I stumbled upon a fantastic link on a former colleague’s timeline on Facebook over a year ago. I had even scrolled past, but something got me captivated. It was a beautiful write up about her, featuring her as the aviator of the day. Interesting. I got instantly hooked, and then I noticed where it came from : MamaJ’s Aviation Blog. “The same MamaJ?” I screamed in excitement . MamaJ had always been a very striking personality. Warm, amazing, passionate, and contrary to expectations based on her nickname and her twenty-five year experience on the job, amazingly young and beautiful. And her world? So exciting, with all the elements of fiction and fantasy, yet it’s so real! Surely, it pays to follow one’s pursuit early in life. We’re sure after this very exciting chat, you’d agree.
Get ready to be enlightened, challenged and greaty entertained as we delve into the exciting world of MamaJ.
Without further ado, let’s meet the one and only Joy Ogbebo, aka MamaJ as interviewed by Funmi Adebayo.
Funmi: Let’s meet the woman behind MamaJ’s Aviation Blog.
MamaJ: I am Joy Ogbebo. I’m from Edo state. I have a Diploma in Social Work from the University of Benin and a Degree in Mass Communication from Delta State University. My others qualifications are: a Diploma in Journalism, Certificate and Diploma in Customer Service. IATA Certificate in SMS Implementation Control, Certificate in Leadership and Coaching, Certificate in Customer Relationship Management, Certificate in Customer Service Etiquette, Effective Coaching and Supervisory Skills, Certificate in Passenger Handling Awareness and Effective Sales Promotion. In addition, I have had numerous Crew trainings in Nigeria, Germany and Egypt.
It’s been a remarkable twenty five year journey for me in the Aviation industry in Nigeria. I started my flying career with Okada Airlines from 1992. From Okada Airlines i joined Associated Airlines in 2000. In April 2005 i joined Virgin Nigeria. When Virgin Nigeria closed shop, I joined the startup team for Discovery Airlines in November 2012.
So, if you ask who is Joy Ogbebo? I would say I am a Blogger, an Aviation enthusiast, Cabin Crew member, Line Trainer, Cabin Crew Manager, Performance Manager, Line Manager, Customer Relationship Manager, Cabin Crew Recruiter, Script Writer, a coach and an actress. Are you surprised? I used to act on radio|TV at the Edo Broadcasting Service and I did stage plays as well. I wrote songs and drama scripts, however, I had to discard those because my dad discouraged me. As a teacher, my dad preached education, and saw them as distractions.
Funmi: Wow! So interesting. Please tell us about MamaJ’s Aviation Blog. When did the blog start? What is the central theme? What services do you render, if any?
MamaJ: Mamajsavaitionblog is an Aviation, Customer Service and Tourism focused blog. It’s an online and social media platform that features latest and trending Aviation news, Aviation Jobs, Diary of a
Flight Attendant, Inspiration and Aviation Events. The central theme is “Anything and Everything Aviation.” The first post was published on the 5th of November 2015.
Funmi: Awesome. What event or whose inspiration triggered the birth of MamaJ’s Aviation Blog.?
MamaJ: In 2015, my Airline had its AOC suspended due to some operational issues. So I was at home, not working and thinking of what to do next. One day I got talking with a colleague about what next. Later that night he called me back and said, “Joy you know I have been thinking about our discussion. Why not start an Aviation blog. This is an area nobody has delved into in Nigeria. Since this is an industry you have been in all along, why not start something related? You have all it takes”
That set me thinking. The next day I called him back and said, “Do you know I have always thought of doing something about the industry in another regard?” That was it! But I had a challenge: being out of job for almost a year, I did not have money to pay for the domain name and hosting. He said “I will give you the money. Just start.” He did and the rest is history.
Funmi: Wow! How did you come about the name MamaJ? Why did you opt for that name for your blog?
MamaJ: Actually, the name was not given to me based on age. While I was pregnant in 2002, my pregnancy was so big! Lol… I remember one morning, I was rolling all the way to the office, when one of my Crew, Stella said “You are no more Sister Joy, you are now MamaJ!” From that day, the name stuck. People started calling me MamaJ. Even when I left Associated Airlines to Virgin Nigeria. People continued to call me MamaJ. Two significant moments made me realize that MamaJ had actually become a brand. First, I was travelling to Benin on staff ticket and I dropped my ticket with the ticketing staff to go onboard and carryout checks on the crew with the promise to return back to the gate and pick up my boarding pass. Apparently, they had started boarding and were almost closing. As I was making my way back to the gate I heard them announcing, “Will passenger Joy Ogbebo, please go to gate 4”. I was shocked because they were announcing my name as one of the missing passengers. When I got to the gate. I was like, why are you announcing my name? You knew I was in the Aircraft. The agent on duty said “MamaJ, I had forgotten it’s your name we were calling.”
The second moment was when my former boss came to the MMA2 terminal and decided to check on me. Somebody knocked on the door and I asked him in. The moment he opened the door, he smiled and said “MamaJ! So that is what they call you here! He told me he had been around for a long time asking around for Joy Ogbebo from my staffs and nobody seemed to know me until he met somebody in Ticketing, who told him after thinking through for a while, “E be like say na MamaJ” and directed him to my office. My uncles, aunties and even my Daddy in the Lord call me MamaJ.
When I wanted to choose a name for my blog it was only natural to pick a name that has branded me. But then, I was concerned about the length. I asked my sister whether I should just adopt MJ to make it shorter and easier for people, but she advised that it was better to stick to MamaJ.
Funmi: Wow! So, what sets the blog apart from every similar blog?
MamaJ: The fact that I am in the industry is one. So, I report from within. Secondly, based on my experience I can relate with the news and trends. I also project the human angle of the industry. I celebrate Aviators. I want the world to know that Aviators are fun and loving people who should be seen and heard, not only in times of plane mishaps or crisis. Rather, they are to be appreciated for their very high risk and sensitive job. Aviators work round the clock, and at odd hours. Most importantly, I help to fill the gap in the job market by continuously scanning for job vacancies and breaking it in a timely manner to the numerous applicants who dream of pursuing careers in the Aviation Industry.
Funmi: How has it been, blogging in this economy? How have you been funded and what has operation been like?
MamaJ: Hmmm, it has been tough no doubt, but my passion and drive has kept me going. As we speak, it’s still a work in progress; still lots to be done.
You know how challenging it is operating in our peculiar environment. It could be frustrating sometimes. It’s one thing to deal with power failure and another to deal with erratic internet connectivity. Imagine, just when you have news to break is when the network fails. Breaking news eventually becomes stale. I have found a way around this challenge by having multiple SIM cards and Wifi networks. In all, it’s been interesting.
I have been funding the blog with my personal savings and I can say it’s not been easy, but passion makes all the difference.
Blogging is hard work, I must confess! Except you are not serious about it. I have had moments when sometimes, I will be on my bed sleeping and suddenly I get a breaking news, I jump up from sleep no matter the time at night and quickly do my research and publish. Most times I blog all through the night without sleeping, and sometimes I even lose track of the time.
Funmi: What are your aspirations for the next five, ten years?
MamaJ: My Aspirations for the future is to be the number one Aviation Blog, where readers can visit anytime for “Anything and Everything Aviation and Tourism.” I have plans, which I don’t want to reveal just yet. But I have a lot on my plate.
Presently, I’m preparing to host the first ever Cabin Crew Fair. I have identified an information gap. Often times, I receive a lot of calls from aspiring Cabin Crews for information on how to join a Cabin Crew, where to get trained and series of request for assistance for the job of a crew. Unfortunately, I’m unable to meet every request. However, based on my experience in the industry, I have decided to create a platform whereby these issues can be adequately addressed. Harnessing the different elements necessary to produce well-trained and licensed Cabin Crew is the aim of this fair. Participants will have the opportunity to meet with Airline Training Organisations and recruiters on personal bases. They will also get the opportunity to learn tips on how to get Cabin Crew jobs from recruiters and expert advise from an Aviation HR personnel on how to prepare their CVs. Attendance certificate will also be awarded.
Funmi: How would you describe Flying? How has your experience been?
