School may be out for summer, but for
American Airlines Managing Director of Cargo Culture and Transformation
Jessica Tyler, change is in the air.
“We officially announced our partnership
with IBS in January of this year and have been hard at work completing
the first major phase of work, designing our future business processes
that are enabled by the iCargo solution.
“We are now working on the detailed
plan to support our teams and customers through this transition over time.
“The devil is in the details and let’s
just say we’re in the ‘hot’ part of the project.”
& Finding A New Road
“We are excited to join an incredible
community of IBS customers.
“This community is helping us learn
and that’s a big part of why we chose IBS. Many of these airlines
have been gracious enough to spend time with our implementation team to
share their successes and challenges. Our team also just returned from
one of the IBS customer forums a few weeks ago, where I got a better glimpse
at the collaboration across carriers and IBS to continue to push the industry
“What makes our partnership different
is that AA Cargo is one of a handful of carriers that leverages all of
iCargo’s various modules, implementing a true end-to-end platform
from booking to accounting and everything in between.
“We are also the first major North
American airline to join IBS’s customer group, which is a very unique
aspect to our relationship.”
“I love supporting the teams that
are driving culture and transformational efforts within our business.
“So while my title seems a bit fancy,
it means that my team gets to think about and implement ways to support
our people (no, I’m not HR) and how we move our business forward
every single day.
“I have four areas of responsibility:
the overall success of this effort to modernize our processes and systems,
a project management office that supports all other strategic initiatives,
engagement and recognition efforts, and regulatory compliance.
“Just this week, Angela Hudson (right)—the
manager of team and customer readiness for this major effort—and
the broader project team executed an incredible day with more than 100
frontline team members, whom we call Captains, who will start engaging
and involving our team members from Operations, Sales, Customer Experience,
Accounting, Revenue Management, and all our vendor partners across the
“These folks came from all over the
globe and will begin engaging with the project team to ensure a successful
“I can’t tell you how proud
I am to work with such passionate, experienced, talented people.
“I feel lucky.”
“At AA Cargo there are team members
working to ensure regulatory compliance in our global cargo operations,
and that requires constant coordination and partnership with station leadership,
regulators, and our internal safety and security teams.
“Julia Ford, Manager of Regulatory
Compliance on our team, leads a group of incredible auditors that travel
around making sure we run a safe and compliant operation.
Shoaf, (left) Manager of Strategic Projects, and her team work
to project manage several key initiatives throughout the division, from
station moves to improvements to our website, to supporting our alliances
“Then I have Debbie Edwards, (right) who leads all of our efforts to ensure we recognize and engage our global
team. She helps support our leaders and most recently is working to support
American Voice, our company’s internal team member feedback mechanism.
With her help, we work to equip our leaders to make meaningful change
that improves teamwork and engagement across our teams. She also leads
all of our division’s recognition programs, like our Cargo Champions
program. Like I said, we have our hands in just about everything the broader
Cargo team is working on—great meaningful work!”
The New Incredibles!
“I think our customers and the industry
know that we have an incredible team. What excites me most is what this
team will accomplish with modern tools. Today, our award-winning team
delivers outstanding service with one hand tied behind our back. And,
that’s pretty incredible!
“Imagine what we’ll be capable
of together, when we have better tools, better insights, and an IT landscape
that enables our ability to shift quickly.”
Dean Knight Taught Us
“The integration (USAir into American
Airlines) was an incredible experience for our team.
“Mostly, I learned that talented,
passionate people can do just about anything when we work together.
“We were the first major division
to merge in the airline—that’s a huge accomplishment within
“Dean Knight, who is our program manager
for our current technology project, taught us all how to work within and
develop these incredibly complex programs.
“He was recruited by other divisions
at American to go help other teams manage their integration efforts and
now he’s back to help us again (we are lucky!).”
Money Underestimating Change
“We certainly created some best practices
for others to use, but we also created a lot of lessons learned that others
benefited from as well.
“One of which is don’t underestimate
change. “What seems like a minor change on paper can be a major
change for the human being experiencing it.”
“Julia Ford, (left) as I
mentioned earlier, leads our regulatory compliance team. When I first
started supporting this group, I’d been around a bit so I understood
the amount of paper in our process, or so I thought. When you follow an
auditor around, you see paper that supports the paper and we make an extra
copy of that paper so that we can keep that on file.
“You also see the files of paper that
we have to keep around to show we follow policy and regulations.
“I think if we can leverage technology
more in this industry, it not only helps the environment and makes it
easy to share and leverage information, I think we actually make this
industry even safer than it is today (and it’s already safe!).
“We could repurpose the human energy
put into checking all the paper, to let humans do what they do best—share
and learn from each other.
“We should be putting our energy into
teaching and supporting the teams that have to execute on the complex
policies and regulations that we have in this industry.
“Julia’s team tries really hard
to take a teaching approach to auditing.
“The people on our audit team are
some of the best educators I’ve ever been around and with paperless
processes and things like IATA’s One Record initiative, we can transform
what our team’s energy goes toward.”
“Honestly, my ‘look to’
role models are my parents. I admire the incredible sacrifices they made
along the way to raise four children.
“They owned a small business for 40
years and the work ethic, the constant reinventing of their business to
stay competitive, the way they merged work and life, and the importance
they put on education, are all things I try to emulate as a mom and a
leader that supports super-talented people every day at work.
“Time off is mostly spent traveling
to lacrosse tournaments all over North America or vacationing in Maine,
Florida, or Colorado, our favorite spots to be with extended family or
the great outdoors.
