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Asian Pacific Islander Spotlight: Jean-Christophe Dagohoy Dick

Name: Jean-Christophe Dick
Involvement at Flight Path: President of the Board, Airport Historian
Current Company/Title: ESA, Airport Planner Principal

What brought you to volunteer/join the Board at Flight Path Museum LAX?

A previous Flight Path President and current Board Member who I knew from work asked if I would like to give a talk on aviation photography at the Museum in 2016. Not long after she asked if I would be interested in joining the board of directors. As a big aviation aficionado, it was hard for me to say no. I joined at the beginning of 2017 and have worked on various projects at the Museum since. 

What excites you about the Aviation industry?

As a kid, I always wanted to work in aviation, my parents are from two different continents and met in a third, without aviation they would not have met. In a way I have a debt of existence to aviation. Straight out of University I got an internship at IATA (International Air Transport Association), a coordinating and trade organization for airlines based out of Montreal. The organization was a great door into the industry with friends and industry partners that form the base of my network to this day. 

Wanting to get a little closer to the action, I was recruited by an Architecture/Engineering firm as an Airport Planner working on development plans for over 40 airports worldwide. It’s a great industry with people whose common cause is to advance aviation. I’m also a certificated Private Pilot and Part 106 UAS. 

As a member of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, what does that mean to you?

I had a little bit of a later awakening to my AAPI roots. Being biracial and growing up in New York in a highly multicultural environment, everything sort of blended together. Being in a western country, my upbringing leaned more towards US and French cultures, I would spend more time in France than the Philippines. It was growing up that I started to be more interested in my Filipino heritage and what it meant. I wanted to know more about where I came from. I would talk to my mom about family, her upbringing, growing up during occupation in World War II and so much more. Being in Southern California certainly helped in that with a large Filipino diaspora and rising cultural recognition beyond Filipinos. Growing up, it seemed like Filipino culture flew under the radar for so many years and is finally getting its due recognition. 

What challenges, if any, have you faced in your career in the aviation industry given your Asian heritage?

I never really faced many issues per se given my Asian heritage professionally. Personally, there was a racial latency that only became apparent to me later in life. A realization that what you considered normal, in fact had other meanings. Growing up with mixed heritage, many people couldn’t place where I was from, my ethnicity was “ambiguous”. Being in Los Angeles, I’m often spoken to in Spanish with the assumption that I’m latino. During my years in France, I was often thought of as someone from the Maghreb region of Africa. Most of the time these interactions are just a funny circumstance of globalization, a misunderstanding based on assumed ethnicity. Sometimes though, the other negative side of things surface. I would be the subject of discussions not based on being of Asian descent, but being “other”. People in a professional setting would ask whether my parents came to the United States legally, wondering whether I was adopted, with the latter not understanding the difference between nationality and ethnicity, I have been called a “wet-back”. 

One of the harder things to hear was someone I worked with saying that my US Citizenship would be revoked, even though I was born in New York. This was in a professional context sometime during my years as a consultant. It was something that felt that it was meant to make me feel less than.

Being biracial also meant that some distant family members on the Filipino side regarded me as a “half-breed”.

A common theme when growing up, being told by others that you could only be one thing, I could only be American, or French, or Filipino. A decision had to be made to choose only one part of an identity and refute the rest of who you are, who your ancestors were, the languages you spoke, the customs you practiced and the foods you learned to prepare and enjoy. In they eyes on many, there is only room for one identity, it seemed beyond the comprehension of many as if it was a divide by zero error. 

I am 100% American, 100% French, 100% Filipino and more. One of the beauties of humanity is the almost infinite complexity of the circumstances of how we got here, the lines of ancestors that made it through the centuries, and how at far end of that line you represent them all of them, while forging your own path and adding your own distinct identity to line and into the next generation.

Did you have any mentors, or did you look to others in the industry to help you navigate through these challenges?

I’ve had many mentors in my career, it’s very hard to become an expert without the help, knowledge and guidance of those that have walked before you. One example is Joe Barden, an architect and terminal planner extraordinaire who has been somewhere always in the background throughout my career. Not only teaching me the craft of terminal planning, but also the networking and the relationship side of the industry. 

Ultimately the path you forge is your own, it doesn’t hurt to have people along the way cheering you on. That is something about the aviation industry, once you’re in, there’s this aura that we are all here for aviation, and like a secret handshake most people help each other out. That’s why its important for me,  to help future generations of aviators, engineers, planners, mechanics find their way into the industry. 

What advice would you give the next generation looking to enter the aviation industry?

Stay hungry, the passion for aviation that you have may seem like a hobby at times. It can be the basis for a career in aviation. I advise those that come through our education programs to keep open to different possibilities in aviation, many are attracted to become pilots, I was. There are also so many different and rewarding careers. Just at LAX, there are over 50,000 people that work to make sure that people can get airborne. I think that everyone should go through pilot training, there would be better driving, but in reality it may not be what you really want. Explore what else is out there. 

The importance of networking in any industry is key to progressing your career. Your teachers, and fellow students will be your first network, then morphing into mentors and fellow entry-level colleagues. As you grow in your career, so will they. Never burn a bridge unless you can swim. 

Get to know Jean-Christophe

Photography www.jcd.photo

Stories www.jean-christophedick.com

Airport Planning www.airport.consulting 

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