Engaging a New Audience: ISTAT Rising Executives
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Founded in 1983, the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) is the premier international, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing aviation professionals with the highest quality and best-value networking and education opportunities in commercial aviation. ISTAT currently represents around 5,000 members worldwide who are involved in operating, manufacturing, maintaining, selling, purchasing, financing, leasing, appraising, insuring, or other activities related to the commercial aviation sector.
The ISTAT Rising Executives Program is a new offering that provides networking and educational opportunities to professionals with less than 10 years in the industry. The program launched in 2020 with online offerings as a way to bring younger professionals into the ISTAT community at a time when in-person events were not taking place.
As an organization, ISTAT has historically benefited senior executives in the industry through a variety of offerings, the most important being bringing these industry leaders together in person. In 2020, beyond launching an online program to help fill the void of in-person events, ISTAT leadership recognized the opportunity to expand the organization’s audience to professionals rising in the industry.
Existing offerings for industry newcomers include opportunities through ISTAT’s Foundation in the form of scholarships, internships, and university courses. In addition, the ISTAT Professional Development Program (PDP) is a new, in-depth educational offering that provides professionals with five years or less experience a solid foundation of knowledge about the many facets of the industry. Recognizing the opportunity to play a role in educating those who are up and coming in the industry, the program launched in October 2019 with 80 students applying for the 25 available seats.
With these offerings in place, there was still a large gap from those just entering the industry to the senior executives that ISTAT primarily serves. The hardworking young professionals already in the industry were not offered an opportunity to connect with senior executives or to collaborate with one another outside of their individual networks. The positive response to ISTAT PDP drove inquiries into other areas of potential expansion, and ISTAT set out to continue filling that void for younger professionals through the ISTAT Rising Executives Program.
Members of the new Rising Executives community — now reaching more than 700 professionals — were invited to sign up to participate in a series of online offerings in October 2020. Driven by ISTAT members at the most senior levels passing along the opportunity to their more junior team members, the majority of participants are individuals who work for ISTAT member companies but are not actively involved in ISTAT. These individuals are aware of ISTAT but have not yet had the opportunity to experience the primary benefits of membership. As ISTAT looks to the future, developing a program for those more junior industry members was a vital move to ensure the future of commercial aviation begins to affiliate with and benefit from the organization’s offerings.
To date, the online sessions have featured key industry leaders sharing insights specifically for these young professionals. “The first series was based on other recessions that [the speakers] have gone through and what they were thinking as young people,” Aaron Prothero, a committee member, said. “Do I leave the industry? Do I stay within the industry, but maybe I’m better at a different role? It gives advice to the demographic that isn’t apparent anywhere else. I think that one of the core functions of the program is being able to not only allow [junior] professionals in the industry to network but also to have resources through mentors in the business who will be able to guide them in their career goals. The first series was very good in doing that and giving insight into the minds of people who have made successes of themselves in this industry.”
Shortly after launching, an ISTAT member company sought out the opportunity to sponsor the program. With the development of young professionals being a key focus for that company, collaborating with ISTAT was a natural fit. Having this company support the program provided another stamp of approval for the growth of this new program and its future success.
The long-term plan for ISTAT’s Rising Executive community is to gather these young professionals in person, either in conjunction with other ISTAT events or to offer one-off networking opportunities with featured speakers and industry leaders. There are currently four local committees with chairs based in the New York area, Miami, Dublin, and Hong Kong. These local committees are identifying what types of in-person and online offerings interest their community of peers and are leading the development of appropriate opportunities. It’s encouraging to see these young professionals jump in to lead this effort. Their energy and need to engage with colleagues and industry leaders was prevalent from the start. From an organizational perspective, diving into this virtually was a low-risk, low investment approach, and a good starting point. We seized the opportunity to address the desire to connect and that has led to what will be valuable long-term benefits for ISTAT’s future growth.
Crystal Ligda is a senior marketing manager at SmithBucklin and serves as Director of Marketing and Communications for ISTAT.
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