Flying is quite exciting. It is fun. It gives you the opportunity to see the world absolutely for free and still get paid! You go to amazing places you never imagined. You meet with world-class leaders, super-stars and very important personalities. You stay and dine in 5 star hotels. Imagine having breakfast in Lagos and dinner in London. What can be more exciting? Flying is a glamorous profession. However, behind that glamour, there is also the bad and ugly side of flying. I have seen it all. I have enjoyed the good side, you know the perks that come with the job. I have also experienced the risks, exposure to assault, unfriendly skies, continuously flying in pressured cabins, and the ugly? I have experienced two plane crashes. The job of a Cabin is very unique. It’s hard work! It transcends tea and coffee service. Cabin Crews are strategic in the Aircraft Cabin. They are safety officers. The kind of training we receive makes us well-grounded and well-rounded. This is one job at which you joggle different roles with a short time frame and in a confined environment. Once you step onboard as a Crew, you automatically become a Safety Officer, a First Aider, a Security Personnel, a Hospitality Personnel, and a Psychologist: so many roles rolled into one. I usually call it a one role fits all….Lol. I once become a tailor onboard for a passenger. Every split seconds counts for the Cabin Crew. It is a very mentally tasking and sometimes physically draining job, I must confess. Ability to multi-task is key. Above all, you must have passion for what you do. That is what will see you through.
Flying is an adventurous job, with dependable income (but commensurate?) The work schedule is quite flexible compared to the 9-5 jobs which can be monotonous.
However, all people see is the glamourised aspects. Unknown to people however, the job of a flight attendant is HARD WORK!!! BACK BREAKING HARDWORK! You can only enjoy the job and become sucessful if and only when you work hard. It could be quite challenging, you know, joggling different roles most of the time and trying to strike a balance. If you are an aspiring flight attendant and you are lazy, then please I will advise you to consider another profession.
Funmi: As an aviator who has been there for over two decades, and has seen it all so to speak, what’s the difference between being a cabin crew member today and back then?
MamaJ: Hmm.. ‘Old school’ Cabin Crew versus modern day? Well, like you rightly said, I am a blend of both. I am opportuned to experience both worlds. Things are much better now as regards regulations.
Way back, it was more hard work because we did not really have duty time restrictions. We flew all day until there were no more passengers to fly. We would work late into the night for a layover and would be up again early the next morning to resume flying for the day. Imagine getting just four hours of sleep after a long day of flying. Fortunately, that has improved today, thanks to enforced regulations. Now we have duty time limitations and restrictions.
Funmi: So what’s your most memorable flying moment?
MamaJ: My early days in flying was a learning curve for me. The first lesson learnt was that what we are taught in theory is sometimes very different from practical experience. This played out on my very first flight.
I still laugh at myself each time I recall the experience. I am not being dramatic here, but believe you me, I made a convenant with God on that day at over 24,000 feet above sea level. And guess what the deal was? That if God took us through the turbulent phase of the flight and get us to the ground safely, that would be it for me. I have come to realise that most times we do not appreciate what we have, and until you are up there in the skies, you won’t really appreciate how important the ground is.
It was my first flight. We were flying to Kano, and it was a night-stop flight. We had just finished Inflight Service when we hit a terrible storm. The turbulence was very severe and it was as though the aircraft was ripping apart. It was a BAC 1-11 Airplane which was known for its ruggedness and ability to withstand agressive weather conditions. I tell you the turbulence was bad!!!
My Lead Crew instructed me to man the forward galley whilst she went to secure the Cabin. At some point, some passengers were shouting, “Blood of Jesus”, whilst some others were prophesying, “God, You said I will not die but proclaim the word of the Lord in the land of the living…etc. ”. Lol. I was really scared!.
Yes, we were taught and tutored on turbulent weather conditions and the necessary actions to take, but going through it wasn’t a funny one for me I must confess.
I know we were also told to be bold and to exude confidence at such times as passengers look up to us, but that can be really tricky, you know. Truth be told, on this occasion, I could not be a Super-Human. It was more challenging having to put up a bold face whilst fretting within.
