A Chat with Dena Porter – Veteran Aircraft Technical Specialist and Role Model

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Dena-HighRes-2.jpgWomen have been involved in aviation since the beginning. However, aviation is still a career path that is unfamiliar to many young women. At CaseBank Technologies, we have been a longtime supporter of women in the aviation industry. We support the industry’s initiatives that recognize their contributions and encourage the next generation of women pursuing aviation careers.

Successful women have been valuable role models and mentors who have helped many young women choose and advance their aviation careers. We appreciate the importance of these role models, and we decided to interview Dena Porter, Diagnostic Database Program Manager and Aircraft Technical Specialist (AME) at CaseBank Technologies. Dena is a 32-year veteran in the aviation industry, a dear and valuable member of the CaseBank family, and a woman that had the courage to persevere to follow her dreams.

Q.   Women of your generation didn’t often go into this field. When and how did you develop an interest in becoming an aircraft technician?

A.      At a young age it is never easy to figure out one’s life and career goals. For me, going into aircraft maintenance was not a clear-cut decision either. My Dad allowed me to follow him around, and I got from him the “fix-it” bug. I still recall how excited I was doing my first oil change on a car at age seven.

When I went to university I studied social work and did a major in sociology and social psychology, a frequently travelled career path for women of my generation. However, I soon realized that this had been a poor career choice, and I joined the military. There, an aptitude test clearly pointed me towards technical fields, and my initial technical training came from that. This experience motivated me to go back to school to do Electronics Engineering and eventually I started working at de Havilland, now Bombardier. That was where my interest in aircraft finally came to the fore.

Q.     As a woman starting a career in a male dominated industry, what have been your biggest challenges and rewards?

A.    This is not always easy. At de Havilland I started working at a low level electrical station, and when postings for Avionics Technicians came up I was told “Don’t bother to apply. First, you are a woman, and secondly, no one has ever gone from the bottom ranks to the top ones.” But I didn’t allow this to discourage me, it motivated me. I studied intensively for two months and wrote the qualifying test with 32 men. Only two of us passed and I got one of the positions. 

While at de Havilland/Bombardier I completed the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering license. I enjoyed travelling the world as a Field Service Representative supporting the Dash-8 and CRJ fleets and spending time in different countries such as Norway, Jordan, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Q.     What lessons did you learn and how did they help you to be successful?

A.      My strength came from my beliefs, and I guess this reflected in my attitude. I was always cooperative with my colleagues but firm. I understood that the world wasn’t about to change because I was a woman working in aircraft maintenance. Even though most men were very understanding, they weren’t about to change old behaviors overnight - attitudes change slowly and there must be understanding on both sides. I learned to be patient and to speak up whenever I saw inequality.

Q.     Tell me about your experience at CaseBank Technologies. What do you like most about your work at CaseBank and about our solutions? 


A.     I was supporting the Air Canada CRJs when I met CaseBank’s Tom Gosling. He was teaching the SpotLight® application to Air Canada technicians. The first time that I saw SpotLight solution I thought “This is going to change the way we work! Everyone will want this.” The advantages were very clear to me, and I was enthralled by the possibilities. After working for 14 years at de Havilland/Bombardier, I felt that it was time for me to stop travelling the world. I was ready for new experiences. Tom introduced me to CaseBank’s founders Phil D’Eon, the originator of the SpotLight product concept, and Tony O’Hara. That was nearly 18 years ago! The leadership at CaseBank has always been a key strength. As a company, we were way ahead of the herd, but that was due to our leadership. Phil and Tony are exceptional entrepreneurs with a clear vision, and two of the best people I have ever worked for or with. They believed very strongly in what we were doing, we all did.

The C Series aircraft was the first new aircraft to go to market with an electronic Fault Isolation Publication. CaseBank was chosen to deliver that publication, and I am very proud to have been a part of that. Most new aircraft go into service with a sampling of troubleshooting for each chapter. When the C Series entered into service there was troubleshooting available for almost all 8000 fault codes.

With its current offerings, ATP & CaseBank are about to realize their vision of a complete ecosystem. The SpotLight application is very robust, and with ChronicX® solution looking into repeat defects and MDCA providing a glimpse into aircraft downloads in real time, it is possible to troubleshoot with all pertinent information available on demand. It’s taken some time for the industry to recognize the benefits of an integrated troubleshooting solution, but now with major OEMs and major carriers using our applications daily, this has changed.

Q.     If a young girl asked you for career advice, what would it be?

A.     Not everyone knows at a young age the direction one wants to take in life. Go experience some things in the world. Find something you love to do. Stay focused and persevere.