Posted 2 years 182 days ago ago by Admin
It was a no-brainer for Boeing Global Services Senior Manager of Helicopter Operations Ty Genteman to get into the aviation industry—or more accurately—it was a no-brainer for him to get out of the blistering desert heat. He was pulling cable in his telecom construction business when a friend called with a simple proposition. Genteman clearly recalls the 1986 conversation that changed his life. His friend, Eric Witters, made his pitch, “It’s July in Arizona and you’re working in 118 degrees; how would you like to come to Aviall and get out of the heat?” Thus, the young man made the move indoors to work as a parts runner for one of the biggest names in the aviation industry that would later be acquired by a bigger name, Boeing. Genteman started his aviation career by delivering parts from Aviall’s materials department to its shop floor where engines were overhauled. “With my interest in mechanical things from working on cars, anytime I had a spare moment, I’d talk to the mechanics out of curiosity about what they were doing. It got to the point where they asked me to work with them as an apprentice trainee.” He jumped at the opportunity in 1989. He studied and got his powerplant license and also became certified in Level-2 NDT (non-destructive testing) and started happily working as a helicopter mechanic—and then Aviall sold off the maintenance side of their business. And then the young mechanic who had worked so hard was suddenly laid off.
Now, what am I going to do?, he wondered and worried until he found himself back again pulling telecom cable. It seemed that his last few fulfilling years in aviation mechanics had been a mirage in the dead-end desert of a construction career. He was going to be consigned to diligently work one sweltering job after another, as he had done through high school and every day since except for those too-few days in the mechanics shop. But then fate—or a horse—strangely intervened: Genteman’s wife, Lydia, shattered her hand in a horse-riding accident and underwent 10 hours of expensive, restorative surgery. “We were on COBRA health insurance and I was now working in a job that didn’t pay very well.” The horse accident spurred Genteman to look for a solution; he called his old boss at Aviall and learned to his surprise that there was an opening out West in Sacramento. So, in 1994 it was “California, here I come” for the Gentemans.
After a six-month absence from the work he had loved, Genteman was again turning wrenches, but this time on fixed-wing aircraft, which caused some raised eyebrows. He was working on a King Air 200, when the owner asked his mechanic to clarify his work experience. Genteman answered that he had mostly worked on rotorcraft throughout his career. The incredulous owner exclaimed, “You’re one of those helo guys and you’re working on my aircraft??”
“Yes sir,” answered Genteman, “but it’s a lot easier now because there are much fewer moving parts.” The reassured owner laughed and proclaimed, “You’ll do.”
Yet, Genteman didn’t do for long in the capitol city of California. He received news one sad day that his father-in-law in Arizona had been diagnosed with cancer. In what would become a pattern, Genteman firmly put family first. He found work close to his ill family member with a startup, Arizona Rotorcraft. “It was an interesting transition, but the good outweighed the bad,” he says with hindsight. Yet, to reach the good, Genteman had to climb an unexpected, beneficial learning curve. He and his five fellow mechanics were surprisingly slammed with work in the new shop. “We were tripping over one another trying to get the work done,” he says. The business was owned by a savvy woman and Genteman went to her to complain. “We got to reorganize this shop and do better at prioritizing jobs,” he said. “I went through all the issues and she replied, ‘You know, you’re absolutely right. We do need to do all that.’” Genteman was ecstatic that he had made his case to her. But then she said, “You’re it.”
“I went into her office as a mechanic and left it as a maintenance production manager,” he ruefully recalls. “I went from being another peer on the maintenance team to managing my former peers and that was a difficult transition for me.”
That managerial experience would open new opportunities, when an executive back at Aviall, Ron Marrou, asked Genteman if he could put the managing mechanic’s name on his recruiting list for the position of Rolls Royce product line manager. Genteman reluctantly agreed, not thinking he was really qualified. In fact, he told his current boss, Anita Goodwin, at Arizona Rotorcraft (now named AeroMaritime after aquisition) that he’d agreed to be recruited by Aviall. “She leaned on me for a lot of responsibilities,” says Genteman, “but she encouraged me to pursue the position and put me above the company and her business needs. You don’t run across people in your life often that put your interest above theirs, so I have a ton of respect for her.” When Genteman, to his surprise, was awarded the Aviall job, the knowing Goodwin simply said, “I knew they would pick you. I love you here, but you need to take that job for your next step in your growth.” It was difficult to depart from such a classy superior, but Genteman plunged into the new opportunity that Aviall presented.
It turned out that Genteman’s superiors foresaw his potential more clearly than he saw it himself. He excelled at product line management and after four years felt he could handle even more responsibility and climbed through the ‘90s and ‘00s decades from product line manager to senior product line manager to senior manager.