Just as I was there wondering what I had gotten my self into by becoming a flight attendant, Captain Bellgam of blessed memory, (may his soul continue to rest in peace) called from the Cockpit. Since my Lead Crew was not there as she was in the cabin trying to secure and reassure the passengers, I had to attend to the Captain’s call. I was further alarmed when he instructed that we all take our seats and remained strapped because the turbulence we had gone through was minute compared to what was still ahead. My heart sunk because I had not quite recovered from the previous one.
Back then we used to carry bottled soft drinks in crates and coolers onboard. Thanks to improved Cabin Safety Regulations banning the use of bottles. These were potentially harzadours items onboard . The turbulence was so severe that day that the impact on the aircraft resulted in crates of drinks being lifted from the floor and slammed back on the floor again. I got injured by one of the bottles that slipped off. Too much for a first flight. Only one thing was on my mind that night: I was going to quit if we made it back to ground safely as I wasn’ t sure I was configured for that kind of experience.
Good news is, we landed safely after the storm. But surprisingly I forgot about the experience after the flight. The situation can simply be likened to a woman in labour, who because of the excruciating pains, vows never to get pregnant again but forgets the pain after birth.
Lol. But on subsequent flights, experiencing turbulence on my flights became a norm. I got used to it, and till date I’m still cruising.
Another very remarkable moment for me was my most embarashing moment. “We had just commenced our final descent into Portharcourt International Airport…”
That was me making the landing announcement. But I paused suddenly when I noticed confusion on the faces of the more than eighty passengers and watched them muttering God knows what to one another. Whilst wondering what was going on, I sighted my Lead Crew taking a brisk walk to the Forward Galley and then she snatched the PA from me. “Ladies and gentlemen, point of correction, we shall be landing at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Lagos shortly….”.
Ooops!!! It suddenly dawned on me that I had goofed! I had announced the wrong destination! We were coming in from Port Harcourt that morning into Lagos. My announcement had caused confusion and almost distablized the passengers. Just when they were preparing for arrival into Lagos, they were informed it was Portharcourt.
When she was done with the announcement she told me to return to my position at the rear. You can only imagine how I felt. I stood fixed to one spot and wished the ground would open and swallow me. I begged her to allow me stay up front for landing as I felt too ashamed to walk all the way back and face the passengers, but she insisted I take the walk back to my position.
As I made my way to the back, I heard all sorts of remarks and enquiries from the passengers. “Were you the one taking us back to Portharcourt?”, “Oh she is a trainee; can’t you see she is in black and white uniform?”.
It was my training flight and making announcements was one of the onboard duties that must be mastered. But truth is, holding that PA for the first time as a trainee could be unnerving. The fear of not making mistake can actually make one fumble. That was my experience on that particular flight. My thinking was that I would be able to watch and listen to my Lead Crew make the announcement on few flights. However, I was napping when I was called during descent to make the announcement. There I was staring at the PA system. “Joy you better hurry up; we don’t have the time.”
My Lead Crew warned when she noticed I was still staring at the PA, she took a walk into the Cabin and left me there…lol….and then I messed up.
With more practice after that incident, I became better at it.
Funmi: Very interesting! So, what was your most fulfilling moment in your flying career?
MamaJ: My most fulfilling moment and the peak of my career was when I made it to the final stage of Virgin Nigeria’s Cabin Crew interview and was eventually sucessful. I was amongst the first twelve crews to be employed among thousands of applicants. You would only understand my happiness if you experienced the intense interview process we went through. We went through series of interviews and in different stages, starting from a scrutiny by Philip Consulting. We went through many stages, and people were knocked off after each stage. When we were done, we were invited to meet with the team from London. It was a full-day interview in stages. After the final stage, I was referred to go for uniform fitting. We were given Virgin Atlantic uniforms. When I wore my uniform, I smiled to myself in the mirror and said, “dreams really do come true”. Even though I worked for a local airline then, I always dreamt of flying for a foreign Airline. Working for Virgin was the peak of my career . The recruitment process was very transparent. You got everything on merit. People were asking me “who helped you?” Nobody. I knew nobody. I didn’t have to.These were Britons. It was purely on merit.
Funmi: What challenges did you face as a Flight Attendant?
MamaJ: Well, exciting as our job is, Flight Attendants face challenges from different elements: Constant risk, eating late at night, which could be unhealthy, digestive problems, pressurised cabins, assault, Jet lag, the list is endless…..
