My Way: Penny Stephens of the Jet Centre gives her tips for success at work

'Aviation is a man's world and it's tough'


Penny Stephens is creative director of the Jet Centre, a private aviation company based at Stansted airport, whose customers include Rod Stewart, Sir Alan Sugar and the Spice Girls.

What did you want to be as a child?

A wife and mother.

What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?

Something secretarial. I went to private school where we had to choose between O-levels and a shorthand-typing course. I chose the shorthand. But then I left school at 16 and went to college to do O- and A-levels and ended up running the canteen.

How did you manage that?

It was a mess and there was no one to sort it out. I was only 17 but I was always the type to get stuck in. After college I went to work for Gardner-Merchant Catering, then for a building refurbishing company. But I was a strange young person – I worked and I went home and that was all, and my mother wanted to get me out of myself so she sent me for flying lessons.

Why flying lessons?

I have no idea, but I loved it. I found aviation and I thought, right, that's it. I joined Thurston Aviation doing secretarial work but as it's a very hands-on industry I also operated the tower, refuelled aircraft and occasionally co-piloted. Then I met my husband and he's very traditional so I left work, stayed at home and looked after our children and was quite content.

What made you go back to work?

Once the children were in school full time I was bored. My husband had bought an aviation maintenance company by then and I wormed my way in. Eventually I became operations director.

What are your interview tips?

Do your homework on what the company is all about: so many people come for an interview and have no idea what we do! Be well-presented – jeans don't do it in a service industry. It's good if you've worked in an airport environment, but I'd rather just have someone who is prepared to learn.

And your CV tips?

Make it short and sweet.

Do you consider yourself to be successful?

Yes. Aviation is a man's world and quite tough.

What motives you?

The job: it's exciting and so many things happen. I can be dealing with an air ambulance, an aircraft breaking down, or with pop stars.

Who are your favourite clients?

I like them all but Sir Alan is very loyal to us, he's not the gruff type you see on TV, and Rod Stewart will come in and lie on the sofa in the crew lounge and watch football.

Who are your heroes?

Margaret Thatcher. She did a fantastic job and never lost her femininity. She was one of the most powerful women in the world but she still kept her home life together.

What's the best perk of your job?

Working in a very male-dominated world.

That's a perk?

Well, I wouldn't want to work in an office full of women; I find working with the guys better.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Executive / Marketing Assistant

£18 - 23k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Executive / Assistant is n...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider to the fa...

Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Analyst - Global ERP Implementation - London

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable global business is l...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy