Helicopter Association International
2021 Salute to Excellence Awards:
Excellence in Communications
Sponsored by Lightspeed Aviation
Vice President, Commercial Strategy and Business Development for Global Commercial and Military Systems;
Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company
The daughter of an Army helicopter pilot, Jeanette Eaton grew up around aircraft and often attended air shows with her dad. Yet her parents didn’t suggest she too take to the skies. Her mom inspired her to attend college while her dad emphasized the benefits of engineering.
Aviation had other ideas. The defining moment in Eaton’s early career path was the day she interviewed with Sikorsky and toured a CH-53 Super Stallion shortly after receiving her electrical engineering degree.
“I was maybe 21 and I was so overwhelmed and impressed with the helicopter,” she recalls. “The engineering, the power, the missions this aircraft could do. It was all so inspiring. I knew right then and there I wanted to work for Sikorsky and work on helicopters.”
Eaton spent the first 17 years of her career at Sikorsky. Participating in the leadership development program, she steadily gained skills, knowledge, and expertise across a variety of positions while earning master’s degree in manufacturing engineering and an MBA with a focus on manufacturing management as well as a master’s in executive management from Harvard Business School.
Even with all that knowledge and experience, her passion continued to evolve. Through the leadership development program, she discovered she really enjoyed sales. She loved working with, getting to know, and sharing the stories of her customers. She was a natural communicator and thrived off sharing her passion.
Her mentor encouraged her to obtain her FAA ratings in order to increase her credibility and marketability as an aircraft sales representative. Eaton earned her commercial instrument single engine land certificate and landed a job at Bell as a sales manager. Bell helped her add her commercial helicopter certificate and that’s when Eaton really hit her stride.
“I can honestly say some of my most treasured experiences have come from cross country trips across the U.S. in helicopters,” she says. “Those experiences are truly the source of my passion, working with the customers and flying. We all need to be ambassadors to aviation.”
Ten years later Sikorsky recruited her back as director of marketing and she was soon promoted into commercial sales. Today Eaton is responsible for strategy and business development for Sikorsky’s products around the world, supporting customers while also finding ways to grow the customer base. Yet, at the same time she is focusing on giving back.
“Part of my job, one of the things I love to do, is celebrate and recognize our customers and help share their stories,” she says. “As a salesperson, I also feel we have to give back to the community.”
Eaton is very active in volunteer activities that promote aviation and expose the next generation to aviation careers. She volunteers with the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council and the Whirly-Girls and also donates her time to talk to youth about STEM and aviation careers through the Girl Scouts, Junior Achievement, Civil Air Patrol, local schools, and other organizations.
“When I think back to my past, I am thankful for those who inspired me,” she says. “I feel if you’re not exposed to something, you don’t know it exists or is possible for you. It’s important to teach them to open themselves to new opportunities. Looking back, the things that made the biggest impact and helped me find my passion were when I said ‘yes’ to opportunities, even when I was a little afraid to do it. I talk to them about saying ‘yes,’ and finding their passion, as that passion will lead to their authenticity and success.”