At 42, Audrey Brady, Director of the S-92 Program for Sikorsky Aircraft based in Stratford, Connecticut, has proven that women can excel in a previously male-dominated industry. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics & Mechanical Engineering
from Trinity College, a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in combustion from Stanford University (yes, it is rocket science!) and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon, Audrey is the perfect candidate to be involved in the most fascinating aviation industry in the world – helicopters.
Her educational background coupled with her ambitious nature has propelled Audrey through the ranks at United Technologies Company (UTC), the parent company to Sikorsky.
Audrey started her career designing fuel nozzles and fuel nozzle guides in the combustion section of the engine for Pratt & Whitney, a sister company to Sikorsky. While with Pratt & Whitney, she spent a year in Poland to start up a tube manufacturing facility. There she learned that leading an organization can be a challenge that requires persistence and adaptability. Working abroad required her to navigate the landscape of leadership in a different country with a foreign culture and language.
“I had a great experience moving the operation that I was running from East Hartford, Connecticut to Rzeszow, Poland. My challenge included a mixture of not knowing the language or the culture. I tried to run the business as I ran it in the United States,” said Audrey. “If we fell behind schedule we would work overtime and weekends, but I learned quickly that this was not an option.”
The labor structure in Poland did not include overtime or weekend hours. After spending three months trying to get the employees to change their ways, she realized she would have to adjust to get the job done in the time that she had with the resources that were given to her.
“Quickly we all put our strategies together and achieved on-time delivery. This taught me a great deal about myself and my leadership skills. I learned that I had to adapt to the situation rather than automatically go with what worked in the past in other places. I should observe carefully prior to presenting my ideas and to always remember that what works in one organization might not work in another. This lesson has proven very valuable to me in my nearly 20-year career.”
After a year in Poland, Audrey headed to UTC Corporate where she was able to utilize her international experience to help develop a supply chain in Eastern Europe.
“It was during my corporate years when I was exposed to Sikorsky Aircraft and became enamored with the helicopter business,” Audrey said. “I left Corporate to run a back-shop at Sikorsky and was quickly moved to run the final assembly and flight operations of the UH-60M Black Hawk, HH-60M Medevac, MH-60R Romeo Naval Hawk and MH-60S SEAHAWK helicopters.”
The famous Black Hawk helicopter ignited a passion for Audrey.
“The experience working with the Black Hawk was almost indescribable. I ran an operation of 2,000 hourly and salary employees, the most impressive and professional group of people I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with,” explained Audrey. “That passion and professionalism was contagious. I enjoyed spending my time on the shop floor interacting with and learning from those employees, gathering ideas on how to improve things from the people who know the components and the assembly processes better than anyone. I especially enjoyed interacting with the military, the ultimate customers, who would come in for a tour and share stories of how these ‘machines’ saved their lives.”
With Audrey’s extensive education in business she naturally moved to the commercial side of the company.
“I run the S-92 Program, which is a very busy business these days. The S-92 helicopter delivers to the Off Shore Oil, VIP, ultility and Search and Rescue sectors. It is my job to interact with the customers to learn what we can do to improve the helicopter to better meet their needs,” Audrey said. “I have the opportunity to fly all over the world to meet with the end users. I am in charge of a large budget to turn these suggestions into reality and make the best helicopter for its mission. I then interact with the very smart men and women of Sikorsky Aircraft who turn these ideas into products to roll out to the customers.”
Audrey provides development and execution leadership, and is responsible for establishing and meeting all financial, schedule, and technical requirements. Her roles include annual investment planning and execution of all program funded initiatives and contract efforts. In addition, she drives efforts to capture new business, keeps her customer base sold, and identifies Bid & Proposal (B&P) and capital budget needs.
The top priority in manufacturing helicopters is safety – safety of the employees building the helicopters and the safety of the product for the end user.
“Sikorsky helicopters are designed using the highest standards for flaw tolerance and flight safety,” Audrey explained. “Sikorsky invests millions of dollars every year to improve the product with safety as the priority. There are several inputs to Sikorsky’s policies and procedures. Some examples of the major influences come from the Joint Operators Review, a collaboration between Bristow, Avincis and CHC Helicopter, The Helicopter Safety Steering Group, and the Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group.”
What makes people succeed is different for everyone. Audrey shares her winning formula: “I have been very lucky in my experience and have always been encouraged throughout my career. I have tried never to shy away from the fire, and I feel that my tenacity, open-mindedness and positive outlook are the foundation for any success I achieve.”
To learn more about the S-92 program for Sikorsky Aircraft visit: www.sikorsky.com
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