Simple Flying recently had the chance to speak with Trisha Ferguson, CEO of The Interaction Group, one of the world’s largest designers of safety cards. Trisha has worked with safety card design and production for almost 30 years and is one of the few female CEOs in the aviation industry.

Stay tuned for another Simple Flying story about The Interaction Group and its work designing and producing safety cards.

Why safety cards?

Trisha Ferguson has been a part of The Interaction Group (formerly known as Interaction Research Corporation (IRC) since 1995. At the time, Trisha was a student at the University of Washington in Seattle and was studying communications and music. Trisha added that she was on a music scholarship, but needed to be able to eat, which led her to find IRC. In ’95, when Trisha first began working with IRC, she held an administrative role as Business Manager and Director of Operations.

Speaking on the early phase of her career with IRC, Ferguson said,

“…And I ended up just falling in love with it. And I fell in love with our clients. I loved that we were working with different cultures and nationalities.”

The Ethiopian Airlines hijacking of flight 961 on a Boeing 767-200ER proved a pivotal moment in Ferguson’s career. While getting ready for work in the morning, Trisha turned on the TV and saw the news of the hijacking and eventual crash in the Indian Ocean. Ethiopian Airlines was a customer of IRC, and the company’s safety cards were on the aircraft that crashed. Surely, Trisha and the team wondered how many passengers had read the safety card and followed its instruction.

Safety Card Print Machine

Photo: The Interaction Group

To Trisha’s relief, one of the 50 surviving passengers was interviewed on TV and credited her survival to the safety card she had read before the crash. Because of the safety card, the passenger knew not to inflate the life jacket until exiting the aircraft.

“It was one of those moments when it resonated with me, the difference that we were making in people’s lives by having clear instruction, that critical information design that we do, it was saving lives.”

The journey of a female CEO in the aviation industry

Trisha is one of the few female CEOs in the airline industry and recounts that the industry had changed from when she first began working at IRC.

In my younger years, I was almost always the only woman in the room, even when visiting clients, I was the only female in the room. And, certainly the youngest individual in the room in my early days. And this is my only frame of reference as far as industry and being a female. But it was a pretty lonely place starting out and obviously faced some difficulties in the dynamics and tried to fight and earn for some street credit and respect there.

Being the only woman in the room for so long has shaped Trisha into who she is today and has made her a stronger leader and person. Learning to value her voice is an essential lesson that she has learned over the years.

Safety Card Design JetBlue

Photo: The Interaction Group

Trisha recalls that about two years ago, she was meeting with an airline’s inflight department, and the two executives she was meeting with were women. She asked them to pause the meeting, reflect on the significance of the meeting, and celebrate. Ferguson hopes future generations will have an easier path in their careers regarding diversity and is grateful to have been a part of it.

“My hope is that the next generation is going to have a much easier path. I think that knowing that you’re making an impact, makes it a little bit easier to endure and to go through those challenges. Being an entrepreneur, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are — it’s difficult. When you know that you’re making a difference, both in the lives of those on board, how they’re interacting with our safety cards and how we interact with our clients — that we’re making a difference in both of those areas is huge.”

The Interaction Group now makes safety cards for some of the biggest names in the airline industry, including Lufthansa, American Airlines, Air Canada, Qantas, and more.


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