“In my own kitchen, I can recreate global flavors and experiences through cooking.”

Olivier Houri
Executive Vice President (EVP) and Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Smart Kargo

Finding a balance between work and life can be difficult in the fast-paced, high-demanding world of aviation, where timetables are tight. But finding that balance is more than simply necessary for Olivier Houri, the Executive Vice President (EVP) and Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Smart Kargo, it’s a way of life.
Olivier started his career in management consulting before entering the aviation sector. His career path brought him into close collaboration with airlines and aviation-related enterprises as he dived into a variety of projects across multiple sectors. It was during significant airline restructuring projects that Olivier gained a profound understanding of the complexities and dynamics of the sector. His love of aviation grew, and he ended up devoting more than thirty years of his life to the industry.
As Olivier entered the world of air freight, he was thrust into a world where time was of the essence. With a global responsibility in his previous role and now serving as EVP and CRO at Smart Kargo, Olivier’s work takes him across continents, demanding extensive travel and dedication. Balancing such a demanding career with personal life requires resilience and support, which Olivier finds in his family and lifestyle choices.
“For me, the aviation industry is not just a profession; it’s a passion that has fueled my career for over 35 years,” Olivier reflects. “The fast-paced nature of the industry keeps me on the move, with travel consuming nearly half of my time each year. But it’s the love for what I do that keeps me going.”
Relaxation, amidst the hustle and bustle of his professional life, is crucial for Olivier. “Golf is my sanctuary,” he admits with a smile. “Spending four or five hours on the course allows me to disconnect from the world and focus solely on the game.”
Living in Phoenix, Arizona, offers Olivier the opportunity to explore the desert landscapes through hiking, further connecting him with the tranquility of the outdoors. “There’s something incredibly rejuvenating about being surrounded by nature,” he remarks. “It’s a reminder to appreciate the simple pleasures in life.”
Despite his extensive travels for work, Olivier’s adventures extend beyond business trips. “Having visited 120 countries for work, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for diverse cultures and cuisines,” he shares. “Each destination offers a unique culinary experience that adds colors to my travels.”
Away from the boardrooms and airport terminals, Olivier indulges in another passion—cooking “As a Lebanese-born French citizen, I embrace the art of fine cuisine,” Olivier explains. “Cooking allows me to recreate flavors and experiences from around the world in the comfort of my own kitchen.”
Reflecting on his extensive career, Olivier offers advice to the younger generation aspiring to join the ranks of the aviation industry. “Aviation is a dynamic and rewarding field that offers endless opportunities for growth,” he emphasizes. “Embrace the challenges, and never lose sight of your passion for the industry.”
As Olivier keeps flying across the aviation business, his experience serves as a tribute to the enthusiasm and commitment that propel people in leadership positions. In the life of Olivier, the sky is not just the limit—it’s a boundless horizon of endless possibilities.

“Don’t spend too much time imagining. Talk to people and you’ll see how amazing it is.”

Leonard Rodrigues, Head of Revenue Management & Network Planning of Etihad Cargo, describes his incredible journey from the backrooms of airline operations to the center of air cargo logistics in the dynamic world of aviation. Leonard’s story, which combines ambition, flexibility, and a love of travel, reveals the rich tapestry of events that have influenced his professional life and broadened his outlook on the exciting world of aviation.

“I wanted to work abroad,” Leonard reflects, “and so I was only considering roles that allowed me to start working abroad.” His journey commenced with a role at Air France KLM in Japan, marking the inception of a career devoted to unraveling the intricacies of the airline industry.

“My boss at the time moved into cargo,” Leonard recalls, “and he said, ‘follow me, there’s many things to do.’ And he was right.” Embracing the challenge with open arms, he embarked on a transformative journey that would shape his trajectory for over a decade.

“Every year something is happening,” Leonard remarks. “So many things were happening in Air France on the cargo side.” From assisting in urgent aid deliveries after the Fukushima disaster to orchestrating war logistics during the French army’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, his experiences epitomize the resilience and agility demanded by the industry.

