well and there was a time I wanted to be a pilot but eventually decided against it as I didn’t like the lifestyle.
So I decided to combine those two areas and to formally study aerospace engineering while specialising in avionics which I achieved through my Bachelors and Masters degrees. That is how I ended up with a career in the aviation industry.
I worked as a Graduate Project Engineer for Amsafe Bridport for a short period but the majority of my career has been with various functional areas of TUI. I joined TUI as an Aviation Safety Analyst and after a couple of years joined engineering services as a Technical Support Engineer.
During that time I managed several aircraft upgrade projects and developed a passion for project management. After four years in that role, I joined aviation planning and a Fleet Planning Analyst. That role provided me vital commercial and financial knowledge I lacked but is very important for project management.
After five years in that role, I moved to Flight Operations recently as Fuel Efficiency Project Manager. My current role focuses on looking for various initiatives to improve fuel efficiency and sustainability within all 5 AOCs of the TUI Group.
What it’s like to work at your company
I have been with TUI for nearly 12 years and can genuinely say that it is a great company to work for. It is a large company with varied business areas across multiple countries. This gives career opportunities to move across functionally and geographically if you wish.
I have only been based in the UK though I closely work with our European colleagues based in other source markets. The work atmosphere is very relaxed and flexible working is a key benefit that has improved significantly after the pandemic. Cherry on the cake for me is travel benefits employees receive as I love visiting various countries for holidays.
I generally work from about 9 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday but the hours are generally flexible to suit personal circumstances. Even though TUI has an office at a commutable location, I work from home most of the time.
I start my day by going through the calendar and emails. My current role involves lots of meetings with various internal and external stakeholders.
Since I review various projects on a day to day basis, I spend a fair amount of time researching relevant products, services, regulations, etc. Since I’m still new to the role, I still have lots of learning to do about various software applications, etc. so I spend a lot of time on that as well.
My role involves some travelling to conferences, etc. even though the majority of the discussions take place via Teams app. Since I’m exposed to so many new applications and information on a regular basis, I find my job as a Fuel Efficiency Project Manager intellectually stimulating and very interesting.
3 Tips for aspiring aviation professionals:
My advice for anyone who is trying to decide on a career path is to follow your passion and not listen to society if they try to discourage you from following your passion.
Take every opportunity to improve knowledge through formal learning or otherwise.
Network! Networking plays a huge part when it comes to career development.