JetBlue CEO to Students: ‘Take Chances’ in Your Careers

Aeronautical Science student Madison Seymour interviewed JetBlue Airways CEO Joanna Geraghty April 17, in the latest Presidential Speaker Series event held at Embry-Riddle. (Photo: Embry-Riddle/David Massey)

The first female CEO of a major airline, Joanna Geraghty, who leads JetBlue Airways, recently advised Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students to “try a lot of different things” and “take chances” early in their careers.

“You learn so much from trying something that might seem boring at first,” she said. “I took a lot of chances along the way. Some of it worked out. Some of it didn’t … [but] all of those experiences make you a well-rounded individual and help you understand where your strengths lie.”

Geraghty’s “try, try, try” philosophy can be seen reflected throughout her own career trajectory, from earning a master’s degree in international relations, to working as a practicing lawyer, to moving into roles in aviation customer service and, eventually, operations. She shared her thoughts on success, the airline industry and more in a candid conversation during an Embry‑Riddle Presidential Speaker Series event April 17.

“I actually fell into airlines,” she told the crowd. “It wasn’t actually something I set out to do. … Ultimately, I fell in love with the industry and how everything is always moving.”

Questions for the event were posed by student-moderator Madison Seymour. An Aeronautical Science junior in the Honors Program, Seymour is the vice president of the Women in Aviation chapter at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus, as well as a flight instructor and resident advisor. Seymour’s questions touched on a variety of topics, from leadership and gender adversity to sustainability and the impacts of mentorship — impacts that Geraghty said can often drive career development.

“Mentors help you think you can do things beyond what you’re doing,” Geraghty said. “They advocate on your behalf, recognize opportunities and encourage you to throw your hat into the ring.”

That idea of community-building was recurring in Geraghty’s talk. When asked if she’s ever faced gender adversity at work, she promoted the importance of building strong teams.

“Aviation is a team sport,” she said. “You’ve got to see past gender issues. I’ll work harder than anybody, always do my best. … That’s how you break glass ceilings. … At the end of the day, results matter.”

Geraghty realized the power of positive results firsthand in 2007, when JetBlue’s systems crashed following an ice storm on the east coast of the United States, leading to 1,000 canceled flights in five days. Suddenly, she was tasked with creating a database to find all of the company’s aircraft that were out in the field.

“That was so eye-opening to me,” she said. “I realized that when faced with almost desperation … with some ingenuity and a little focus, you can do just about anything.”

Seventeen years later, in February 2024, Geraghty became the company’s CEO, and she’s taken that lesson from 2007 along with her throughout her career journey.

“Don’t avoid jobs that don’t seem exactly like what you were looking for,” she told students. “You’d be surprised how much you can learn in one summer working on the ramp.”

Embry-Riddle’s Presidential Speaker Series welcomes industry leaders, prominent alumni and important trailblazers in aviation, aerospace and related fields who will address our students, faculty and staff, as well as the greater community. Video from past Speaker Series events can be found online.

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