“COVID-19 impacted everybody’s life,” Leonard acknowledges. “We were really on a mission to save the world, to save the company.” Undeterred by adversity, he and his team at Etihad Airways mobilized swiftly, repurposing aircraft for cargo missions and reaffirming the indispensable role of air cargo in sustaining global supply chains.

“Residing in Abu Dhabi is a choice that was made with the family,” Leonard explains. “It’s very progressive, it’s very relaxed, and everybody’s happy, generally.” Cherishing moments of respite with his multicultural family, he celebrates the unique blend of cultures and experiences that define his personal and professional journey.

“I used to be a huge movie buff,” Leonard reminisces. “But the reality is, I don’t have the amount of time needed to do the two hours anymore.” Yet, his recent excitement over Etihad’s sponsorship of the Chennai Super Kings reignites his enthusiasm for the world of cricket, offering a glimpse into the diverse array of interests that enrich his life beyond aviation.

Stepping outside the boundaries of business and play, Leonard’s travels reveal a tapestry of culinary delights and cultural diversity that satiate his desire. He talks on his travels to Cuba and Ukraine, marveling at the rich tapestry of experiences that dispel stereotypes and reveal the true essence of each place. He enjoys the warmth of human connections made in strange places and the depth of cultural interchange, whether in the colorful streets of Kiev or the eclectic beauty of Havana.

Leonard’s culinary adventures reflect a vibrant mosaic of cultural influences, enriched by his wife’s Japanese heritage and his own eclectic palate. “So my wife is Japanese,” Leonard jests, “so I have to say everything Japanese.” Yet, his culinary preferences extend far beyond Japanese cuisine, encompassing a love for Mexican and Indian flavors. “I kind of like everything,” he admits with a grin.

With Monday designated as “Indian Day” in Leonard’s household, the aromatic spices of Indian cuisine take center stage, much to the delight of his family. “One of them does ballet in a mall that doesn’t have an amazing selection of groceries,” he shares, referencing Mushriff Mall. Despite the limited options, His family frequents an Indian palace renowned for its flavorful tandoori Jingin Makani, indulging in a weekly tradition of savoring Indian delicacies.

Leonard’s wise advice goes beyond words; it is a light of guidance for people just starting their careers. “I see that there is sometimes a consideration that maybe the two parts are a bit different,” he observes. “But don’t spend too much time imagining. Talk to people and you’ll see how amazing it is.”

In Leonard’s journey, from the heights of aviation to the depths of cultural exploration, the essence of adventure and discovery permeates every facet of his existence.

“I make sure to carve out time for things that bring me joy, like exercising, reading, and exploring new cuisines.”

Milton De La Paz
Vice President Airline Relations
and Cargo, DFW Airport

Milton De La Paz, vice president of airline relations and cargo business development at DFW Airport, is one of the most enthusiastic and committed people in the busy world of aviation, where planes travel the world and terminals act as entry points for adventure. His career path serves as an example of the value of grasping opportunities, rising to the occasion, and finding purpose in one’s job.

De La Paz’s story is one of serendipity and determination, a tale that began with a twist of fate during his graduate studies at the University of Denver. Initially, he had set his sights on a different path, pursuing an internship opportunity in Washington, DC with the office of the president for trade. However, when faced with the financial burden of traveling to the nation’s capital, De La Paz made the difficult decision to decline the offer.

“I wasn’t looking to enter the aviation sector at all when I graduated from university,” De La Paz recalls. “But when I saw the opportunities it presented, I knew I had to leap.”

And leap he did. Armed with a newfound sense of curiosity and a desire for adventure, De La Paz found himself drawn to the world of aviation. Seizing the opportunity to explore a career in the industry, he began sending out resumes to airlines, hoping to secure a position that would facilitate his passion for travel and exploration.

“I started sending my resume to airlines as a strategy to facilitate travel for interviews,” De La Paz explains. “Little did I know that it would lead to a lifelong career in aviation.”

