It’s 6:30 in the morning. The sun has only just risen, and Brisbane Airport (BNE) is covered by a combination of dark clouds, patches of blue sky and a stifling, sticky heat that makes you want to retreat inside. By all rights, it’s a time of day that most people are still curled up in bed, but not for Geoff Fabila. As the new Terminals Facilitation Co-ordinator working within the operations team at BNE, he has already clocked up a few thousand steps and spoken to more people that I am likely to engage with in an entire week. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
A self-confessed people person, Geoff navigates the International Terminal with ease, checking in with the Airport Ambassadors and Customer Experience Officers as we move across the terminal. He has a natural ability to read situations perfectly, assessing from a distance to determine exactly what the operations team needs to best handle an influx of passengers (2,188 in an hour!) during the busy morning peak. He has the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and he is a doer that doesn’t need any instruction, jumping in without hesitation to assist confused visitors as they attempt to navigate security screening and passport control. And as he speaks about how much he enjoys having accountability to achieve results, it’s easy to forget that he is only 23-years-old.
In his new role, Geoff will be looking closely at how to make passengers’ journeys through BNE as easy and efficient as possible, from the moment they walk into the terminal and check-in through to the security process and boarding the plane. Optimising passenger flow is a challenge he is relishing, and after a recent stint in Europe, he is coming at it with a new-found appreciation of simplicity and getting the basics right.
“When I was overseas, I noticed what they were doing in the airports I travelled through; the way people moved around and the good things they did. Even though there were language barriers, I noticed how important it was to have simple way-finding and people to help and reassure you if you are confused. Even if those people smile it can really change your experience and that happened to me a few times. I realised how well we do that here in Brisbane.”
While he has only been in his current role for a few months, Geoff is no stranger to the airport environment. He has been working at the airport for two years, starting out as our first intern from the Career Trackers program, a national internship program that pairs Indigenous students undergoing tertiary study with companies for a summer internship. The internships typically last three months, but Geoff showed an appetite for learning and a willingness to work hard across all areas of the business, leading to him securing a permanent part-time position while completing his business and commerce degree at the Australian Catholic University in nearby Banyo.
“It wasn’t an official goal that I told anybody (about) but I knew that there were possibilities at BAC because of the type of organisation I saw it as, and I had the mindset of becoming an asset that they would miss should I leave. As soon as the three months came up, my manager at the time said I want you to stay on.”
Geoff credits his situation to ‘being lucky’, but anyone who has seen him in action will know that luck has little to do with it. His energy and enthusiasm is palpable and he speaks with wisdom and confidence well beyond his years. Hard work has led him to his current position as Terminals Facilitation Co-ordinator, but he is grateful for the opportunity that Career Trackers and BAC presented to him back in 2016 and is committed to giving back to the business that took a chance on him as an inexperienced graduate fresh from university.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I first enrolled in university but the internship opened my eyes to a whole other world that I hadn’t thought of (as a career) before. As it turned out, I’m a people person. Going forward, I would love to stay at BAC and give back to them as they have taught me a lot about their business and airports in general.”
Geoff’s story is a success story any way you look at it, and it has opened doors for other tertiary students looking to get a start in the corporate world. BAC has just taken on its third intern through Career Trackers, and there will be more to come. Geoff will be on hand to offer support and advice if needed, and when I ask him what the most important takeaway has been for him over the past two years, his answer leaves me with no reservations whatsoever that future interns will be in excellent hands should they seek his mentorship.
“The biggest thing for me is being yourself. When I first walked in the door I was very intimidated; obviously there is a lot of experience at BAC, everyone’s an expert in their area. I had only just completed my first few semesters of business and management. But then gradually I learnt that skills can be taught but your own personality and how you hold yourself is something you learn yourself. You don’t have to pretend that you’re somebody you’re not when you walk in - your advantage is yourself. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, speak your opinions, and ask lots of questions.”
Feature image: Geoff plays the didgeridoo during a NAIDOC Week celebration in 2017
Read more stories about the people that work at BNE