This is the first in a series of posts featuring the longest-term employees of AerSale®. In celebrating the company’s 10-year anniversary, we’ll highlight what each of them remembers looking back and what they see for the company going forward.
Ask Sandra anything about AerSale and you will feel positive energy and hear the excitement in her voice. She’s been with the company since May 2009, when the number of employees could be counted on one hand. Today, that number has grown to more than 350 at 10 facilities spanning every region of the world, but Sandra maintains that the family environment more often associated with a small mom-and-pop shop endures.
“We take a lot of pride in everything we do,” she says. “When we add to the organization, whether through a new facility or a new side of the business, we welcome everybody, as if they’ve been here since Day One.”
In those early days, the AerSale office was quiet. After all, how much noise can five people really make? The original team included owners Nick Finazzo and Bob Nichols, an office manager, a vice president of engine trading and leasing, and Sandra. Her mother’s best friend happened to share an office suite on the same floor as AerSale, which at that time was located on the 11th floor of their current building. Noticing the new business, the friend popped in one day and simply asked what they did. Learning they were “an aviation-related company,” she offered the tidbit that her best friend's daughter had just graduated with a Master's in aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Within days, the friend dropped off Sandra’s resume. They called. Sandra arrived for a quick interview and landed a job in the aircraft leasing side of the industry—an area previously unfamiliar to the aviation school grad.
She was intrigued by the startup and the work she was embarking upon. But Sandra was also astute enough to realize how fortunate she was to be able to work with and literally next to the history-making team of Nick and Bob. They had achieved great success with AeroTurbine, which they helped take public, and later sold. Working side-by-side with two of the most respected professionals in the field was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity she couldn’t turn down. With their knowledge and skill base, these guys were going to make history again. She knew it.
“They never said no,” she remembers. “They always allowed me to ask questions. Even repeat the same questions if I needed a bit more clarification. I was in a unique position to learn directly from them.”
As with any startup, there are bigger questions. Where is the company actually headed? Are we really going to get somewhere? Sandra recalls Bob offering simple advice: Just be patient. It’s going to happen. Lo and behold, it did.
The team had been evaluating transactions and doing their due diligence in an effort to acquire certain asset packages. Finally, they were awarded a contract from UPS. That was the turning point Sandra remembers, realizing AerSale was about to take off. That contract delivered 136 engines to AerSale and launched almost immediate rapid growth. The young company boomed, adding infrastructure, new locations such as Roswell, and more talent including Sandra’s current-day boss and aviation industry super star, Iso Nezaj. She was offered the chance to work with the budding technical team, seized the opportunity wholeheartedly, and has thrived on the ensuing multitude of transactions and exposure to different projects.
When asked to identify her favorite memories from the past 10 years, Sandra conveys that it’s a challenge because there are so many. Two ultimately make the cut: winning bid packages for NASA along with winning government contracts and supporting the U.S. Marshals. She finds supporting the government and all they do very rewarding and satisfying, and adds it is especially gratifying to build those relationships and work alongside them to provide the customer care they need and deserve.
AerSale may claim her professional heart, but the company also supports what Sandra calls her “other career”. A former Embry-Riddle volleyball athlete, she coaches a USA Volleyball travel team of 16-year-old girls, that finished in the top 10 in the nation last year. It’s an opportunity she cherishes and finds empowering. As the only female in her department, she is uniquely able to encourage and influence young minds, especially girls, and serve as a role model for pursuing a dream and attaining it. She loves the mentorship she provides as the girls learn volleyball in tandem with valuable life lessons. If she’s able to inspire them to go after whatever they want and seek higher education (especially in the world of engineering!), she’s happy to be involved.
There’s no doubt Sandra is a valued colleague and technical whiz, handling special engineering projects, avionics modifications, supplemental type certificates, and much more, but she sums up her AerSale tenure very graciously. “I've never felt like just another name on the employee roster. Nothing will ever come close to everything I've been able to do here. That's very special to me.”