Indeed, De La Paz’s foray into the world of aviation would prove to be a transformative experience. Starting at an entry-level position with an airline, he quickly found himself immersed in the fast-paced and dynamic environment of the industry. The opportunity to travel the world, meet new people, and experience different cultures ignited a passion within him that would shape his career for years to come.
Over the years, De La Paz has worn many hats in the aviation sector, transitioning from airlines to airports and taking on roles of increasing responsibility and leadership. Throughout his journey, he has embraced new challenges and opportunities for growth, always striving to expand his knowledge and expertise in the ever-evolving world of aviation.

But beyond his professional achievements, De La Paz is also a firm believer in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Despite his love for work, he recognizes the importance of prioritizing time for family, fitness, and personal pursuits.

“I may be a bit of a workaholic,” De La Paz admits with a chuckle. “But I also make sure to carve out time for things that bring me joy, like exercising, reading, and exploring new cuisines.”
Speaking of cuisines, De La Paz’s culinary adventures are as diverse as his travels. From Middle Eastern delicacies to Indian spices to Peruvian delights, he delights in sampling the flavors of the world, often incorporating them into his own cooking repertoire.

As for leisure activities, De La Paz is an avid sports enthusiast, with a particular fondness for the Olympics and the World Cup. He appreciates the spirit of competition and the camaraderie that comes with global sporting events, finding inspiration in the dedication and perseverance of athletes worldwide.

When asked about his advice for aspiring professionals, De La Paz emphasizes the importance of dedication, self-belief, and intellectual curiosity.

“Don’t let setbacks hold you back,” he advises. “Believe in yourself, stay open-minded, and never stop learning. The world is full of opportunities for those who are willing to seize them.”
As Milton De La Paz continues to soar to new heights in his career, his story serves as a reminder that with passion, perseverance, and a spirit of adventure, anything is possible in the vast skies of aviation.

“Outside the boardroom, I find joy in family time, exploring new places, scuba diving, and devouring a good book”

Cristina Onate

Marketing & Product

Development VP at LATAM Airlines

Cristina Onate’s journey from her early days in Madrid to her current role as the Marketing and Product Development VP at LATAM Airlines Group is nothing short of a global journey.  “I’m Madrid born and bred,” Cristina begins, sharing glimpses of her childhood, education, and family life. The eldest of four siblings, she developed a love for different cultures early on. “I was always on the move, studying abroad, learning languages. It was no surprise I ended up at IESE for my MBA; I always knew I wanted to live and work abroad.”

“After five years in banking and real estate, I decided I needed a change. My MBA journey at IESE brought me to an open-ended opportunity at LAN Airlines, now LATAM Airlines Group.” Cristina reflects on her journey in the cargo industry for almost 12 years, starting in Chile and then taking on roles in Miami. “I’ve seen the good and the bad, and I’ve loved every challenge that came my way.”

“Throughout my time at LATAM Cargo, I’ve worn many hats – leading Global Accounts, Product Development, Customer Experience, Sustainability, and Brand Strategy. One highlight was the development of our new value proposition.” She shares the complicated process of analyzing customer preferences, target positioning, and capabilities, resulting in a 50-point increase in NPS since the project’s inception.

“In 2021, I took on the challenge of leading our sustainability strategy. We’ve not just met but exceeded our ambitious targets through collaboration and teamwork.”

“And then there was the monumental task of transporting COVID vaccines. We moved over 465 million vaccines with zero losses, a project with immense social impact.”

Cristina reflects on the changing landscape for women in the industry. “A decade ago, it was noticeable if there was more than one woman in a meeting. Today, it’s improving, but there’s still room for more female talent, especially in top executive positions.” She believes that adapting lessons from the pandemic’s remote work experience can make it easier for women to join and advance in the industry.

“Outside the boardroom, I find joy in family time, exploring new places, scuba diving, and devouring a good book. I’ve been to over 30 countries, lived in four – my travels cover four continents. And of course, there’s nothing like going back to Spain for our amazing food.”

Cristina takes pride in ideas that stand the test of time. “Our value proposition has been a constant guide, allowing for a continuous improvement of our air cargo service.” She emphasizes the introduction of time-definite products that have broadened options within South America, meeting client needs and adding capacity to high-demand routes.

