The journey of a female CEO in the aviation industry

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

Stay tuned for another story from Simple Flying about The Interaction Group and their work designing and producing security cards.

Why security cards?

Trisha Ferguson has been part of The Interaction Group (formerly known as the Interaction Research Corporation (IRC) since 1995. At the time, Trisha was a student at the University of Washington in Seattle 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 started working with IRC she took on an administrative role as Commercial Director and Director of Operations.


Speaking about the first phase of his career with IRC, Ferguson said:

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

The hijacking of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 on a Boeing 767-200ER proved a pivotal moment in Ferguson’s career. Getting ready for work in the morning, Trisha turned on the television and saw the news of the hijacking and eventual crash in the Indian Ocean. Ethiopian Airlines was an IRC customer and the company’s security cards were on the plane that crashed. Trisha and the team must have wondered how many passengers read the security card and followed its instructions.

Photo: The Interaction Group

Much to Trisha’s relief, one of the 50 surviving passengers was interviewed on TV and attributed her survival to the safety card she had read before the crash. Thanks to the safety card, the passenger knew that he should not inflate the lifejacket before exiting the plane.

“It was one of those moments where it resonated with me, the difference we were making in people’s lives by having clear instructions, this 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 says the industry has changed since she started 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 woman in the room. And, certainly the youngest person in the room when I started. And that’s my only frame of reference when it comes to the industry and being a woman. But it was quite a lonely place at first and obviously faced some struggles in the dynamics and tried to fight back and earn some street cred and respect.

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

Photo: The Interaction Group

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

“I hope the next generation will have a much easier path. I think knowing you’re having an impact makes it a little bit easier to endure and overcome those challenges. As an entrepreneur, that doesn’t matter. who you are, where you are, it’s hard. When you know you are making a difference, both in the lives of those on board, in the way they interact with our safety cards and in the way we interact with our customers – that we are making a difference in both areas is huge.”

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