A third generation pilot, Bethany Davis has been flying planes for as long as she can remember, either by herself or getting a little steering practice on her father's lap. Now she's preparing to take off as a business leader in the aerospace industry through her Georgia Tech education.
A dual degree student, Davis is earning both an MBA and master's in aerospace engineering. Though she's enrolled in two full-time degree programs, she still finds time on some weekends to fly jets internationally for the Phoenix Air Group, a defense and civilian contractor that handles missions that commercial airlines won't, such as delivering explosives and transporting wounded soldiers to military hospitals.
"I always want to keep flying," she says. "But on the side, not as a full-time airline pilot. My goal is to become an industry leader."
Davis, who graduated with a degree in physics from the University of the South in 2007, first realized that getting an MBA would be essential for her career plans during a 2006 summer internship at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company. Responsible for helping configure and analyze U.S. Air Force contracts in the top-secret Advanced Development Programs area (aka "Skunk Works"), she asked if she could sit in on a strategy session involving senior management.
"Watching them in action from the corner, I said to myself, 'Wow, this is what I really want to do,'" Davis remembers. "I learned that all the top leaders at Lockheed have MBAs."
A native of Cartersville, Georgia, Davis worked in Mexico City for a year after college graduation as a Fulbright scholar at the Mexican airline Volaris, finding ways for the company to increase fuel efficiency. Her efforts helped save the company millions of dollars a month.
To further advance her career, she chose Georgia Tech because of the opportunity it provided to earn two highly ranked degrees simultaneously. She enrolled in fall 2008 and plans to graduate from both programs in spring 2011.
"It's not been that difficult to balance two degree programs," she says. "I enjoy the variety of taking highly technical aerospace courses along with classes in marketing and strategy. I love both the technical and the qualitative. I'm learning to speak the language of business fluently through the solid foundation I'm gaining in key business areas, from operations to finance."
Davis will have the opportunity to draw upon both her business and engineering know-how this summer during an internship working in sales engineering and technical marketing for Gulfstream Aerospace. She'll play a key role in selling the company's aircraft through her ability to make the technical features of the planes understandable to potential customers who aren't engineers.
Outside of work and school, almost all of Davis' activities are aviation-oriented. She recreationally flies her own plane, a two-seat 1958 Piper Super Cub, which she named Betty after the woman she bought it from – a WASP (or member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots) who flew domestic military missions that would free male pilots for combat duty during World War II.
Davis goes on relief missions of her own. As a volunteer with Angel Flight, she provides free air transportation for people who have serious medical needs that can't be filled in their hometowns. For these passengers, access to commercial flights is often unavailable or impractical because of multiple connections, not to mention unaffordable, Davis explains. She also recently flew CDC workers to Haiti after the earthquake devastation through her work with the Phoenix Air Group.
At Georgia Tech, Davis is helping expand networking opportunities for her fellow students as president of the International Business Club and founder of the new MBA Golf Classic, to be held in April at East Lake Golf Club and sponsored by Southern Company. Business leaders on the College of Management's Advisory Board and Georgia Tech Foundation Board of Trustees will be teamed to play with MBA students based on their respective career interests. Proceeds will benefit projects of the MBA Philanthropy Club.
"The plan for this tournament is for it to become a tradition that alumni and students look forward to for years to come," says Davis, who competed on the golf team at the University of the South.