Funmi: Wow! Do you still fly actively ?
MamaJ: No. I stopped in 2007. One remarkable flight that finally nailed it for me was the Lagos-Accra: a forty-minute flight with 116 passengers on board. In all we always have barely up to 30 minutes to really work with. Yet you have to attend to sixteen business class passengers, and up to hundred in economy class. You have to clear, spray and secure the cabin, monitor the toilets etc. so, within that short time you are constantly on your toes, running aroung the cabin. It can be crazy. On that particular flight, when the captain announced, “Cabin Crew take your seat for landing”, which was actually the norm, my bum had barely hit my crew seat when we landed. I just told myself, “This is crazy”. That was the day I made up my mind to quit active flying. So, when an opening came for a Crew Line Manager position, I applied, and I was successful after the interview. In all honestly however, I missed active flying for a while. Office job did not cut it for me at all. It took me some time to adjust. I still fly though, on training and assessment flights. Once a Crew, always a crew.
Funmi: Wow! Very exciting I must say. Now to our star questions: When was your highest point or best moment as a blogger.
MamaJ: The best moment was when I published my first post. It attracted so much attention I never expected at that initial stage. The tremendous love and encouragement I got from friends, family and colleagues gave me the push to continue and not give up.
My Highest point was recently, when the blog was a year old. I was so happy because within such a short period, I have gathered lots of followers on most of the social media platforms, and the response has been overwhelming.
Funmi: What are your greatest lessons learnt flying?
As a Crew, I learnt some life lessons. To work as a crew you need to have some amazing qualities and skill set: Tolerance, patience, good team sprit, good interpersonal skills, multi-tasking, problem solving and analytical skills. You must have good initiatives, be observant, vigilant, warm, friendly and hardworking. These are the skills that will take you through. Most of the time you work in teams. Like it or not, you have to work with people you may not like or who may not like you. But the job has to go on. The ability to interface with people from different background, whose nature and perception differ from yours is key. If you are a lone ranger, flying is not for you.
Funmi: Have you quit or almost quit at this or any other venture before? If yes, please tell us about it. How did it all end, and what event marked your turning point?
MamaJ: I am a fighter. I don’t give up easily. Life experiences have helped in forming me into what I have become today. I lost both parents at a young age, and as the first child I had to raise seven siblings. It was a learning curve for me. Though I admit that things can be quite challenging at times, but with determination, hard work and God’s grace you can pull through.
Funmi: Awesome! Final word for your fans, followers and the Nigerian doubtful youth with a similar dream out there.
MamaJ: Borrowing a word from Mo Abudu, “If you think it, you can do it !” Every success story started with a dream or an idea. Do not give up on your dreams. It might be tough at first, but things can only get better. Hold on to your dreams. I remember at a time, my dream was to become a Cabin Crew member and fly around the world. I became one. I had a dream of working with a foreign Airline whilst flying for a local Airline. It became a reality. I dreamed of rising to the pinnacle of my Career, and to the glory of God, I got there. Dream big and work hard towards it! Never give up! Be passionate about what you do. That is the only thing that will take you to the top! It’s not easy. It’s a rough ride to the top. Let no one deceive you. You will go through low and very frustrating moments, disappointments, lack of support, but it’s achievable if you can keep believing in yourself and your dreams…
Finally, I give God the glory for how far he has taken me. It’s been God all the way. He has indeed proved himself in my life. The best is yet to come.
I want to use this opportunity to thank my family for their support, my daddy in the Lord, Pastor Esosa Ize-Iyamu, who has given me the spiritual and moral support, Funmi Adebayo, a strong, creative and very serial blogger and writer for her support and my able mentor, Bunmi Odunowo of peoplespostng who mentored me from the very start on blogging. I won’t forget to mention my colleagues in Aviation news, my friends, and well-wishers for their encouragement (you know yourselves – lol). For those who have liked my post, my page, followed me on my social media handle, who have forwarded stories they found useful to my cause, I want to let you know that you inspire me. Thank you all for beleiving in my small beginning. God bless you all. I appreciate. Thank you.
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