Genteman’s career trajectory indeed took off in the the 21st century and it was also a decade of family growth, as he and Lydia anticipated welcoming their coming, newborn son, into their home. The boy would not move in quickly. A pregnancy sonogram revealed their fetal boy had a Trisomy 21 genetic defect. Not only would their son enter the world with Down Syndrome, but his young heart had three harmful holes that would require surgery soon after birth. Their medical team during the pregnancy frequently asked the expecting parents would they consider aborting the pregnancy. “It was something we would never do,” says Genteman, “It became so frequent that I had to ask the medical staff to put in our records to never ask us that again.” Connor Calvin Genteman was born in April 2008 to two loving, scared, nervous, and anxious parents. He was delivered early at 37 weeks and the little fighter weighed in at 6 pounds, 9 ounces. “Little did we know about the journey that we were about to embark on and the decisions we were going to have to make,” says Genteman. The infant spent the first two months of that journey in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). “He had a tube down his nose to feed him, oxygen pumped into his nose to help him breathe, and (he was) constantly out of breath due to his blood mixing in his heart through the holes,” recalls Genteman. “Our schedule was all focused on Connor and trying to figure out and make decisions on how to keep him alive.”
One of those decisions was to undertake the anticipated open-heart surgery to repair those threatening ventricular holes. The initial surgery was a success and smaller surgeries ensued. Then there were ongoing doctor appointments and weekly meetings with therapists and consultants. The stressful situation into which the new parents and infant had been thrown was at times overwhelming. Yet, Genteman and his wife raised their heads above their own challenges to see how they could help others in similar situations. While trying to relax at a classic car show, Genteman had an inspiring idea: he and his wife could create a non-profit foundation to host a classic car event to raise funds and awareness for families in their community with special-needs members! Named after their involved son, Connor’s Annual Car Show was launched in 2014 and now is an annual event. The first charity show attracted 196 classic vehicles and raised $16,000. Subsequent shows have raised a total of over $325,000 that went directly to special-needs charities in Texas. The Gentemans (and their foundation’s board) receive no compensation, even though charity work can routinely keep Genteman up working to midnight after coming home in the evening around 7:00 from his rotorcraft responsibilities. (He pulled away one night from composing a fundraising classic car calendar to do this interview, and graciously said, “I carved out time, so we’re good.”) “Sometimes I ask my wife why we work so hard and she answers by showing me a picture of Connor. That’s all I need as a reminder.”
Boeing Work Goes On
Rotorcraft responsibilities did not diminish for Genteman since Connor’s challenging birth. Boeing acquired Aviall in 2006 and later moved Genteman to their Boeing Global Services division and his current position as senior manager of helicopter operations. “We look at any needs involved in helicopter operations that Boeing can fill. We work with oil & gas customers, EMS, law enforcement, tourism, and basically every segment of the helicopter industry,” he explains. “We have one slide in our proposal deck about everything that Boeing Global Services can offer. It’s a little overwhelming, so we ask customers what they need. Then we start bringing up different service offerings that we can build off of.”
The formula for finding what Boeing Global Services can do for its prospective customers is not rocket science. Genteman stresses to his team the lost skill of asking a direct question and simply listening to their prospect’s answer. “When we cut to the chase and ask: What do you need? It really helps the conversation,” he says. “The greatest opportunity we miss is when we don’t listen to the customer. We may then try to sell them what they really don’t need. Customers drive everything. There is great opportunity in discovering their needs. Listen to them and don’t have preconceived ideas about what you should sell them.” With regards to his teammates Genteman humbly points out, “A big part of my success has been listening, learning and surrounding myself with people smarter than myself. My current and past teams have been a big part of my success.”
Genteman has had many mentors along life’s road that prepared him to give sound advice like that of shut up and listen. He recognizes his parents, “My dad and my mom established my life’s foundation,” he says. Then there were career mentors he mentions for special recognition:
Perry Siler and Mike Ivins gave him his start as a technician. Greg Schindel and the manager that encouraged him to leave and grow into his career, Anita Goodwin, taught him the business side of management. A brilliant engineer mentor was Dave Maxfield: “He would start mapping out formulas on a whiteboard,” says Genteman, “and I would tell him to come down and explain things to me on my level—and he did.”
“My mentors were very diverse and they all helped me in different areas. I really give credit to them for spending time and having the patience to teach me,” he appreciatively says. He especially praises Lydia, his beloved wife and the resourceful mother that has borne the brunt of responsibility in taking care of Connor’s special needs. But when Genteman is asked who influenced him the most. He answers, “That’s easy; it’s my son. He doesn’t talk and has lots of challenges, but I’ve probably learned more from him than about anybody. He teaches me humility and patience. We all strive for happiness, and my son, for the most part, wakes up happy every day.”