“As I look back at the strategic projects we’ve conquered, it’s clear that success came from diverse, multinational teams working toward a common goal. But our success is more than just business – air cargo brings immense value to society, enabling progress and development.”

Cristina Onate’s story is not just about her individual achievements but a celebration of the collective power of diverse perspectives in the cargo industry. “Diversity and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords; they’re essential for our industry’s growth. Initiatives and organizations supporting women are crucial, ensuring that our skies remain diverse, dynamic, and full of opportunities.”

From a cramped basement working in the IT industry to the expansive world of air cargo, this executive now circles the planet and chills out playing golf with his buddies

Sameer Subedar, Cargojet’s Director of Sales and Product, orchestrates the global movement of essential goods. Yet, his journey started in an IT basement, where a spark for planes lit a path away from boardrooms to the air cargo world. Sameer’s story is a living example of the transformative force of pursuing one’s passion, no matter how unconventional the route is.

“I’m the type of person that’d rather buy an experience than buy a commodity,” Sameer asserts, encapsulating his audacious approach to life. His journey into the air cargo industry, marked by twists and turns, echoes the sentiment that calculated risks often pave the way for remarkable success. From his roots in IT to the dynamic realm of air cargo, Sameer’s professional evolution is a narrative of bold decisions and an unyielding spirit.

Away from the hustle and bustle of the air cargo world, Sameer finds solace in the greens of the golf course. “It’s just you and your friends that you’re golfing with,” he reflects, highlighting the therapeutic nature of the sport. As winter blankets Canada and golf takes a hiatus, Sameer’s newfound love, pickleball, takes center stage. The smaller tennis-court version of the game becomes a family affair, echoing laughter in the local gym.

“My favorite type of food is Thai food,” Sameer reveals, his passion for diverse flavors evident. A self-proclaimed foodie, he shuns franchise restaurants in favor of local, authentic experiences. During travels, Sameer seeks out the charm of mom-and-pop restaurants, immersing himself in the culinary tapestry of different cultures.

For Sameer, travel is more than a leisurely pursuit; it’s a journey of self-discovery. From the cobblestone alleys of Lisbon to the architectural wonders of Istanbul, he thrives on the richness of old-world charm and cultural immersion. “I love walking back in time,” Sameer shares, emphasizing his penchant for destinations like Portugal and Turkey over modern metropolises.

Juggling the demands of a dynamic sales career that keeps him constantly on the move, Sameer shares insights into his approach to work-life balance. Early marriage and fatherhood heightened his sense of responsibility, emphasizing the need to create time for family amidst career pursuits. Adopting the mantra “be here now” from Lisa Lisson, former president of FedEx Canada, Sameer underscores the importance of undivided attention in each moment—be it at work, with family, or pursuing personal hobbies. Integrating family into daily activities, like shared gym sessions and meals, Sameer strives to shut out distractions and focus on the present. Weekends bring a cherished ritual—an obligatory family breakfast—a simple yet powerful tradition in the Subedar household, reinforcing the significance of family amidst the hustle.

Reflecting on his career, Sameer acknowledges the pivotal role of mentorship. “The role model is someone that hears your ideas, lets you run with them, and then helps you figure out what you did right and wrong,” he articulates. This ethos of learning through trial and error extends beyond the professional realm, shaping Sameer’s growth philosophy.

Addressing the younger generation, Sameer advocates for exploration and diversification. “Try different things, try different industries,” he advises, recognizing the complexity of choosing a career path at a young age. His call is for patience and perseverance, urging the upcoming workforce to embrace the journey rather than succumbing to the allure of instant gratification.

For Sameer, that path led him from a cramped basement to the expansive world of air cargo, from IT spreadsheets to negotiating multi-million dollar deals. His story is a reminder that success often lies in the unexpected, in embracing detours and daring to chase your passions, even when they seem miles off course.

