Julie Wichlin, International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading Association

Collaboration artist

Julie Wichlin, association executive with the association management company SmithBucklin serves as executive director of the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading Association (ISTAT). Questions framed by Rob Spalding

RS Julie, what would you prefer to be: top in your speciality or top in your company?

JW It’s certainly to be at the top of my chosen specialty. I spent 25 years working in a corporate environment in the highly competitive telecom industry. But what drew me to this opportunity – to serve as an association executive – was that I could apply my operational expertise in a team-oriented environment and help innovatively grow a dynamic organisation. I love being a part of orchestrating high-calibre, unique member experiences.  I truly enjoy the art of collaboration: bringing together an extremely skilled, determined staff working in conjunction with immensely talented, passionate volunteer leaders.

RS It appears you didn’t move far from the uni you graduated from to the company’s office where you currently work.

JW That’s true. I transplanted from Columbus, Ohio, to attend Northwestern University, here in Chicago. I fell in love with the city and never left, despite the harsh winters! I’m a frequent consumer of all that Chicago has to offer, from museums and live theatre to restaurants and festivals. Chicago rivals many of the cosmopolitan, big cities I’ve visited during my travels, and it has a big, beautiful lakefront that I spend many weekends walking.

RS Do you work alongside corporate colleagues in the SmithBucklin office?

JW ISTAT is a global association with volunteer leaders serving worldwide. We connect regularly on web-based conference calls and in person at our conferences and forums held throughout the year in locations in Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. Even though ISTAT is headquartered in the SmithBucklin offices in Chicago and the staff team is centralised, we travel the globe frequently, so we have virtual offices everywhere!

RS Who is in your team?

JW The ISTAT team encompasses everyone who supports ISTAT’s objectives and operations. It includes dozens of volunteers, and the staff team who provide support and services to ISTAT members. Together we work to provide the highest quality and best-value networking and education opportunities in commercial aviation. That said, I look to my SmithBucklin colleagues to share their best practices in association management.

RS And your role?

JW I work with ISTAT’s board of directors to drive strategy. In addition, I am responsible for overseeing the association’s administration, including membership recruitment and retention; financial management and accounting; event and meeting management; marketing and branding; education development and administration; and technology and membership interfaces. The ISTAT team also delivers event planning for six events annually, attracting as many as 2,000 attendees at a single event. I also oversee the ISTAT Foundation which supports individuals and institutions that promote the advancement of commercial aviation and humanitarianism.

RS How do you manage to absorb in three years what it takes some people a lifetime to learn?

JW It’s all about the people. I am fortunate to work with very collaborative and supportive volunteer leaders and staff. They all have such a wealth of knowledge and they are always willing and ready to share it with me.  Having the right talent is key, and giving everyone a voice is critical. Above all, I support innovation and creativity to ensure sustained member value.

RS At what point were you recruited for the Leadership forum?

JW I started with SmithBucklin in 2013, and I was recruited a year later for the Learning Leadership Forum (LLF). I can’t say enough good things about this intensive, 12-month programme that exposes a small group of managers like me to leadership concepts, principles, and guidelines.

RS You also did time in the corporate sector?

JW Candidly, I don’t feel as though I ever really left the corporate sector. Working for SmithBucklin and serving a non-profit organisation in the aviation industry, I am fortunate to have the best of all worlds. I am able to stretch myself in both my strategic and operational roles and yet still make an impact by providing a forum for professionals to learn, grow, and improve. That said, I wouldn’t trade my time in telecom for anything, although I’d be lying if I said I missed the middle of the night network outages!

RS Did you know early on what you wanted to be?

JW When I applied to Northwestern for early admission, my hope was to become a journalist. After interning at a local paper, I decided that wasn’t for me. I ended up majoring in communications at Northwestern University.  My first job out of school was working in telecommunications, answering residential service calls. What an experience that was! I got my first managerial position at age 25, and I was hooked!

RS And what about your spare time?

JW I am truly blessed to have two sons in my life and I am really enjoying them as adults. They both live nearby, which makes impromptu get-togethers possible. I also have a 15-year-old Boston terrier that behaves like a child. (*smile*) I am a fan of live music, and also enjoy hiking, yoga and meditation

RS: People you’ve worked with say that you are calm, determined and relentless. Are they right?

JW Determined, or perhaps tenacious, best describes me. I am passionate about what I do, and determined to make it happen. I have a knack for identifying what I want and going after it. So I guess that would make me equally relentless!

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