Head of Operations, A330 Wing Structures and Equipping, Airbus
Devon Sumner has always had a love of aviation. She reveals that it’s great to work in an industry she’s passionate about — and one that is supportive of women.
There are many exciting things about working in the aerospace industry, insists Devon Sumner, Head of Operations, A330 Wing Structures and Equipping at Airbus. “First of all, there’s the challenging nature of the work we do,” she says. “And the variety, too, because no two days are the same. Plus, there’s the pride I get in working for a company like this, especially when I see our products at an airport. I grew up next to an RAF base, so I always had an interest in aviation.”
Devon is now a senior member of the Airbus team, but her career didn’t have a straightforward beginning. At school, she had an aptitude for maths and science and was encouraged to study engineering by her maths teacher. Even so, she opted to study a more creative subject — product design — at university. A problem arose almost immediately, however. “I didn’t enjoy my first year,” she admits. “The fit just didn’t feel right.”
Having a range of opportunities with an aerospace career
It was Devon’s mother who encouraged her to think again and apply for an Undergraduate Engineering Apprenticeship at Airbus. “So that’s what I did,” she says. “I left university, was successful in my application, and I’ve never looked back.”
She joined the company in 2011 and now has a First Class Honours Degree and is an Incorporated Engineer with the Royal Aeronautical Society. Her roles have included project and business management, aircraft design modification management and operational leadership.
You can do anything from engineering to HR to facilities management, so it’s all about what you make it.
Career and personal development encouraged in STEM
“Career opportunities are genuinely endless,” she says. “You can do anything from engineering to HR to facilities management, so it’s all about what you make it. There’s also a big focus on — and support for — personal development, while progression and career development are actively encouraged.
“Plus, there’s positive investment in gender diversity topics to ensure that women are supported both through good policies, such as maternity leave and parental leave, and through a strong and sustained network of women who support and help each other.”
Devon’s advice to any young woman thinking of a career in STEM is simple. “If a topic interests you and offers an exciting and fulfilling career, then don’t be put off. It might feel different from the sort of thing your friends are doing, but if it feels right — do it. You absolutely won’t regret it.”