‘Unwinding amidst the difficulties entails family, faith, and a healthy lifestyle’

William Mac Fraser IV
Project Manager
Global Feeder Services, the exclusive GSA of Silk Way West Airlines

William Mac Fraser IV’s story in the air cargo and aviation industries reveals an enthralling blend of professional insights and personal musings. Fraser brings a unique viewpoint to his work as Project Manager at Global Feeder Services (GFS), the exclusive GSA of Silkway West Airlines, bringing insights into the changing terrain that has profoundly shaped his career.
“I stumbled into this industry. Before GFS, I spent a decade in the oil field, working with BJ Services and Baker Hughes. The transition to marketing and directing was a blessed accident,” shares Fraser, highlighting the unexpected shift that shaped his current role.
Fraser’s roots in aviation run deep, nurtured by a childhood as an American military kid and his father’s Air Force career. Despite a stint in the Marine Corps Air Wing and detours into the oil field, aviation’s magnetic pull persisted.
“It’s always been in my blood. You’ve seen your father there, you live in that community; there’s just something about the smell of jet fuel,” reflects Fraser on his enduring connection with aviation.
“Working with Silkway Airlines and Azerbaijan Airlines started with a connection my father facilitated. It evolved from marketing support to a more operational role, involving hands-on experiences like learning how to build pallets and understanding aircraft loading intricacies,” he adds.
But how does one find balance in an industry that operates around the clock? “Maintaining a work-life balance in the aviation industry is crucial,” Fraser notes. “Even before COVID, we transitioned to remote work to reduce overhead expenses. Dedication to our customers goes beyond the standard 9 to 5; we make ourselves available whenever they need us.”
Fraser seeks consolation in the intimate amidst professional obligations. “Unwinding amidst the difficulties entails family, faith, and a healthy lifestyle. My sense of balance is enhanced by my involvement with my children, participation in church activities, and leading a disciplined life,” he shares.
“I’ve traveled extensively, covering nearly every part of the world except South America and the polar regions. Growing up in Europe as a military kid, I explored every country in Western Europe, including Turkey. Turkey, especially, left a lasting impression, and I fell in love with it at the age of 11,” says Fraser.
Culinary preferences offer insight into Fraser’s diverse palate, with Azeri and Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine claiming the top spot. Influences from Dubai and Eastern Europe shape his culinary favorites.
Turning to role models, Fraser draws inspiration from a trio of self-made individuals—his father—Gen. William Mac Fraser III, Zaur Akhundov, and Arthur Ilyaev. Their resilience and commitment to goals motivate him in his career journey. Acknowledging his father as a mentor, Fraser values their close relationship.
Addressing the younger generation, Fraser observes a shift towards instant gratification and credit-driven mindsets. His advice is rooted in cultivating patience, emphasizing the satisfaction of achieving goals through perseverance.
“Nowadays, it seems like the generation coming up has been catered to a lot. Everything is instant. But I’d love to see more of a willingness to work towards a goal, to be patient,” encourages Fraser, underscoring the importance of embracing the journey.
In the context of the air cargo industry, Fraser highlights its enduring significance. “We’re not going anywhere. It’s a constant need. Embracing new solutions like drone delivery is vital.” His call to the younger generation is to passionately engage in the dynamic air cargo landscape.
As Fraser encapsulates his journey, he emerges as a storyteller in the complicated tango of aviation logistics, tying together the complexity of his professional activities with the simple joys that offer balance to his life.

Chinese cooked in an Indian spicy way is always a The good meal which I fancy, it has it all in my view.

Shashi Kumar Panicker, Director of Aeronautical Revenues at the Bahrain Airport Company (BAC), has carved a unique path in the air cargo and aviation industry. Like an adventure that spans the globe, his career has taken him to fascinating destinations, introducing him to a combination of cultures and shaping his role as a leader in the field.

Panicker shares, “I was drawn into the aviation industry by my deep passion for air cargo. The people in this industry are truly unique, and I find their intensity and ‘can-do’ attitude infectious. Working in aviation isn’t just a job; it’s a way to connect with people from diverse cultures and ensure that cargo reaches its destination swiftly and safely. It’s a dynamic world that demands continuous learning, training, and skill development to keep up with industry advancements. Having spent over three decades in this industry, the opportunities for personal and professional growth have been immense.”

The challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic were immense. “We faced reduced capacity and surging demand, coupled with traditional, time-consuming methods of managing cargo, extensive paperwork, shipment tracking issues, and rising costs. But we, as industry professionals, found innovative ways to keep the cargo moving during these turbulent times,” he recalls.

Panicker emphasizes the importance of work-life balance. “Planning ahead is crucial to minimizing work-related stress and establishing a sustainable work routine without overcommitting. It’s essential to maintain health and general well-being, and not be afraid to say ‘no’ when necessary, making sure you don’t overcommit and underdeliver. Staying calm, assertive, and focused on delivering results is key. After all, ‘Air cargo is in the people business, where attitude and approach count.’ I majorly believe in this and attempt to deliver to be seen as productive,” he stresses.

For relaxation, Panicker’s favorite travel destination is India. “India has so much to offer, and I’m yet to explore it all. My early experiences in the Middle East have left a profound impact, and India’s simplicity and joy of life resonate with me,” he said.

As a sports enthusiast, Panicker, like many Indians, has a deep love for cricket. He says, “Cricket holds a special place in my heart, and I cherish every moment of the game, whether I’m playing or watching.”

His culinary preferences lean towards Chinese cuisine with an Indian twist, where the spices add an extra layer of flavor to the dishes. “Chinese cooked in an Indian spicy way is always a good meal which I fancy, it has it all in my view.”

Panicker has some advice for the younger generation aspiring to enter the air cargo industry: “Being committed with full passion is the buzzword for building a rewarding career. The aviation industry holds the same essence to provide.”

Shashi Kumar Panicker’s lengthy and illustrious career in the aviation industry demonstrates his unshakable leadership. His one-of-a-kind expertise and business sense provide invaluable insights into the quickly changing world of aviation.

Traveling, sports, and finding solace in simple yet meaningful moments in life help this top cargo executive balance his work and life

Maurice van Terheijden
Managing Director – EMEA

Maurice van Terheijden, Managing Director – EMEA at ACL AIRSHOP, reflects on his journey into the aviation industry, saying, “In my childhood, I was captivated by the airline industry. We would eagerly await my father’s return from his business trips, and before picking him up at the airport, we would spend time on the outside deck, gazing at the airplanes.”
He continues, “Despite initially aspiring to become an air traffic controller, I found myself entering on a different path. I pursued a degree in Bachelor of Logistics and Technical Transportation at Hogeschool Amsterdam. Surprisingly, I became deeply attracted to the air cargo sector, and I never looked back.”
Maurice’s extensive experience has taught him to embrace challenges with a “hands-on mentality.”
He passionately asserts, “One of the most notable experiences was during the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami when we suddenly had multiple charters carrying relief goods destined for Asia.”
His problem-solving philosophy is evident as he states, “We try to avoid saying ‘no’ to a customer. We are the problem solvers.” This ethos extends to ACL Airshop.
Maurice possesses an innate ability to unwind. “I’ve been blessed with a disposition that allows me to relax easily.” He goes on to share his relaxation activities, saying, “Whether it’s spending weekends with my family, embarking on leisurely canal tours on a boat, or cheering for my daughter during her sports matches, I find rejuvenation in these simple yet meaningful moments,” he explains.
He continues, “An active social life, replete with outings and gatherings with friends and family, further contributes to my relaxation.”
Having traveled the globe for both work and leisure, Maurice has discovered a wealth of diverse destinations. “Tibet, the jungles of Venezuela, Sossusvlei in Namibia, and the pristine beaches of the Maldives,” he reminisces, “Each has left an indelible mark on me.” His enthusiasm shines through as he adds, “Vibrant cities like Barcelona, New York, and Baku have also etched themselves into my memory.”
Yet, one destination still beckons him with a sense of wonder: Chile. “I’ve longed to explore Chile,” he reveals with enthusiasm. “Starting from the north in Arica, traversing the desert to Santiago de Chile, and culminating in the south at Patagonia, Argentina is a dream I hope to fulfill.”
In his leisure hours, Maurice’s sporting interests take center stage. “I derive immense pleasure from watching various sports, particularly soccer and Formula 1 racing,” he enthuses. His passion for the live experience is evident as he shares, “Whenever feasible, I enjoy attending live events, savoring the energy that permeates stadiums during these contests.”
Culinary exploration has been one of the joys of Maurice’s extensive travels. “I have a deep affection for Thai and Japanese cuisines,” he admits, his eyes sparkling with culinary delight. “Yet, I can also relish the familiar tastes of my grandmother’s Dutch meals.” An intriguing twist in his culinary preferences is his aversion to cheese, a surprising departure for a Dutchman.
For the younger generation, Maurice offers this profound advice: “Find something that truly ignites your passion, something you can commit to wholeheartedly.” He passionately asserts, “While challenges are inevitable, dedicating yourself to something you love significantly enhances your chances of success.”
He underscores the importance of cherishing every moment, both in work and personal life, with these heartfelt words: “Life is fleeting, so make the most of it, not only in your professional endeavors but also in the precious moments you share with family and friends.”
Maurice’s journey from childhood fascination to becoming a respected figure in the air cargo and aviation industry is a testament to his passion, determination, and steadfast commitment to finding solutions in the face of challenges. His advice to embrace one’s interests, work passionately, and savor life’s moments serves as an inspiring reminder of the possibilities that await the next generation.

