On April 26th, AeroTime will kick off a week of activities celebrating International Pilots’ Day. We will be speaking with pilots from various corners of the world, sharing their stories during Covid times, looking back at their most impressive achievements, and more. So, please join us for the exclusive Pilots’ Day coverage.
“I’m always pursuing something to stimulate my mind. I personally believe that one should never stop learning. The more you learn, the more it opens up your world to new opportunities.”
Life during the pandemic has been challenging for everyone, and different people have found different ways of coping. In Divya Manchanda’s case, she says that her “quest for learning” has helped her to deal with the past year.
A pilot with Jet Airways, which used to be India’s second-largest airline, Divya has many strings to her bow. First and foremost is her aviation experience which she states is still her first love. She joined the airline in 2012 and since then has spent seven years flying and two years also in management positions in the airline strategy department.
However, aviation isn’t her only interest. In addition to being a pilot, Divya is a web designer, computer engineer and an entrepreneur, having worked in a range of areas including as a consultant in the gaming industry, for FinTech start-ups, and in digital marketing and sales and marketing.
“Before I started pursuing flying, I was already a computer engineer and, three years into my flying duties, I just wanted something more in life to stimulate my mind. And I came across the MBA aviation program offered by Toulouse Business School & Indian Institute of Management Bangalore and I joined the course. From there onwards, things drastically changed for me both professionally and personally.”
For her final year project, Divya looked at the management activities at Jet Airways which led her to join the airline’s strategy and business transformation department. During this time, she worked on digital marketing, animation and short films.
“This quest for learning, I think, has got me through the COVID times as well,” she says.
Prior to COVID-19, Divya was preparing to join an Indian carrier. She also decided to learn how to code a website. These newfound skills came in useful when the world was turned on its head.
“It was very difficult because now you’re walking into uncomfortable territories, there are no jobs in the market and who’s going to give you a job? How is the world going to perceive you? Because you’ve always been a pilot, right? Suddenly, these technically sound people are out there in the market. They don’t have a job. And you know, who do you approach? Who do you speak to?”
Nevertheless, Divya was able to find work with websites. “I decided to take on whatever was coming my way, even if it was outside my comfort zone and something that I’m not used to doing, I just dove into it and went ahead with the flow.
“One website project led to another, the second got me to create a website project for a company, and my management stint in Jet Airways helped me get some consultation projects in aviation. When people saw me doing those consultation projects, they approached me and they said, Look, do you want to try doing something in the FinTech space? And I said, Yeah, why not. And I did that, and that led me to do some projects in the gaming industry.”
In addition, Divya joined forces with a colleague at Jet Airways, another pilot, to form an eco-friendly home decor brand startup named Luuma inspired by the country’s resources in natural fibers. With the website launch only a month away, Luuma is supporting up to 100 artisans across India, dealing with handcrafted products only.
“I think it’s always been a quest for learning new things. And I think that the more you learn, it opens up your world to new opportunities, and also helps your own personal growth. When you go out and start exploring the world with new opportunities, it widens your horizon, and you start having a different perspective towards different things which can also be in your current job.”
Despite her multiple interests, she says that “flying is always my first love”.
Her love of flying dates goes back to her father, who was in the Indian Army, and who knew many people in aviation.
“I always wanted to become a fighter pilot but, in class nine, I ended up getting glasses and I thought that my dream for aviation was dead, I can never become a pilot. So, I went on to pursue computer engineering, and I graduated. I was six months into an IT job when I came across a friend of a friend, who was studying to become a pilot and he was wearing glasses. I decided to get more information from him and I said, this is it, I want to leave everything and do what I’ve always wanted to do. That’s how my journey to becoming a pilot started.”
And it all worked out. “Having your office at 40,000 feet above sea level. I mean, there’s nothing better than that.”
Based out of Bangalore, she describes her flights from Bangalore to Chennai as scenic views where she gets to see the early morning sunrise and the sunset on her way back in the evening. She adds that working in aviation is “like a family, and you don’t feel like you’re going for work, you just feel like you know you’re going and doing the job, but it also comes with a lot of fun.
“I feel and I believe that life is always about your state of mind and perception. If you have the right state of mind, you will always perceive things in a positive way. But if you get too perturbed by the things around you, it will affect your state of mind. And thereby a perception of the way you’re seeing things that you do. So, you can either sit back and keep looking at the things that have not worked out for you or you can look ahead and keep moving with what you can do and how you can make it work. So, in my case, I think that it’s been positive, positive from both ends.”
There is no doubt that Divya longs to return to the skies, but until then it will be interesting to see what she does next.