Be audacious. That’s the motto for CEO, helicopter pilot midwife, international leader, and Griffith University Masters graduate Jan Becker, who has carved out a unique business path and career, combining her passion for flying as a helicopter pilot with her skills as a midwife.
She is also the Chair of Helicopter Association International, and CEO of Becker Helicopters at Marcoola on the Sunshine Coast, running the largest helicopter pilot training Academy in the Southern Hemisphere.
“Light has to have day. Day has to have night, and I think you do have dark times, and you have times of doubt,” Jan says.
“And, sometimes it’s tough in this nation. We’re not too great at applauding others.
“The one thing that I’ve always loved about my nursing career and midwifery career is, you can effect change just by being a different person on the ward. And it’s the same as a helicopter pilot. There’s such a discipline that goes around it. But, it’s how you approach it. I love the discipline and the uniqueness of both of those careers.”
Alongside her team Jan coordinates emergency responses in floods, bushfires, and other emergencies.
And that’s parallel to the joy of helping bring a new life into the world. Jan co-founded a midwifery training clinic in Tanzania with her daughter Chase, which they still visit regularly.
“I’ve found that I have a skill in being a midwife, and I just felt it was fair that you’d give that to somewhere in the world,” she says.
“We’re global citizens. We’re not Australian and New Zealand, well that’s how I see it. And, we’ve got to give back somewhere.”
She says her Griffith Masters degree in Aviation Management was pivotal to her taking on more responsibilities, and Jan urges other people to consider finding the extra 15 per cent that can change the direction of their lives.
“We have a saying in helicopters, you’re always flying into wind if you can,” Jan says.
“And when you fly into wind in a helicopter, wind is life. It’s an analogy that I think is so important.
“When you’re in a helicopter and you are hovering, you’re going absolutely nowhere, but you’re using between 80 and 85% of the power of that helicopter to hover.
“And people spend 85% of their time and energy, and they’re going nowhere. It’s the extra 15%, you raise that collective, you change the aerodynamics on the blade, and you move through translational lift, and that extra 15% is what makes you fly, and then you’re going somewhere.
“But unless you pull that power, and you change the pitch on the blades and change the altitude, you will never go anywhere but hover. And if you hover long enough, you’ll eventually run out of gas.
“And, I just think sometimes people need to believe in themselves that they’ve got the 15% there. They’ve got it, they’ve just got to make a decision to use it.”
She says studying her Masters was daunting, but she overcame her fears.
“I was running a helicopter company at the time with my husband, Mike, and I wanted to learn more about the metrics behind it,” she says.
“It taught me a discipline and a different way of thinking in business.
“The Masters doesn’t feed you the information. You’ve got to hunt it down, and be far more analytical.”
She says her career progression has been far from easy, but leaving the naysayers behind has been satisfying.
“I remember I was taking a gentleman out on the tarmac to go for a helicopter ride. And I said, “Well, jump in and we’ll get ready,” and he goes, “I’m not flying with a woman,” she says.
“And I remember thinking, it never occurred to me that he would think that that would be unusual.
“And it’s the same when you’re a CEO. Mike and I used to travel a lot for the business. And, if it says Captain Becker somewhere, they will naturally go to Mike. And so there is a propensity for us to think in boxes.”
Those skills stood her in good stead as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, and she considered how best to lead the company out of the pandemic crisis.
“I think you have to be a voracious learner. And I think if you’re not, you’re stuck somewhere in the past, because eventually time moves on,” she says.
“And if you don’t move with it, you’re thinking is cemented. And cemented thinking is, I think a big challenge.”
Last year, Jan received an Order of Australia Medal for her service to aviation and community health, through neonatal organisations.
Hear more of Jan’s story on the Griffith University podcast Remarkable Tales.