One of the most common questions we get at DRONELIFE is from new pilots. Wherever they are, or whatever their specialty, we’ve been asked the same question hundreds, if not thousands, of times: “How do I get a job in the industry?”
The answer isn’t as simple as getting a Part 107, or of learning a few additional skills. This year almost every commercial drone company we meet is hiring, but finding the right candidates isn’t easy. We talked to Gary Buchanan, Chief Operative Officer at leading commercial drone company Avisight, to find out what companies like his are looking for in a new hire.
Avisight specializes in industrial inspection services, serving industries like oil, power, and infrastructure. Focused on providing clients with actionable data, they offer a full service solution which includes proprietary flight and data processing software. The company plans to expand to 10x that size over the next few years – and they need more than just good pilots.
“We need pilots, we need sensor operators, we need data and IT people, we need people with experience in the oil and gas industry,” explains Buchanan. “It’s a major challenge for the business. We’re currently at a staff of 25 and growing – we’re adding people all the time. Over the next 24 months we want to grow to about 250 people.”
Avisight’s leadership team is made up of seasoned business executives, and they take building the right team seriously. “We approach this very methodically – we want to make sure that we do it right,” Buchanan says.
Here are the top five things that Avisight looks for in a job candidate.
The Company Fit
The first thing that the company looks for is a candidate who will help build the team up, supporting their colleagues and improving the overall service and experience for everyone. “Moral, ethical character is first and foremost,” Buchanan says. “We need someone who is motivated to make a difference, to make the team better, to further the industry.”
Many of the current employees come from a military background, which has influenced the way that they operate: precision and safety are paramount to the mission. But Buchanan says that candidates don’t necessarily need to come from the military to fit in – Avisight is committed to diversity. “Many of us came out of the military at some point in our careers, and that’s worked well for us – but we want a good mix,” Buchanan says.
“No different than manned aviation, you have a lot of military influence coming into that world – and one of the things that I’ve seen in my aviation career is that it has been a male-dominated industry,” Buchanan comments. “But that’s starting to change. If you look at any aspect of the aerospace industry, you are starting to see more and more females and that’s very good for the industry.
…Any time you create diversity in an industry, you get different perspectives to put into play and you come up with greater and better solutions.”
Skills – Any Kind of Skills
The drone industry is dynamic, and Buchanan says that their company realizes that skills can be developed in a variety of ways.
“I’m not hung up on a four-year education, there are all kinds of opportunities for skill development,” says Buchanan. “We’re willing to look at people with a technical education, or another type of skill development – or people who are in the second wave of their career, somebody with experience in the industry fields who is ready for a change.”
Like many commercial drone companies, Avisight needs technical personnel also, and they recognize that the most innovative programmers and data scientists may not have a traditional background. “When it comes to the data and IT people, this is all new,” Buchanan says. “We’re generating a lot of things, we’re working really hard to develop our software, and we’re willing to take someone at the beginning of their career – as long as they’re really in it for the long haul.”
That “long haul” goal is paramount for the company. In an industry that requires training and investment to develop expertise, drone companies want an employee that is willing to stick with them. While they understand that change happens, Avisight wants candidates who go into the job intending to make it a long term career – because that’s the way they view their employees.
“I hire for life,” says Buchanan.
As you can tell from the previous points, Avisight puts a lot of emphasis on character. Buchanan says that in order to build the company successfully, it’s important to them that the team work together. Flying missions in what can be dangerous environments requires that every member of the team be looking out for the safety of the others – and working to the same high standards. That’s why Buchanan says that attitude may be even more important than current experience for their new hires. “If you come in with the right attitude, we can train on the right aptitude,” Buchanan says.
Avisight appreciates ambition and drive – and they’re willing to support them. The company uses a tool called Personnel Development Profiles and a Career Ladder to identify exactly where employees want to go from the time of hire. “We want to know that right at the start, so that we can start prepping them right from the beginning for the advancement that they’re hoping for,” says Buchanan. “We’ve had people really step up in adverse conditions out in the field, prove their leadership abilities, and move ahead very quickly.”
These five points translate to many large drone companies, and candidates should present themselves as meeting the right needs of the job they’re applying for. While a resume is great, a little research into company culture and recent missions – and demonstration of real interest and commitment to the job -can go a long way also. (Interested in working at Avisight? Buchanan says to send a resume and cover letter to [email protected])
The drone job market is exploding this year. Pilots who want to joing the ranks of the top commercial companies to reap the benefits of the industry should get in now: and start contributing to the massive growth to come.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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