Vault Q&A: Commercial Analyst, British Airways
Title: Commercial Analyst -- "I provide analyst support for inventory and pricing teams in pricing management. I report on sales performance, specialising in our African and Caribbean routes. I see if they are missing targets and if so, why. I check to see whether the commercial environment is changing and see if we can adapt to that. I'm also involved in price setting. Things such as how many seats are available at a certain price."
Department/Division: Sales and revenue management
Location: Harmondsworth, near Heathrow
Number of years at firm: One year
Number of years in current role: One year
Degree (s): Aerospace Engineering at Cambridge University, 2.1
How did you first decide to enter your industry? What first attracted you?
Firstly, I have a degree in the area. Before joining BA, I previously worked at a management consultancy firm and was involved in strategic analysis. I was looking for a similar role and British Airways does have a big reputation. I figured that if you are going to work in the sector, you should working for one the biggest and best companies. The job came up on their website and as I was interested in the company, I decided to apply.
What are the typical education requirements? What skills and/or experience are important for success?
On the job notice, it said that applicants had to be educated to degree level at a 2.1 standard. The degree had to have a numerical basis. Candidates needed to have an interest in the aviation industry. Some of my degree involved work in this area.
It is important to have technical skills and to be au fait with Microsoft Office applications, especially Excel. I did a lot of training on Excel Modeling. It is a definite advantage to have the ability to learn computer programming such as C++. British Airways use SQL and SAS programming languages. We use programming for reporting. We have a big database and to get the information off the database, use the programming languages -- dependent on what issues we have.
What is the typical career path in your industry?
There is a lot that you can do. You can work in areas such as network planning, sales, marketing, operations, depending on what opportunities arise, it is up to you. We have analysts in every department and so there's always a need for people with my types of skill. I generally work across the network but you can work in many different departments. For example, with sales, there are different regional areas. You can end up working for the European team or the American one. As an analyst, you can analyse operational performance, say, for instance, how a crew is performing on a plane.
What is the best part of your job?
I would say being involved in a market with many different competitors and having to deal with things like industrial action. We have to see what impact that has on the market. Not many industries have the variance of this industry. Things change all the time and you have to be able to respond to that. Working for BA also means that you get plenty of cheap holidays so there's lots of travel, which I enjoy.
What is your least favourite part of your job?
As BA is a big organisation, there is a lot of red tape. This can be frustrating at times but no more than any other organisation. I used to work for BMW and there's not a lot of difference in the bureaucracy that is ultimately necessary to make sure that things run smoothly. But in general, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.
How relevant is your education to what you are doing today?
In some ways, it's not particularly relevant as I'm not doing engineering. It would be a lot more relevant if I was in the engineering section. However, it is useful to have that basis in numerical work, having to analyse trends and a lot of numbers. Coming from an engineering background, I also know a lot about how planes fly. Although it is not directly applicable to my job, it is good to have an understanding of when things go wrong with flights and to be au fait with technical details.
Can you offer any advice to graduates seeking a career in your industry?
I would say that it is highly beneficial to get any experience that you can. Try to get started in any areas of business. It is becoming especially in an industry with a declining head count.
Don't try and go for your dream job straight away as it's not likely that you'll get it. Try to just get involved in any way you can and work your way up.
What is something unusual that they might not know?
I do not think that people are aware of how much planning is involved behind the scenes. An airline consists of much more than a pilot and ticket sellers. There is a lot of stuff that goes on when a flight get cancelled. We have got to look at how we manage things and change timetables and schedules. BA employs around 45,000 members of staff and all of them are involved in making sure that things run smoothly.
What is your best perk?
Working for BA, you get big discounts on long-haul flights. That's really great if you like to travel like me. In the past year, I've been to New York and Tokyo for free. I've also managed to get out to Florida and Cape Town as well. It is generally a good life and is always really fun.
What I found unusual or surprising was that I was meant to use all of my holiday days. I seriously didn't expect something like that. Another thing that I was happy with is the client exposure you get as a first year analyst in London. I literally fly to Amsterdam every two weeks, on average, and I get to meet these clients and sit in meetings with CFOs and have a discussion with them.
What is your best perk?
The taxis home and dinners. On a personal level, the flights to Amsterdam. People are not difficult about sending junior analysts to international client meetings, across the channel or across the continent, and that's a wonderful perk.