Helicopter pilot, midwife and CEO: The woman with the ultimate career Featured

Captain Jan Becker’s CV is as impressive as it is eclectic: helicopter pilot, midwife, board director and CEO. 

Her key position is as CEO of Becker Helicopters, a $20 million plus business she started with her husband in 1996 to meet a growing demand for pilots around the world.

And that position offers her the freedom to pursue other opportunities – such as working as a midwife – because she simply loves the work, rather than because she has to.

Becker Helicopter provides flight training for all levels, including advanced training for multi-engine conversions, instructor ratings and ‘Night Vision Goggles’. The latter being an area they found a niche for being an international leader in. 

Becker’s keen to grow the business even further, after recently being selected as one of five Australians for the Asia Pacific class of EY’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women program. 

Below she shares how and why she became an entrepreneur, her key tips for success, and just how she juggles her day.

Who or what inspired you to become an entrepreneur?  

Really it evolved. I had been looking at options and the desire to be part of a company that could grow, develop, and be nimble and innovative.

I did have a moment when I was working for a large Medical company and at my performance review the person asked what my ambitions were and I said to be CEO. The person just looked at me with shock as if it was almost comical to even consider that. At that moment I knew I would pursue that path of my own destiny because I knew I would not limit myself.

Did you leave a corporate career behind?

I am a Registered Nurse and Midwife so still work for other companies today. The difference is I do it because I love it – not because I have to. There is a freedom and wonderful energy you get from that one small choice.

I had a very small corporate career – but it taught me skills that I absorbed, adapted and developed. I will be forever mindful that some really talented people gave me insight into many aspects of business I still use today.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I co-founded it with my husband who was a young but experienced helicopters pilot. Helicopters pilots were retiring that had flown in the Vietnam/USA conflict (a time when they trained over 60,000 pilots worldwide) There was a worldwide need for helicopter pilots, but very few international schools that were actually training the next generation of helicopter pilots. I felt that it was an exciting opportunity and allowed us to develop something that was multi-cultural and met a global need.

What three major factors that have led to your businesses’ success so far?

Make bold, innovative, visionary goals, then have the courage to commit totally to taking a risk and doing the hard yards.

Attention to detail - Ability to think outside of the box.

Don't listen to the negative – focus ! focus! focus!

What is the number one trait that makes a successful entrepreneur?

Courage to fail.

As well as your business, what other priorities do you juggle?

Family time - being a mum – walking the dog.

Studying my PhD and working as a midwife.

I sit on three other boards, of which one is in the USA – it’s very stimulating.

Can you describe an ‘average day in the life’? 

I am up early at 0500 am because of years of flying early or being a nurse on early shift. I have now found that peace in the morning is gold and you get good solid “think” time. It’s for me, my balance. I kick off home anytime between 3-6 pm depending on the way then day pans out and if we are flying or have an international delegation here. My exercise is a T 25 workout or a long fast walk along the beach with Mushu, our little white fluffy dog. The dog gets his walk in every evening. 

Evening meal is cooked listening to good music – I have special playlist for separate things – flying music, driving music and cooking dinner with a glass of wine in hand. Mike and I take it in turns, with our daughters, on who cooks. Then as a family we usually watch a DVD. Friday nights always involve a big decision on movie - “chick flick”  or action movie.

I always read before sleep, along with my green tea. Again, I love that peace in the evening when everyone else is tucked up asleep.

On some other days, I work as a Midwife and get home quite early. And other days I spend at University working on my PhD on the University library, which I find very stimulating. All the books and quiet activity – it’s a wonderful atmosphere that I thrive on.

What books and online publications do you read to keep up?

I read a mixture of books, but my most recent was Thrive by Huffington. I also read online news and listen to international news radio on the trip into work.

What do you believe needs to change in Australia for us to see more successful female entrepreneurs in the future?

A more focused approach by business to embrace women’s differences on boards and in companies.

What opportunities are you hoping to gain from being selected for the EY program?

Being able to be enriched by the experiences  and stories of other entrepreneurs. Finding common ground and the challenges we face being shared, and also victories. Inspiration, education and learning. 

What are your future ambitions for the business? How big can it go?

Take it all the way. Find partners to grow it.

Take our Simulators to the marketplace globally – develop business in Asia and USA for more pilot training – be the largest most profitable Helicopter Pilot’s Training Academy globally.

Which women inspire you?

Eileen Marie Collins:  she was the first female pilot and first female commander of a Space Shuttle.

Sister Ndunguru: the charge sister of a ward I work at in Tanzania where they deliver over 100 babies a day.

My daughters: they are part of my soul – I see the future possibilities and the audaciousness of youth in their eyes – a wonderful potent future awaits them and their dreams

And mum: because she is inspiring

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