‘I used to be an avid runner, covering distances like 10 kilometers. Those days are behind me, I’ve found a new interest in gardening.’

Weaving a career in the air cargo industry leaves a unique indelible imprint on people that shape their future paths as individuals and leaders.
Hans van Schaik, sales director at SACO Airport Equipment, shares his own unique story, a journey that has led him to unforgettable travels across the world, meeting people from all walks of life and responsible evolution as an industry leader.
“Long ago, I worked for a company specializing in industrial weighing, and handling exports. Among diverse industries, I encountered an airport equipment firm, which thrilled me due to a lifelong fascination with the industry. My father’s involvement in the field fueled this excitement since childhood,” van Schaik recalls.
“Eventually,” he added, “I switched careers to join an airport equipment company, following my passion. The allure of airports and planes remains strong. I’ve been with SACO since 2004, spanning nearly 20 years. This journey has led me worldwide, aligning with my intrinsic connection to this industry.”
Based in The Netherlands, SACO designs, manufactures, and supplies turnkey cargo handling equipment and systems for more than 50 years now. Its products have been widely used in many European countries as well as in India, Indonesia, Russia, USA, UAE, Canada, Curaçao, Rwanda, and Ethiopia.
Van Schaik worked his way up to become a team leader and eventually as head of sales for SACO.
“Being deeply engaged across all aspects allows you to navigate the company towards your envisioned path. In my early days in 2004, the turnover was struggling. Now, it’s surged by about 20 times. The sense of pride in this achievement is immense. Witnessing the growing team is equally rewarding; their enthusiasm fuels me. My role isn’t about being a boss, but inspiring others to join this journey we’re on,” he said.
Taking time to keep your work and life balance is important, said van Schaik. He does this by engaging in sports and these days, gardening.
“I used to be an avid runner, covering distances like 10 kilometers. Although those days are behind me, I’ve found a new interest in gardening. Our home is on the outskirts of a larger city, allowing me to immerse myself in outdoor activities. Another source of joy is witnessing my children’s growth and journey toward their own paths. Recently, we acquired land in Brazil, presenting an exciting upcoming challenge. Gardening there will be especially demanding due to the rapid growth of vegetation,” van Schaik shared.
Adding, “My wife often complains about the work-life balance. I’m focused on emphasizing the ‘life’ aspect, though it’s challenging. With more staff, I can now invest time in my personal life. Unfortunately, I struggle to disconnect from work at home due to global clients in varying time zones reaching out via email or WhatsApp. To manage, I’ve silenced my phone and relied on vibrations for notifications. This grants some peace during the day, and though it’s tough, I attempt to ignore nighttime buzzes.”
As an industry leader, van Schaik says it’s important to have enthusiasm and honesty in what you’re doing.
“I value enthusiasm as a primary trait in individuals, alongside their professional qualities. The drive to create and excel is crucial in those I seek. Embrace your authenticity. My dad’s advice: Don’t pretend to be someone else. Progress comes from being genuine. I value openness and honest conversations. Just be yourself, as that’s most important,” he said.
And to the younger generation seeking to venture into the air cargo industry, van Schaik says efforts must be stepped up to help inspire them to create a rewarding career path in the sector.
“During a recent reception, a topic of discussion was the lack of youth interest in air cargo, unlike larger firms such as Swissport, WFS, UPS, and Amazon, which attract younger talent due to their progressive nature. Smaller companies, however, tend to remain conservative and are devoid of young representation. Initiatives like TIACA’s young professional program aim to address this and the industry’s communication and modernization challenges, which are yet to be fully resolved,” he said.

