Interview with Ms. Heba Magdy Gheith ~ Cabin Services Director at Qatar Airways

INTERVIEWER: MAHMOUD MANSI

EDITOR: NOHA ALY SLEME

“My job enables me to: be independent, open to new cultures and learn a lot about them, have a full view of the world, not be limited to the area I come from, so not only reading about the world, but experiencing and exploring it.”

Heba Magdy Gheith

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At Zurich, Switzerland / 2010

 About the Interviewee:

Heba Magdy Gheith, a passionate Egyptian young woman who studied Linguistics and Translation in Alexandria University. Writing is one of her hobbies. Perusing her career path she worked for a while in a publishing company as a proofreader until she made a different decision. Currently she has been working for Qatar Airways for 8 years. She is now a Cabin Services Director.

THE INTERVIEW

1- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Why did you want to have this job? And what does it mean to you?

Heba Magdy: I got this job by chance through an ad, and that was after seeking a total change from my routine-type work in a publishing company. My job means my life to me, as it is the turning point from being a random girl to being a recognized, mature, independent lady.

2- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Being a Linguistics and Translation graduate, how did this directly or indirectly assist you in your current job?

Heba Magdy: Being a Linguistics and Translation graduate gave me a base to easily communicate in English, as English is the only language we use in our multi-national company. It also made me dominant and unique in that aspect, which helped, in a way, speed my promotions or not get delayed, let’s say, and it empowered my personality and revealed my abilities in education-based conversations.

3- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: What did your job as a cabin crew member add to your personality?

Heba Magdy: My job added a lot to me. It enables me to: be independent, open to new cultures and learn a lot about them, have a full view of the world, not be limited to the area I come from, so not only reading about the world, but “experiencing” and exploring it, learn bits of words from each language, have an incredible life-style allowing me to have my breakfast in Japan, my lunch in Paris and my dinner in the US. It also helps to increase my situational awareness by the ability to deal in sudden, unusual or emergency situations, e.g. situations where first aid is essential to save someone’s life, or aircraft emergency or evacuation, and lastly, to know all types of cuisine from all over the world, which helped me, when I sit in a decent restaurant, to understand all those food terminologies, which I had no idea about before!

4- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: From your personal experience, what are the personal and professional skills required for one to be a cabin crew member?

Heba Magdy: Cabin crew should have skills like the ability to communicate and adapt to multi-national environment, work under stress, be independent, have customer service orientation, be attentive, a fast learner, confident, a team worker, presentable and English proficient.

5- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: What do you like most about your job?

Heba Magdy: I like that no matter how many years have passed, I still feel as excited as when I first joined. On the 23rd or 24th of each month, I eagerly wait for my new roster to get published and see how many places I will visit and start planning accordingly. For example, planning my shopping list which depends on what is special in each country, my new sightseeing spots which I have not visited before, my friends or relatives in certain countries, whom I can visit and enjoy some quality time with, the new people I will meet and the new day to experience out of my surrounding world.

6- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: I heard that this job can bring severe depression to some people. Do you sometimes face depression? What are the reasons and how do you deal with it?

Heba Magdy: People can suffer from depression anywhere, anytime and with no specific-related job, if the person is not strong enough. Most people look at cabin crew as happy, lucky and have nothing lacking in their lives. On the other hand, some other people see cabin crew jobs as very tiring and not easy to handle, but the most important is the person themselves. Some people can get depressed due to being over-satisfied, finding nothing can be of interest to them, or as a reason of not being able to handle frequent time zone changes and unstable sleeping pattern. As for me, being with people is my anti-depression pill.

7- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Can you share with us one of the challenges you faced at work, a situation and how did you overcome it?

Heba Magdy: One of the situations was the presence of an unstable man, who was trying to open the door of the plane inflight. Knowing that the door is impossible to be opened due to pressure, the act itself was not the case, but the fear from the passenger to become unruly. We calmed and reassured him, until we, the cabin crew, succeeded in restraining him and hand him over to the security on arrival. That situation made me grateful to the job and to my trainings, which made me, one day, manage to act as a police officer!

8- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Let’s assume someday you were given a chance to become the GM of an airline company in the Middle-East, what new ideas would you implement regarding the service, training, management method and any other thing?

Heba Magdy: I would implement different motivating ideas, like “Crew of the Month” to encourage the crew and drive them to give their best. Also, whoever shows a skill in a specific task in a flight would give him/her the title for that, e.g. Miss Grooming for those who are remarkably groomed, and that is what I do myself in my flights, and I see even more improvement in the crew’s point of strength after that. In addition, I will motivate the crew through speeches, meetings, seminars, events, talent recognition competitions covering different hobbies, and the most important I would give prizes and make a lot of different surprises and offers for the winners.

9- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Did you ever imagine yourself being a pilot?

Heba Magdy: Yes I did, but every year I kept on saying “it’s too late already.” As a matter of fact, whoever does not endeavor or fully aim at becoming a pilot, will never be, and in my case, I was never serious about it.

10- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Do you consider your job as a lifetime career?

Heba Magdy: Cabin crew job can’t be a lifetime career on its own, as we have a series of upgrades and promotions which take place in the customer experience industry as a whole.

11- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Do you consider this a feminist job? Can you get married and still have the same career?

Heba Magdy: In the old days, people used to visualize a cabin crew as only female and with a specific dress code, e.g. a scarf and a hat, and a male cabin crew was never perceived, recognized or widely shown on TV,…etc. However, nowadays male cabin crew are numerous and capable of doing the job, as long as they meet all requirements. It is, basically, an era change that allowed both genders to successfully perform each others’ career roles, which were previously deemed to be gender specific.

Now talking about getting married, I would personally prefer to stop flying, but remain in the same industry on ground, and that is to take care of my family and give them my efforts and time in a consistent family environment.

12- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Let’s assume for some reason you were forced to quit this career, do you have a plan B?

Heba Magdy: I don’t have a plan B, because I am happy with my achievements, but if I have to, I would probably work in an art-related field.

13- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: What advice do you have for young men and women who want to establish a career in the airline field?

Heba Magdy: I advise to be totally ready for a new change in your lives; take the good values from each culture you will be exposed to, don’t abuse the liberal lifestyle, be more mature, know your limits, be independent, be private, be responsible and lastly be happy and enjoy the diversity of your new world.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Thank you so much Ms. Heba for sharing your rare passion, knowledge, and outstanding ideas with our magazine. I am sure this interview will answer many questions in the minds of the readers, and will leave a fingerprint in their lives.

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