A mother, lawyer & aviation executive rolled into one loves spending time with family, reading and traveling

Published: Monday, May 13, 2019

Sonja Strand, VP and General Manager, Honeywell Global Airports Business, is one of few women in modern- day aviation who holds a senior executive role that impacts airports and passengers on a global scale.

The daughter of the former CEO of Paderborn Airport in Germany who owns a private plane, Sonja developed a passion for aviation as a child. She spent her Sundays with her father and her siblings flying for leisure across different places, widening her perspectives in life and the possibilities for women in different fields.

“My father was the CEO of Paderborn Airport in Germany and he owns a private aircraft,” Sonja fondly recalls. “We were allowed to fly with him every Sunday so that’s where the passion came up at an early age for aviation.”

She took up practical training in a travel agency as a young adult, later completing her undergraduate and graduate studies in Business Administration before pursuing a law degree. Linking both professions with aviation, Sonja’s knowledge and experience in the industry further grew and today she leads Honeywell’s Global Airports Business, highly regarded for its innovative tech solutions.

“I was always passionate about the aviation industry. I pursued everything that I had to know about it,” Sonja shared with Air Cargo Update.

At the recently concluded Airport Show 2019 held in Dubai, Sonja, representing Honeywell, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Dubai Air Navigation Services (DANS) to collaborate on mutually beneficial projects on advanced IoT-enabled solutions that empower safe and efficient air traffic operations for Dubai, one of the busiest regions in terms of air traffic.

Honeywell’s global expertise in providing innovative solutions will bring benefits to DANS through enhanced knowledge transfer on airport ecosystems, airport operations, Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) and understanding the combined, complex challenges faced by the industry.

Sonja’s position is extremely challenging that requires constant traveling, managing offices at different time zones and making major decisions. And yet this mother of two young boys aged 5 and 11 still makes it a point to
enjoy quality time with her family.

“I spend my time mostly outdoors. I have two kids—five and 11 years old—both boys. When we’re in Dubai, we go swimming, go to parks or play basketball. And I surely read a lot, especially on aviation, to get new ideas,” she said.

“And we love to travel. When you travel and you’re head is free, you can share so many ideas with the team,” she added.

As a woman in aviation, Sonja says it’s quite difficult but with confidence, creativity and passion, women will shine.
“First it’s hard work. Whether you’re a woman or a man doesn’t matter. You have to be ready to work hard,” Sonja shared when asked what advice to give women who would like to follow her career path. “Second: Be passionate about it. Don’t accept something that is said to be impossible because it’s not. Think differently. What is important is to never give up. Have that mentally and use it as your strength. And remember that women have unique creativity.”