“Whenever I travel to another city, I always go and find the rock store and I’ll buy something that’s from that area.”

Keith Davis, CEO of Sterling Transportation, shares his remarkable journey in the cargo industry, from humble beginnings to becoming a respected leader. With over 30 years of experience, Keith offers valuable insights and advice for those aspiring to join the sector.

Keith recalls his entry into the industry, stating, “I started in 1982 when a friend of mine owned a local pickup and delivery company in Los Angeles, and I came to California to work for him.” Over the years, he honed his skills and gained industry knowledge, paving the way for the establishment of his own domestic freight porter business in 1990. It was this entrepreneurial spirit that ultimately led to the creation of Sterling Transportation in 1993. 

As the CEO of Sterling Transportation, Keith relishes the autonomy and freedom to make crucial business decisions. Keith affirms, “I can do whatever I want to do, and that’s been successful up to this point right now. You better embrace change. I’m flexible with stuff like that. I think that’s going to be a benefit to the company. I’m not entrenched in the way that I’ve done things for the last 30 years.” 

Despite his professional achievements, Keith places great importance on work-life balance. He shares, “I just love what I do, and that is my balance. I mean, I would be bored to death if I wasn’t working. But this is what I like to do. That’s my life balance.” Additionally, Keith cherishes moments spent with his family, including his wife and two daughters, who hold a special place in his heart. Beyond family time, Keith reveals an interesting hobby – collecting rocks. He elaborates, “I am a gem collector. Rocks. I’m a rock. I collect rocks. Whenever I travel to another city, I always go and find the rock store and I’ll buy something that’s from that area. I have an extensive collection of rocks.”

Keith’s role models are individuals who prioritize doing the right thing over purely pursuing financial gains. “A role model is a person who puts doing the right thing ahead of making money. Someone who cares about people,” Keith emphasizes. One of his favorite pieces of advice from the industry echoes this sentiment – “never burn a bridge.” This principle has served him well throughout his career, as he believes in maintaining positive relationships with everyone, regardless of circumstances.

On a lighter note, Keith reveals his ideal dinner guest – Deepak Chopra, whom he admires as a meditation instructor from the Chopra Institute. Furthermore, he shares his love for the movie “The Last of the Mohicans” and his all-time favorite book, “The Stand” by Stephen King.

For the next generation seeking to enter the cargo industry, Keith advocates hard work, networking, and openness to new opportunities. He advises, “Work hard… when I was younger, I worked 18 hours a day. I remember many times working 24 hours straight, and to me, that was the greatest feeling in the world that I had accomplished that. But I just think that hard work will get you where you want and always be fair to people and just be open. Be open to people.”

Keith Davis’s inspiring journey exemplifies dedication, passion, and integrity – qualities that continue to drive his success in the dynamic world of cargo transportation. As Sterling Transportation celebrates its 30th anniversary, Keith’s invaluable experiences and wisdom stand as a testament to the power of vision, hard work, and embracing change.