“While I’ve done quite a bit
of international travel in my lifetime, we aren’t quite ready to
take all three boys on that journey.
“We are very close; the youngest is
seven and is becoming a very seasoned domestic traveler, so I see international
family travel in our very near future and I can’t wait to expose
them to the people and cultures that make up this great planet.
“I would whole-heartedly recommend
an airline career to others.
“The dynamic nature of the business,
the incredible mission to connect people and the goods that fuel life
is great, meaningful work.
“You can have five different careers
within a career at an airline our size.
“Whether you are into revenue management,
operations, leading and supporting teams, charitable efforts, logistics
and supply chain—you name a talent or interest and there is a job
within the airline that would allow you to shine and learn.
“My favorite city is probably Mere
Point, ME. I like it mostly because of the poor cell service.
“My in-laws have a cottage right on
the water, with no TV, no internet, and the sounds of the water always
in the background.
“My kids love collecting sea treasures—claws
and sea glass are top finds—and we spend a ton of time water skiing
and picnicking on the tiny islands off the coast.
“Exploring the outdoors is probably
our favorite family activity—throwing rocks in a river, biking or
hiking on a trail, paddle boarding, etc.—anything that’s outside
and new is cool.
“The last book I read was a Jack Reacher
novel. I’ve read so many leadership books over the years that sometimes
when I have time to read, I want some action-packed mystery to engage
my brain in a different way.”
“Balance is a weird word,” Jessica
“It’s kind of a myth if you
“When you get to do what you love
every day, work and life merge. I look at my day holistically—what
can I do to support my work family and my real family today?
“How can I divide my hours to give
my all to both?
“Not necessarily at the same time
mind you. I don’t see work as nine to five, I see about 16-17 hours
that can be divided up to give attention where it needs to be.
“When it’s dinner time, it’s
dinner time and I’m fully present.
“When I’m working on something
with our team, I do my best to be fully present.
“Managing my calendar is critical
to my ability to do that well.
“I also have a very supportive partner
who about a year ago gave up his career to be completely focused on our
“That has helped tremendously as we
coordinate our crazy schedules with lacrosse, swim team, school, work
and business travel, etc.”
& Women in Air Cargo
“I don’t love generalizing about
any ‘group’ of people.
“To say ‘women are talented
at X’ is weird to me.
“I get that men are from Mars and
women are from Venus (remember that book!?) and that there are some real
differences—believe me, I live with three sons, a male spouse, and
a male dog, so I get it.
“To me, diversity is about variation
of thought, perspective, experiences, talent, etc. and it’s really
hard to fully get that without a lot of different ‘groups’
“It’s about coverage, not numbers.
“One of my very first large integration
meetings at American was a gathering of all the various leads from different
divisions, maybe 75 people in all.
“There were very few women and very
few people under the age of 50.
“Those were the ‘groups’
I could visually see underrepresented, but I’m sure there were other
diverse experiences we were missing and I’m sure there were other
diverse talent/experiences that were present that I couldn’t see
with my eyes.
“I typically don’t notice things
like that, but it was so evident it was hard to miss.
‘That was about five years ago and
I’m happy to say that a short five years later, we are way more
focused than ever on the diversity needed to make this great company even
“When you barely hire for a decade,
bringing in diverse talent just doesn’t happen, but with time, we
are making progress in this area.
“Today, I have the pleasure of serving
as a steering committee member for our International Development Program—it’s
a focused program meant to identify and develop frontline team members
with the potential to lead.
“It includes men and women, young
and tenured, with all kinds of backgrounds.
“Programs like this help us develop
from within and when coupled with a talent and diversity-focused hiring
approach, we are making great progress.”
Blessings Instead of Sheep
“Our project and the people involved
are what I think about as I fall asleep and it’s first on my mind
in the morning.
“Every single day our team is working
to ensure that not only do we have a smooth technology transition, which
is complex enough to cause stress and angst, but most importantly, that
our team and customers are ready when they need to be.
“Taking care of our team and involving
everyone along the way so that we all own this transformation is an every
“Training is critical. But training
alone won’t help get our teams ready.
“You can execute your training plan
‘perfectly’ and still fail in a huge effort like this. Being
thoughtful about managing change one human being at a time is how our
team and customer readiness group is thinking about this effort. We are
spending as much time and money on the change efforts related to this
project as we are on the technology efforts, and have partnered with a
niche firm, Emerson Human Capital, that focuses solely on these technology
transformations that are won or lost on the culture front.”
Why The Math
“I love math, but not in the way that
most math nerds love math.
“I love a good debate around chaos
theory. I believe that order is possible in the midst of mayhem.
“I honestly think a mathematical mind
is what keeps me calm in the midst of craziness.
“I don’t love spreadsheets or
modeling or any of that, what I love about math concepts is that no matter
the challenge if you work creatively enough, you’ll find a fit—a
model, a structure, or a framework. It might not be perfect, but it might
just get you there- you’ll see the order out of what was once clutter.
“All life and work challenges are
that same way.
“There is always a way, no matter
“I don’t use all of the upper-level
math I learned, but I definitely use the concepts all the time.
“I think of culture like a network
(and not in the airline sense of the term).
“I’ve always thought of leaders
as the nodes in a network.
“Formal and informal leaders are the
hubs of care, influence, and information. They are the connectors. Just
like we think about ways to optimize our hubs as an airline, I think about
how we equip and support the critical nodes of the people network. If
they aren’t supported and ready, the network of people falls apart.
“If you support those critical connectors—the
people hubs of the network—the right way, anything is possible.”