Plane speaking, genuine, formidably qualified, Keren Rambow touched down at GE Aviation in April 2016. Within 18 months as sales director of Commercial Engines and Service Sales in the South Asia Pacific Region, she had orchestrated the ideal suite of engines and services to power growth for Fiji Airways, negotiated a complex engine-support restructure for Qantas and Jetstar, and started an Australian chapter of the International Aviation Women’s Association.
The day after her appointment as general manager of GE Aviation in Australia and New Zealand, and regional general manager of sales for the South Asia Pacific region, Rambow says, “Airlines based in our region operate at the edge of the performance envelope, running some of the longest-haul flights in the world. I want to see them get more of the international market share, operating the most efficient aircraft for their needs, and with cutting-edge digital applications that support not just their GE engines, but their operations as a whole.”
Rambow takes over responsibility for GE Aviation from Max York, who was recently appointed CEO of GE Australia. At Creating careers and connections for women in the aviation industry, a forum hosted by GE in July this year, York told the story of how the company had pursued Rambow for the sales-director role.
“My commitment was to hire a female sales director. Only about three of the 60 sales directors in GE Aviation around the world are female,” he said. A strong believer in equal opportunity, he asserted, “The strongest action you can take is to take action!”
Rambow’s CV was so inspiring, he knew he wanted her skills on his flight deck.
He cited her degrees in maths and science, including an Honours degree in High-Energy Astrophysics from the University of New South Wales (Australian Defence Force Academy), her Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical) degree, her subsequent MBA, and the successful aerospace consulting company she founded with her husband Eric in May 2004, before saying, “I didn’t have to meet Keren to hire her. She came so well recommended, I had one phone interview and it was a complete no-brainer to welcome her to the team.”
York and Rambow both come from military backgrounds, with Rambow having served 15 years in the Royal Australian Air Force. Among her responsibilities as an officer with the RAAF were engineering design and logistics support of F/A-18 avionics, life-support systems, automated test equipment and ordnance systems.
Since joining GE, she says, “I’ve learned a lot about working in a corporate environment, and about working as a woman in commercial aviation.” She’s looking forward to “bringing my experience and personality to supporting airlines I haven’t yet had contact with. I think I can open new doors with each of our customers because I have my own approach.”
As sales director with GE Aviation, Rambow led relationships with Qantas, Jetstar, Regional Express Airlines, Fiji Airways, Solomon Airways and Air Vanuatu. She’ll gradually hand these sales responsibilities to an experienced successor as she gets to know the other major commercial carriers in the region, such as Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia, Garuda Indonesia and Air Tahiti — all of which are GE customers.
One of Rambow’s most rewarding achievements at GE so far has been to partner with Boeing and GE Capital Aviation Services to provide Fiji Airways with the most cost-effective package of five Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, powered by 10 installed (plus one spare) GE-Safran CFM LEAP-1B ultra-efficient engines, along with a long-term services contract.
GE’s customer-centric approach sits naturally with Rambow’s empathy and her drive to achieve optimal outcomes: “Our customers are all different, with different requirements. Fiji Airways operates from the middle of nowhere, they have a long flight leg, they have to be self sufficient. We had to configure the right suite of products for their particular operations. The first step, always, is to understand your customer, and then tailor the engine type, aircraft type and services to what they really need.”
Fiji Airways will start taking delivery of its new aircraft in November 2018, and Rambow is proud to say that the GE team has already been helping the airline prepare for a smooth step change in capabilities.
Sky-diving into the challenge of commercial-aircraft-engine sales meant Rambow had to step back from her own aerospace consulting company, which employs some 30 engineering and technical experts located in various locations in Australia and the United States. Working in sales she says was, “the first time in my career where I wasn’t directly managing staff”. In her new general-manager role, she’s keen to once again enable a diversely talented group of people.
“I’m excited to build up our teams here, to support them in their work,” she says.
She’s excited too, about the pipeline of engine-efficiency gains being delivered by GE’s additive-manufacturing capabilities, and the company’s constant innovation in data-based Cost Out Avoidance (COA) programs. “GE is the leader in Australia’s domestic market, with more than 75% of passenger airlines uplifted by GE engines. I believe we can make all our customers more competitive,” says the new GE GM.