Passport to airport career advancement: An interview with Jeffrey Barrow

Guest Author by Guest Author | Jun 25, 2020

The global aviation industry has come together to respond to the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak. One of the strengths of the industry is how knowledge, experience, and expertise is shared between airports during times of crisis. As the first worldwide association to represent the common interests of airports and foster cooperation with partners throughout the air transport industry, ACI World prides itself in providing such opportunities to its members.

The Secondee Programme offers a unique opportunity to work in a global environment while developing one’s reach within the industry. Past secondees have gone on to posts of increased responsibility in their respective organizations after their tenure with ACI as a result of their rich professional experiences and international exposure. ACI Insights has taken the opportunity to interview past and present secondees about their experiences, highlighting milestones they were able to achieve:

What made you choose aviation for your career?

When I was younger I thought I was going to be a pilot until I had my eyes examined and the optometrist said: “You’re colour blind however as long you don’t want to be a pilot when you grow up you’ll be ok…” Needless to say, I quickly changed my career choice and focussed on environmental studies at The University of Western Ontario where I completed an undergraduate thesis in impact management strategies of airport noise. This was my opportunity to leverage my environmental studies degree and combine it with my early passion for aviation.

Tell us about your career and experience so far?

I’ve made a habit out of staying uncomfortable during my 22-year career at the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA). And I did this to continually challenge myself by changing roles every four to five years. It started in our Noise Management office where I learned the importance of a symbiotic relationship with our surrounding community while balancing the needs of our passengers and airlines. From here I was provided an opportunity to develop our new Corporate Strategic Plan with our Executive Team on a 12-month assignment for which I further leveraged into a new role at the GTAA as Manager Strategic Planning. As part of Toronto Pearson’s evolution, the GTAA focussed heavily on growing its air services to deliver on a global hub strategy which materialized into a dedicated Air Service team. As Manager Air Service Development (ASD), I was tasked with prospecting airlines around the world to fly to Toronto Pearson as well as working closely with our incumbent carriers to drive aviation growth and provide our incredibly diverse community with direct service from YYZ. In this role I was the relationship manager for WestJet which grew their operations from eight daily flights to 80 in only four years! After five years in ASD, I joined our Ground Transportation Services (GTS) team where I was provided the opportunity to manage and drive Canada’s largest non-aeronautical revenue stream. As Senior Manager Revenue & Business Development with GTS I was able to introduce our corporate sales program coupled with online parking reservations. This enabled us to better manage our 15,000 parking spaces at Toronto Pearson while maximizing our revenue potential which ultimately allowed us to offset our fees to our airline partners.

How did you find out about the programme at ACI World?

After completing a one-year leadership development program, my sponsor and VP at the time, Scott Collier, approached me with an exciting opportunity to join ACI World and support the Smart Security initiative on a short-term assignment. Apparently, the team at ACI World was looking for someone who wasn’t necessarily a security expert but rather someone who had experience across the broader airport ecosystem. And with Toronto Pearson already contributing through representation on the ACI World Smart Security Management Group (SSMG) and the World Security Standing Committee (WSSC), it was yet another chance for the GTAA to play leadership role within the global airport community.

What were you hoping to get out of the programme?

Having never worked within the aviation security space, my goal was to again step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself while at the same time contribute value through my diverse airport management background. With the Smart Security programme spanning across the global airport industry, I was hoping to widen my professional network from one that was national to global. As the SSMG is essentially a global innovation group driving the future of passenger and cabin baggage screening, I was also hoping to develop a more innovative mindset and leverage the group’s unique approach and keen vision that I could use back at Toronto Pearson.

What was your role and what were your responsibilities as an ACI secondee?

When I joined ACI World as Manager Smart Security, the Smart Security programme was a joint effort between ACI World and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that promoted innovation, strengthen security and increased efficiency in the context of passenger and cabin baggage screening. In my role I was responsible for representing Smart Security interests with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) including the ICAO Aviation Security (AVSEC) Panel and its working groups. I also provided secretariat function for the SSMG in conjunction with IATA and spoke at global industry events promoting the Smart Security programme to member airports and industry partners. This included the opportunity to develop several articles on the programme through various industry media channels as well as the opportunity to create and launch an online certificate in Smart Security.

Smart Security Management Group (SSMG) meeting in Montreal, Quebec

What skills and new experiences did the programme provide you with?

First and foremost, this secondment provided me with an in-depth understanding of aviation security within the context of meeting regulatory requirements while at the same time balancing the needs of our passengers and ensuring airport resources are managed efficiently and effectively. It also encouraged me to develop and foster a more innovative mindset with how I approach a challenge. This included knowing when to embrace and adapt to change, challenging the status quo and having the courage to take intelligent risks in the spirit of improvement.

Travelling to more countries than I have fingers, this opportunity also provided me with a more global view of our industry. As ACI World’s Director General would say: “…airports are like snowflakes, not one is like another…”. So after visiting airports and speaking with my airport peers in almost every continent, I quickly gleaned the variety of challenges and solutions that exist with our global airport peers.

Security Tour at Geneva Airport

What were your achievements during your secondment at ACI?

During my two-year secondment with ACI World, I was very grateful to have been apart of so many amazing experiences and deliverables. This included the opportunity to develop and launch the online Smart Security certificate course and creating guidance material for airport members on writing a business case for checkpoint innovations. From a programme perspective, I was fortunate enough to facilitate the development of a new vision for Smart Security that looks out to the next 20 years as well as contributing to the advancement of innovation in AVSEC through ICAO’s AVSEC Panel and through ICAO’s Working Group on Innovation in Aviation Security. This also included the opportunity to facilitate a panel of leading experts in innovation at ICAO’s AVSEC Symposium in their iconic Assembly Hall. With that said, I am most proud of the relationships I have made with my airport peers around the world including my former Smart Security team at IATA and my friends from ACI World who I continue to stay in contact with today.

AVSEC Symposium 2017, ICAO Headquarters, Montreal, Quebec
AVSEC Symposium 2017, ICAO Headquarters, Montreal, Quebec

When did you begin and end your secondment with ACI?

My first day with ACI World started on February 28, 2017, when I boarded a flight to Narita, Japan to attend the 11th meeting of the Smart Security Management Group. My final day with ACI World was on January 30, 2019 on a beautiful snowy and cold day in Montreal.

ACI World team building – Axe Throwing with the Security team

Were there any opportunities that resulted from participating in the programme?

I think this question is best answered with the response I tell people when they ask, how was your secondment?

When I left Toronto Pearson to join ACI World I was a revenue manager for our parking portfolio. When I returned 23 months later, I became Associate Director Security & Regulatory Compliance and am now part of the airport’s senior leadership team. That doesn’t happen without my opportunity at ACI World.

What is your current position?

I am proud to be a leader of an amazing and dynamic team of 30-plus people enabling and supporting them to deliver on our vision to be best airport in the world.

What are your future career plans?

To continue to provide value, surround myself with engaging and inspiring people and deliver innovation and positive change within the aviation industry.

And if I’m still in my current role in the next few years, I would like to provide the necessary security requirements for when the Toronto Maple Leafs return to Toronto Pearson with the Stanley Cup.

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The ACI World Secondee Programme is a valuable tool for many organizations wishing to manage their talent for succession planning over the long term. The career development of employees is an essential business investment and the programme enables ACI to extend employees’ knowledge and skills, contributing to the continued excellence of the industry. Through the programme, ACI World continues to cultivate an environment founded on industry best practices and knowledge sharing.  

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