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Motivational stories from a former Royal Air Force pilot


Mandy Hickson

travels from UK

Former Royal Air Force pilot, entrepreneur, and motivational speaker draws on her experiences in inspiring keynotes

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About Mandy

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A former Royal Air Force pilot and trained Human Factors facilitator, our keynote speaker Mandy Hickson has a remarkable insight into decision making under pressure, calculated risk taking, and the critical role of humans in advanced systems. Her keynotes are both professional and personal, making her an exceptionally inspiring speaker.

Keynote speaker Mandy Hickson has flown multimillion pound jets for the United Kingdom Royal Air Force. The only female pilot on her Front Line Tornado Squadron, she has operated in extremely hostile environments, including Iraq’s “No Fly” zone during the Iraq War. Along with her unit, she carried the last weaponry and was ready to drop ordnance upon orders.

Mandy Hickson’s route to the skies was intense and tumultuous; at age 17, she received a Royal Air Force flying scholarship, already winning acrobatics competitions during her time as a student. Although an expert in practice, Mandy Hickson failed her mandatory computer based tests, but by sheer determination and with reference to her excellent skills in the skies, she convinced the Royal Air Force to accept her as a test case.

With unyielding determination, our speaker Mandy Hickson has overcome great hurdles in her career. These experiences led her to co-found Inspiring Women for Work, an organization that helps women rebuild the confidence that they need to return to work and realize their full potential after a career break.

In her keynotes, Mandy Hickson draws on her experiences with working in a team of elite fighter jet pilots. It is one of her main points that the same values apply within any environment; the importance of maintaining a calm demeanor under pressure, as well as leading from the front in order to achieve the best results from one’s team.

A trained Human Factors facilitator, the adamant speaker Mandy Hickson is an expert on interactions among humans, and she understands in great detail the role of human beings in complicated systems. She applies this expertise, as well as her personal experience calculating risk and making important decisions under pressure, to businesses, demonstrating a remarkable understanding of humans and organizations alike.

See keynotes with Mandy Hickson

    Speaker Mandy Hickson Keynote Topics

    • Overcoming Adversity
    • Peak Performance in Business
    • Teamwork
    • Leadership Under Pressure
    • Decision Making
    • Safety and Risk Culture
    • Error Management


She was an excellent presenter: humorous and engaging, with a fascinating real-life and high altitude story to tell to students of all ages. The queue of students who stayed behind at the end to speak to Mandy was testament to the overwhelmingly positive response to her talk.

Val Burnett

Taunton School

Interview with Mandy Hickson

What is the main message that you hope your audiences take away from your presentations?
The key message of teamwork runs throughout all my sessions. Trust is the one aspect that allows teams to grow but, if eroded, can so easily break them down. I give excellent examples of teams going the extra mile, supporting and empowering each other to enable all within the team to be successful.

Who or what inspires you most?
My Mum has always been the most incredible role model, she always led her two daughters to believe that anything was possible with hard work, sheer determination and not giving up when there appear to be insurmountable obstacles in your pathway.

What do you gain personally from being a public speaker?
I find my role to be incredibly rewarding, to be able to make grown men cry and school children laugh out loud! The best times are when I receive an email from someone after my presentation, telling me how I have made them really think about where they are and to aim high in the future.

What unique experiences have you had as a result of your profession as a Royal Air Force Pilot?
There are too many to share…you will have to book me to join you and you will be able to hear a few of them!!

What are your 3 best tips for leading effectively under pressure?

  • To remain calm.
  • To force yourself to look at the bigger picture, stepping back, so you do not overly focus your attention on the wrong details or minutia.
  • To make a decision after looking at all the facts and be happy to be held accountable for your actions after the event.

What was your inspiration for founding Inspiring Women for Work?
I felt that when I returned to work after my maternity leave, that I was a different person and I held doubts as to whether I could still operate as effectively as I had before. I felt that my confidence had been eroded. I believed that if I had the opportunity to discuss my feelings, regain my confidence and realise that of course I had changed, but perhaps I had gained more skills, I was actually a better and more rounded person, I would have felt much easier in the transition back to work.

See keynotes with Mandy Hickson
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Keynote topics with Mandy Hickson