Marcus Congdon Smith (Class of 1998), Pilot, Easyjet

How did CLS get you ready for the world of work?

There wasn’t much career guidance available at the time on how to become a pilot, so I studied an eclectic selection of subjects, particularly at A-Level and again at University.  I believe CLS provided the tools to quickly understand the fundamentals in any subject, and today I need to have a good grasp in a broad range of disciplines including Physics, Meteorology, Law, and even Physiology and Psychology.

Aviation-wise, I was heavily involved in the RAF section of the CCF for 5 years. That allowed me to do my first flight, aged 13, and reinforced that a life in the sky was one that I wanted to pursue.  It also helped develop skills such as leadership, team-work, and self-reliance and school-life in general helped grow my belief and confidence in myself.

What was your first job?

My first paid job was sorting medical files at a Doctor's Surgery during the summer between Junior and Senior Sixth.

My first adult job was working for my mother’s IT company for a couple of years after University to try and save some money to pay for flying training.

And my first professional job is where I have been for the last 14 years, at easyJet initially as a First Officer (co-pilot) and now as a Captain.

Your biggest professional achievement?

It has to be what I’m doing now. Being in command of an airliner with up to 250 passengers and crew, ultimately responsible for their safety and well-being.  Another standout achievement was the first time taking control of an (empty) passenger jet and doing a series of take-offs and landings.

Your most challenging professional moment?

It is a cliché, but every day is different at work and every day provides some sort of challenge to overcome. Thankfully, modern aircraft are highly reliable, and their crews well trained, so I have no horror stories of flying around on one engine, with a wing on fire, running out of fuel (except in our twice yearly simulator checks).  Passengers tend to cause the vast majority of the problems and I have had to offload disruptive ones or have them arrested, and divert for heart attacks, fits and even a swollen eyeball.

What inspires and motivates you at work?

The views out of the ‘office’ window are a definite bonus, breaking through cloud into the bright sunshine or making an approach into a picturesque location do remind me why I got into the profession in the first place. 

An old adage in aviation is that “any landing you can walk away from, is a good one” and I would add to that “any flight a passenger gets off smiling, is a good one”.  For the former, while I have had my share of firm touchdowns, it is always satisfying to land after a challenging approach be that due to terrain, airport or extreme weather. And the latter means that we, as a crew, have done a good job.

One piece of advice for pupils and other Old Citizens about getting into your profession?

From an aviation perspective, have a trial flight in a small aircraft before you commit to expensive flight training and make sure you actually do enjoy flying.  This also helps when it comes to an interview as it shows there is some passion behind your reasoning, and you are not just lured by the (non-existent) jet-set lifestyle.

From a personal perspective, life is not plain sailing. You will take knocks and set-backs along the way (definitely so in aviation) but being able to pick yourself up and show resilience is seen as a massive plus point.