Starting off as a shop of one, Kendra Kincade now leads hundreds of volunteers at Elevate Aviation, where they strive to increase diversity in the aviation industry. Working to attract and promote women to positions previously very male dominated, Kincade and her teams travel across Canada raising awareness about opportunities for women in the aviation field. Through speaking engagements, a learning centre and mentorship arrangements, they work to help these women gain access to job opportunities in the field.
“This year our cross-country tour was in twenty locations across Canada, all done in one week, inspiring thousands of young women to look at careers in aviation,” she explains
Kendra and her teams work have had an immense impact helping over thousands of women. The Canadian Military has even made her an honorary Colonel for her work helping women in the Military learn about opportunities in the Military’s aviation fields.
An unlikely beginning
Kincade’s career path was not defined in her youth. In her early teens, she lived on the streets for a little while before being placed in the foster care system.
“My personal relationships growing up were not very healthy, and not only lead to a lack of confidence, but were also because of a lack of self-esteem,” Kincade says.
Yet Kendra was able to able to climb out of this time of negativity and despair.
A very important mentor
Kincade credits a mentor named John Bright for helping her transition from this difficult part of her life to the success she is today.
“He changed my life,” says Kincade. “He didn’t just believe in me but, worked to get me to believe in myself. With his emotional support and guidance, I beat the odds to become an Air Traffic Controller.”
A friend had introduced her to idea of being an Air Traffic Controller, a concept that resonated with her. With four children in tow, she began training to become an Air Traffic Controller, a long and extremely difficult process. At that time, there was only a seven per cent qualification rate in the specialty she was being trained. Kendra says she was on the cusp of being terminated and becoming a statistic when Bright intervened, convincing supervisors to allow her another chance, and taking her under his wing.
Bright’s guidance was so integral to her career, it became the inspiration to her mission with Elevate Aviation – helping other women the way he helped her get into the industry.
“I want to be a mentor to these women in much the same manner John Bright was a mentor to me,” Kincade says.
After over a decade of success as an Air Traffic Controller, Kendra went through a difficult divorce, leaving her feeling depressed.
This spurred her to help others rather than wallow in self-pity. She joined a group of volunteers looking climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise $5000 for the Royal Alex Hospital. To raise funds, she ran with an idea that was tossed around work as a joke and developed and sold a calendar composed of female Air Traffic Controllers, raising $10,000.
“The next time I wanted to do this to raise money for a humanitarian mission, I decided to do a second calendar but this time instead of just air traffic controllers I knocked on doors in the industry until I found enough women in aviation careers to form another twelve months,” Kincade explains that the difficulty of this exercise made her realize there was a very small pool of women to participate.
"It occurred to me that the aviation industry had not done a great job at recruiting and attracting women.”
Kincade wanted more women to be successful in the industry she had so enjoyed and grown with, and Elevate Aviation was born. Today she represents hundreds of people regionally, nationally and globally who promote the aviation industry to women and women to the aviation industry.
‘Life beings at the end of your comfort zone’ is a Donald Waish quote Kincade lives by, adding; “When you get to the other side of your fear, life is good.” Kincade attributes her success to getting out of her comfort zone.
“You have to try things and not be afraid to fail,” she says. “You can’t listen to people who just have negative things to say. And don’t listen to the negative voice inside your head. Everyone has one.”
Kincade even named her negative inner voice ‘The Pillsbury Dough Bitch’.
“The world is negative enough. We don`t have to add to it by beating ourselves up.”
Working to mentor young women, Kincade has realized that being positive also means showing up for one another.
“I think it is very important for young women to lift one and other up and not knock each other down,” she says.
“Don’t be afraid to lift each other up. No one loses anything by helping others.”