What makes the heart of any company?
It isn’t the logos, fancy marketing
slogans or case studies – it’s the
people behind the scenes that really
make a team achieve great things.
So what does it take to be a Storm Trooper?
It’s all about following your dreams and being
dedicated to reaching your full potential.
Meet the team and find out more!
Sam Solo, our high flyer
Sam, our Head of Paid Media, has a quite unusual hobby: she is training for her pilot licence, to fly an actual airplane.
We are impressed.
This is big! Like Han Solo joining the Storm Troopers.
We bribed Sam with cookies for a quick Q&A to find out more about her dream of flying.
Q. Flying has always been the dream of mankind – and you are experiencing it yourself! How did flying become your personal dream?
Well, it’s probably because my dad has been flying pretty much all of my life, so since I was two I have been chucked in the back of a rickety plane in a car seat. I say this, but I do still need a booster seat so that’s somewhat accurate to this date really!
I think that’s how it started. And then it was five years ago that I was working on the British Airways Digital Marketing account when I realised how much flying meant to me personally – and that’s when I decided to do a pilot licence myself.
And the reason why I love travelling so much is for the actual, physical flight part; I’m constantly choosing my next holiday destination based on airlines I want to try out and the shiny new fleet on the route. So it definitely plays an important role in my life.
Q. So when you go on holiday, for example, do you know everything about the planes you’re flying with?
(Laughs) Yes, I know everything about the plane, when it was built, how long it’s been with the airline, if it was delayed I know why, it’s great! I enjoy the flight part of travelling much more than going on holiday itself. On a recent trip down to London for meetings the team were both embarrassed and impressed at the same time by my geekery (or so I’d like to think).
Q. That’s amazing. I think I would be terrified flying a plane by myself – how is it when you practice, are you in the plane by yourself or is there someone supervising you?
Well, there is an instructor at the beginning. The first milestone is to fly solo – I did that in August 2015. You have to do a set amount of hours before that and then you train for cross country flying, for example, so it’s really just like doing your driver’s licence. When I say cross country I mean flying to Dundee (laughs) so it’s not very far.
It’s quite useful to have another pair of eyes to be honest, especially if it’s a sunny day in Scotland with all the amateurs coming out (me…), it can get really busy up there and there isn’t the luxury of designated roads with lanes.
Q. How is it being that high up in the sky?
It’s amazing, just me (and my instructor Sean, who must have some serious balls to get back in the plane with me after a few particularly stupid mistakes on my part!) in a little tiny plane from the 70s, but it requires a lot of dedication and concentration as well.
You are constantly communicating with other planes and often with the tower, constantly keeping a lookout, checking the plane is healthy and behaving as it should be, and you really have to know precisely which information you have to pass on at what point. Some of the accents make things a whole new level of tricky, too.
And there are so many technical expressions and abbreviations you have to know – and if you say it wrong, they WILL correct you and everyone can hear it (laughs).
It’s really embarrassing, so you want to get it right.
There is one particular plane that has a ridiculous abbreviation, I think it has a lot of vowels in, and I always get it wrong. So as soon as I radio that, people would just go “Hi Sam”, and I would answer, “Yup, that’s me again” so yeah, I have some reputation up there (laughs).
I mean it’s really early on a Sunday morning so I deserve a bit of slack – I’m usually up and on my way to the airfield every weekend morning by 7am!
Q. So the first challenge is actually being able to pronounce all the plane names, and then flying comes second!
(Laughs) Yeah, pretty much! Flying is easy in comparison, as long as you can multitask and deal with high levels of stress.
Q. What is your biggest goal?
I’d like to fly from the Florida Keys to Cuba on the day, or as near as possible, that the travel ban is fully lifted. If I ever go AWOL, there’s a chance I’ve hopped on the first flight and I’m somewhere halfway over the Atlantic.
I’d also like to get my seaplane rating and fly from the Keys to Exuma Beach in the Bahamas, aka. Pig Island.
I mean, it’s an island full of pigs! That is what I would imagine being the most awesome place in the world. Most people get there on little boats but it’d be quite an entrance to land there in a sea plane. If it was an island full of kittens that would be even better, but you can’t have it all.
Q. Have there been any risky situations or challenges?
An unnerving number so far, an alligator, a deer and a turtle on the runway. No joke. A flat tyre, the door blew open during take-off – that was pretty terrifying… Kids casually cycling across the runway as I’m taking off. Too many avoidance manoeuvres to even count.
Q. Oh wow, that sounds really challenging! What about being scared when flying that high up?
Hmm, I think for me flying is definitely a control thing. When I was a teenager, funnily enough, I developed a completely irrational fear of flying, and I think that I have overcome this by learning to fly a plane myself.
I like knowing everything that’s going on, and knowing I could fix something if it went wrong. I did some stall and spin recoveries though which have got to be the most terrifying things I’ve ever done. I also don’t really like flying over water, but that’s more a fear of sharks and the unknown than anything else!
Q. Do you have a pilot idol or someone you admire?
I actually do yeah. I think, apart from my dad, my biggest idol is Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown.
He passed away in February 2016. My dad was lucky enough to meet him shortly before his passing and said he was one of the most influential figures he’s ever met. He’s a pilot, he’s Scottish (born in Leith actually), and he flew 478 different types of aircraft across over 70 years.
His nickname came about affectionately from his colleagues due to his height. He partly attributed his survival in numerous sticky situations to his ability to “curl himself up in the cockpit”. I’m 5”3… so I think this relates to me too.
Q. What do you think it takes to become a pilot?
I think the most important thing is complete dedication. I have lessons pretty much every weekend. It’s sometimes quite pretty up in the sky early on a Sunday morning when everyone is asleep and/or hungover! It’s exhausting, stressful and the theory is tricky – but if it’s a passion, you’ll get it done no matter what.
Q. That does almost sound like another full-time job! Here at Storm, you are Head of Paid Media – how do you think flying plays into your work?
It’s a stretch to actively compare the two, except for their excessive reliance on maths and use of acronyms. PPL, for example, Monday to Friday means People’s Postcode Lottery, and on Saturdays and Sundays it means Private Pilot’s License.
I guess that within paid media, you sometimes have to react fast, and needless to say that you always need to be ready to think fast when flying. You also have to be very detailed and strategic.
Nevertheless, both things are very different – I think that’s why I enjoy doing them. I love both activities likewise, I could imagine myself flying full time and working in paid media on the weekends and vice versa. It’s the variety and the unexpected that’s so appealing.
Do you want to join our team of Storm Troopers?
Have a look at our current vacancies or send your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are looking forward to hearing from you!