I always say it’s best to go with what you know.
Treat everyone as an equal and make sure you’re truly working together as a team.
No one works “for” anyone else — everyone works AT the company, for the good of the team.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Fisher who is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of FLYJETS. She is a lifetime aviation enthusiast and began training as a student pilot in 2012. Fisher is also a principal at Monroe Capital, a family investment vehicle, where she focuses on impact investments. Previously, Jessica worked as an associate producer in CNBC’s Strategic Programming and Development division, as an analyst at MBF Asset Management, as an analyst at Goldman Sachs in the U.S. Equities Sales division and as an M.B.A summer intern at the Robin Hood Foundation. Jessica holds an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School, where the idea for FLYJETS was born as her Introduction to Venturing course project in the summer of 2012. She graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. Jessica participated as an Engineering Fellow in the Web Development Immersive program at General Assembly in the spring of 2017. Fisher began her private pilot studies and flight lessons at Danny Waizman Flight School in the spring of 2012, and completed her first solo flight in the spring of 2014. FLYJETS is a vehicle that connects flyers and aircraft providers with the goal of facilitating access to aviation. At its core, the FLYJETS application functions as a jet aviation marketplace, mapping engine and travel planning system.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always loved planes and aviation. When I turned 16, I told my dad that I hoped to one day live in an airplane hangar at Westchester County Airport. He rolled his eyes and said good luck.
But, in all seriousness, after I first started taking flying lessons when I was 26, I was hooked. Almost everyone I know who flies gets the “flying bug” — after getting up in the air on day one, I wanted to be in a plane every day. I finally had days off during my second semester at Columbia Business School, and I couldn’t wait to get out to Republic Airport to take private pilot lessons — there’s nothing more incredible than being at the wheel in the sky!
I’ve also always been really interested in both renewable energy and information systems, which are of course a huge part of what we do.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
FLYJETS was born from my class project during an Introduction to Venturing summer course at Columbia. At that time, my project group called it Unnamed Jet Project. Back then, I had zero coding knowledge, and I spent a tremendous amount of time throughout 2012 and 2013 trying to figure out how to build what is today the FLYJETS system, before realizing that without having a true education in computer science, I would never be able to develop the product I envisioned.
In 2017, I was accepted into the Web Development Immersive course at General Assembly and I went back to school to learn how to code. I learned a good deal myself, and I was lucky to meet some amazing, incredibly smart people — namely, one of my partners and FLYJETS’ Chief Technology Officer, Jason Andrada, who was then a teaching assistant at GA and later became an instructional associate (before we began working together)!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I made so many mistakes when first starting that it would take a book to share. I’d start with the following:
- I started an aviation company with very little flight education experience. I quickly learned that this education would be instrumental to the company’s success — prior to, and not ahead of, launch! — and spent several months after graduating in 2014 taking lessons, focusing on passing my private pilot exam and completing my first solo flight.
- I attempted to start an aviation technology company with very little computer science education. While I had the good fortune of working with and learning a great deal from some extremely talented web developers and designers along the way, I wasn’t truly able to execute on the concept or the actual FLYJETS system until after completing the Web Development Immersive course at General Assembly.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
FLYJETS is a New York State benefit corporation, and of everything the company does, I’m most proud of our benefit corporation designation. As a benefit corporation, we are committed to doing well by doing good, and our environmental, social and governance goals are inherent in everything the company does.
One of FLYJETS’ specific social goals (benefit corporations are charged with maintaining and executing upon both general and specific social goals) is tied to The FLY Foundation, a non-profit we created with the goal of promoting aviation education, technology and flight safety and sustainability. We will be working to subsidize flight lessons for interested pilots by matching them with certified flight instructors, and to promote specific initiatives related to radio communication technology and training aircraft. The FLY Foundation is currently in the process of working to attain certification as a 501c3 organization.
As for the application itself, I think that our user interface and experience, graphics and back-end is truly next level, and our team is really proud of the system we built! The system is really comprehensive, and we think that the combined features and functionality will make for a really great user experience.
And last but absolutely not least, our team, which consists of a group of incredibly talented, amazing human beings!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! I am SO excited about our FLYGreen Energy Initiative — we’ve just recently finished building some of these features. FLYJETS has created something of a subsidy program for carbon offsets and, in the future, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), via FLYGreen. Our members earn extra rewards (dollar equivalent FLYRewards) toward future flights — above those ordinarily granted with each flight booking — if they choose to offset their trips with carbon offsets, and/or fly with some amount of Sustainable Aviation Fuel.
Within FLYGreen, we’ve built an awesome feature that allows users to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that can be expected to be generated with each flight, and the currency amount required to offset those emissions, or a specific percentage of those emissions. We are able to make this calculation depending on the plane and route chosen by each user. We hope that this level of transparency will help to facilitate offset and SAF purchases in the future!
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
KEEP GOING. Each time you hear the word “no” — continue to respond with “YES. Don’t be afraid to push boundaries!
And stay positive!
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
- I always say it’s best to go with what you know – and learn what you don’t .
- Treat everyone as an equal and make sure you’re truly working together as a team.
- No one works “for” anyone else — everyone works AT the company, for the good of the team.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful to my MOM, who is my number one hero, number one supporter and the best person I know. My mom is an advisor to FLYJETS, and I am so thankful for her advice, her tremendously insightful perspective and her consistently positive attitude throughout this journey. And for picking up my phone calls at all hours of the day and night!
I’m also extremely grateful to the amazing flight instructors at Danny Waizman Flight School. In addition to giving the gift of flight (I always say, the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself), they’ve taught me so much about leadership, perseverance and always giving 170 percent.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m hoping that in addition to making a positive impact by enabling increased aircraft utilization — and the cost efficiencies that go along with utilization — FLYJETS will make a positive contribution toward the future of aviation education.
Hopefully, with our upcoming launch will come the success of The FLY Foundation. I truly believe that the gift of flight will change the world and bring serious happiness to aspiring pilots.
I also (seriously!) believe that the world is ready for an enlarged troupe of pilots to fly what I’ve coined “vehicles of the future” — the very light jets, electric vehicles and flying cars that will accommodate pilots and passengers alike.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Say YES. Don’t be afraid to have to argue, push buttons and stick up for what you believe in!
- Go with what you know, and learn what you don’t.
- Stick with your gut and do the right thing.
- Work with your friends.
- Do what you love (perhaps this should be number one!).
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would enable more people to fly [both as pilots and as passengers] and teach new pilots to fly! Moreover, I’d make flight lessons more attainable from an economic standpoint and contribute to flight safety and advanced technology; specifically, I’d enable headset-less flight in increasingly soundproofed and technologically-advanced flight training vehicles. This is a real goal of FLYJETS and The FLY Foundation, and I’m personally hoping to complete my flight training in one of these vehicles of the future!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
1 — It’s nice to be nice.My mom’s been saying that forever. She’s right.
2 — If at first you don’t succeed, pick yourself up and TRY AGAIN.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Beyonce. Well, Beyonce and Jay-Z, of course. She’s the absolute definition of strong female, and one of the most talented people I’ve ever seen on-stage.