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Thales Aria Technology Takes Flight with Oman Air | Senior Systems Engineer Estel Dandridge Talks Us Through the Project and Her Career

Rebekah Valero-Lee engineering

Thales Aria Technology
Thales’ project with Oman Air is drawing to a successful close thanks to skilled senior systems project engineer, Estel Dandridge.

Estel has led a global team developing a new signature GUI, branded ‘OMAN Aria’, for the airline’s HOV 3-class Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners; with the same integrated in-flight entertainment system also destined for its B737 MAX, B737 NG, A330 and 2C 787 aircrafts before the end of 2018.

“As we speak, the cutting edge 787-9 is on its test flight with a team of Thales engineers observing the new technology in action,” explains Estel. “We’re working to avoid a dark flight, which in industry terms means a technology failure. But we’ve completed enough testing and perfecting to be sure that this won’t happen.”

As the project’s solution engineering manager (SEM), Estel managed a team of Thales software engineers, programme managers, media managers and more based in Irvine, CA and Bordeaux, France, to ensure Aria’s delivery aligned with Omar Air’s 2030 vision of delivering the latest technology and ultimately providing customers with the best experience as soon as they step on board.  

Excelling in Maths and Science, Estel took a chance on a College subject that would provide the best future prospects.

“Growing up, it was always drilled into us that technology was the future,” continues Estel. “When it came to my College application, I looked down the list of degrees and thought, right, what’s going to get me a job at the end? I knew that software skills were in high demand and chose Computer Science without any fear of failure or thinking that a woman couldn’t do it.

“Too many degrees leave it very vague in what job you’ll get at the end of it, and whilst people have different reasons for going to College, for me it was about making sure I got a good job. My advice to anyone is to work hard and focus. Don’t not pick something because you’re afraid that you’ll fail; it’s all about being determined and working hard.

“Being the only female in my classes at Cal State LA was intimidating at the beginning as you long for a sense of belonging, but knowing that I was getting As and Bs in a subject that was so challenging and that people were dropping out because it was so hard, gave me a real drive to succeed.”

It’s this same drive that continues to push Estel to learn new things, evolve and develop. During her 9+ years with global technology giant, IBM, she describes how she successfully transitioned from someone behind a computer to a project leader.

Estel continues: 

“Those sat behind a computer coding have a certain personality and progressing to a project leadership role meant I really had to grow and develop. These weren’t skills that you learn at school and I’m really proud of myself for developing into a leader and passing my project management professional (PMP) certificate.

“A lot of the engineers here at Thales have mechanical and electrical backgrounds, yet I’m quite unique in that I was purely software. Whilst it wasn’t software that was being put on an aircraft, the principles are still the same.

“I’ve been with the company for three years now and every project I’ve worked on has been bigger than the last as my industry experience grows. I see a long future with Thales and the nature of what we do means that you always have the chance to reinvent yourself and you are never done learning.”


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