Elie Khatami

I am currently the vice president, customer & product support for Honeywell Aerospace covering – Europe, Middle East Africa and India region.

My responsibilities are to keep airplanes flying safely and efficiently by supporting every type of aircraft operator, from airlines to private jet and helicopter owners.

I was hired through a university rotation program in Phoenix, Arizona in 2001. It was entry level at the factory, where I learnt about talent management, planning and purchasing. I have been with Honeywell Aerospace for 18 years and have worked across the U.S. (Phoenix, Arizona), Asia Pacific (Singapore and Shanghai) and EMEAI. I am currently based in Rolle, Switzerland.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really, as all I knew was that I wanted to be the best in every job I have. I have always been open enough to learn and embrace the opportunities. I do not believe in saying – No. Therefore, I have built the network that created an opportunity to enhance my capabilities.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Yes.  The quest to beat the constant challenges in different subjects is part of our life experience. I have learnt from those experiences to be humble and remain calm.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I had a dream to be a global/international businesswoman. I joined Honeywell Aerospace because I believe in the power of aerospace. Long before the internet, aerospace technology took us to the next “higher level in the clouds”. I joined Honeywell through a university rotation program and today I am proud, privileged and humbled to lead the EMEAI C&PS team at a fortune 100 company. Nothing is impossible, right?

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

I wasn’t afraid to take intelligent risk. I also found the right company, accepted an entry level position and learnt what I am passionate about. My confidence, enthusiasm, courage and excitement enabled me to progress

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

The most important thing is to find a company which stays relevant to the market and continuously invests in technology and ease of doing business. Time and innovation are the greatest commodities which cannot be held.

Lastly, keep an open mind and learn, learn and learn.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I have never come to work and thought that, since I am a woman, I will operate differently. In the last decade, the world has made a great progress in inculcation and diversity. Diversity and inclusion are paramount as we globalize. Diversity in my opinion is convergence of the best talents and minds from various individuals, despite their differences.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

I believe equality, diversity and inclusivity are fair and just drivers of prosperity and innovation. In order to support the career progress of women working in technology, there are couple of things that companies to do:

      • Understand and acknowledge the level of gender diversity across functions and seniority levels
      • Be aware of the drivers and implicit bias that comes into play while hiring for certain roles
      • Consciously make an effort to address the implicit bias and disrupt stereotypes
      • Have a mentoring program that is available and accessible that encourage women to seek guidance in their career progress

At Honeywell, we have built a good momentum and the results are encouraging, however we have to continuously work at it to improve it better.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

For hundreds of years, we have been conditioned by certain expectations from society. While there are girls excelling in STEM subjects, the social norm is to set them in a different direction thus while attitudes are changing, these are hard traditions to break or shift the paradigm.

One way to remedy this imbalance is for technology companies to recognize that gender bias can be real and damaging. First and foremost, we must stop the denial and recognize the bias. We also need to understand the barriers women have and enable them to negotiate and provide opportunities to navigate across it (i.e.:  mentorship program/advocacy/ sponsorship). For example, at Honeywell, we have a female sponsorship program which our CEO is involved and is passionate about.

Lastly, recruitment policies should go above and beyond normal and we need to proactively seek a balanced range of applicants. If you haven’t found women that fit the bill for the role you are looking for, you need to continue to look harder.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

While there are ample resources available online, it is vital to work on networking. There is so much we can learn by reaching out to people. I strongly believe that each woman must surround herself with those willing to help her find success and once she does, she should become that mentor: sponsor or advocate to help others and pay it forward.

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