Remember that old phrase about walking in someone else’s shoes? Well, recently one of the Airport Authority’s Vice Presidents did just that — literally! Angela, our Vice President of Planning & Operations, donned the uniform (and shoes) of an Airport Traffic Officer (ATO) to pound the pavement and walk the beat — all to get a new perspective on a very important job at San Diego International Airport. I sat down with her to talk about the experience … and how she’s dealing with her own challenge of being a new mom. Read on:
Ed: What made you do this?
Angela: ATOs make up a large portion of the Airport Authority workforce, and they are part of my division. So I wanted to understand the employees who do this job. What better way than to do their job for a day?
E: Agreed. What typically happens in a day’s work as an ATO?
A: They are the first interface most customers have with the airport, and based upon the wide range of people they meet, I’d have to say there is no normal, typical day for an ATO.
E: Really? So what did you find most challenging about the experience?
A: I was genuinely surprised at how many of our customers try to fool the ATOs with so many different antics. They refuse to look in their direction, pretending not to notice them, or they pick up the cell phone and pretend they’re in conversation. And when nudged to move along, they all seem to be waiting for grandma who is just about to come out.
E: So how do you get the customers to move along?
A: All the ATOs bring their own style to it. Some use a whistle, some try to catch people with a wave, and some tap the window. Others like to ask, “May I help you?” There’s not a single answer, but the ATOs use a variety of means to help keep the traffic flowing.
E: Were you surprised by anything about the job?
A: I don’t think most people realize that the ATOs do a lot more than just walk the curb. They monitor the transit and shuttle bus islands and also do the permit inspections of the taxis and vehicles.
E: Do ATOs know what they’re going to be doing on the job before each day?
A: Yes. That’s what the line-ups are for at that beginning of each shift. They rotate the responsibilities. You might start at one terminal and move on to another later in the shift.
E: Is this something other senior staff at the Airport Authority have done or plan to do?
A: Jeffrey [our Vice President of Administration] did this a few years ago.
E: Did you get advice from him before your ATO duty?
A: No, I didn’t talk to him about this beforehand. I wanted to experience this firsthand for myself.
E: If you weren’t a Vice President at the Airport Authority, what else would you be doing?
A: I’d be self-employed, but I’m not sure in what line of business. But it’s hard to imagine doing something else. I really enjoy this job.
E: So what brought you to the job in San Diego?
A: The weather!
E: Good answer! I say the same thing myself to people who ask me that question. So how’s motherhood treating you? I understand that you have a newborn girl at home.
A: It’s exciting and challenging every single day — not unlike work.
E: But isn’t it a form of work, too?
A: Yes, but it’s not stressful. There’s no politics in reasoning with a baby!
E: [Chuckle] That’s for sure! Thanks for your time, and have a good day.