Didunoluwa Obilanade, Aerospace Growth Partnership Programme Manager

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In our new ‘Aerostories’ section highlighting the life and career of Aerospace professionals, we interview Aerospace Growth Partnership Programme Manager, DIDUNOLUWA OBILANADE MRAeS.

Didunoluwa Obilanade MRAeS, 28

Location: Bristol, UK

Job Title: Aerospace Growth Partnership Programme Manager, GKN Aerospace Secondee. Additionally, incoming Doktorand (PhD candidate) at Luleå University of Technology researching Additive Manufacturing for Space Applications.

What inspired you into aerospace? My childhood next-door neighbour as, when I was very little, I lived next to a WW2 RAF veteran named Ozzy. He used to tell me across our wall about all the planes he flew and worked on throughout his career, while I listened absolutely fascinated. The day we moved, he came over to our house and gave me a model Spitfire and one of my earliest childhood books, an illustrated guide to the US Air Force which I still have to this day.

What is the best thing about your current role? Working for the Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP) I have seen the big picture of the UK aerospace industry through its interactions with Government. I have worked with senior leaders of industry and government on a range of activities that focus on improving the skills of the industry, the competitiveness of the manufacturing supply chain and the industries engagement with the nation. This has given me opportunities to visit amazing sites across the UK such as Bombardier in Northern Ireland, the Airbus facilities at the AMRC in Wales, Spirit AeroSystems in Scotland and Collins in England.

What challenges have you faced and what do you feel is the biggest challenge for the industry (if any)? My undergraduate degree was a challenge for me, as imposter syndrome mixed with a variety of other things led to me failing my fair share of exams. However, after each hurdle and through asking for help, I worked harder the next time to pass and was encouraged that I belonged. My mantra becoming ‘Fail fast, Fail forward’. Accepting quickly where I had made mistakes and looking at how I can turn that mistake in to a lesson that moves me forward.

I think the biggest challenge facing the industry is the downturn in air traffic due to the pandemic. This downturn in traffic cascades through the industry into reduction in revenues due to cancelation of orders, reduction in MRO and, inevitably, loss of jobs. As an industry, we need to improve the public’s confidence in flying and work with the government to get planes back in the air and provide work to the SME community.

What made you join the Royal Aeronautical Society? I joined the RAeS as a student for its networking opportunities and the many careers advice events. What do you hope to get out of your membership? I am still making fantastic use of the networking and career advice opportunities, through being a part of the Young Persons’ Committee and attending the professional registration events. My next step is to submit my application to become a Chartered Engineer and use this to get the professional recognition for the work that I have done in my career so far. I hope to then develop my mentorship skills through the Society and pass down the good advice I’ve been given so far from my mentors.

What’s your favourite aircraft and why? Going for a bit of a workhorse, the A320 family. I have spent most of my flying time on these beauties and it was the first aircraft that I got a basic maintenance certification on during my grad scheme.

Who are your biggest inspirations? I am inspired by Leland Melvin and Charles Bolden. Both are black American astronauts who have achieved fantastic things throughout their careers, Charles becoming the NASA Administrator and Leland playing in the NFL prior to becoming an astronaut. I am a firm believer in ‘If you can see it, you can be it’ and that representation truly leads to aspirations. Both of these men gave me the ability to see myself in high positions of science and engineering, not just by looking like me, but by being fantastic ambassadors for the industry and actively encouraging the next generation space engineers.

Piece of advice for someone looking to enter your field? Try to attend and apply for everything that you find interesting! Be it that seminar, internship, apprenticeship, grad scheme, university course or secondment. One can be interested in many different things with lots of options, often leading to choice paralysis or worry if you have made the right choice. The only way to know is to try! By attending events it will give you a taster of what could be in store. Also, if under 35 and interested in the space industry, join the Space Generation Advisory Council – a fantastic network of space professionals conducting a variety of space projects.

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