An interview with Alexandra Seifert, Product Manager, Aviation Checkpoint Solutions at Smiths Detection
Q: What do you do at Smiths Detection?
A: Product Managers look after the whole lifecycle of the product – in my case, focusing on aviation checkpoint screening solutions.
Q: What key skills are needed for your role?
A: You definitely need to be flexible and able to jump from project to project. Communication skills are also essential as you work with many other job functions and departments, as well as external stakeholders such as customers and regulators. Problem solving is important too – combining everyone’s different requirements can be challenging.
In general, you need to be open minded in all respects and hungry for input. I personally love the opportunity to apply my language skills working with colleagues, customers and suppliers around the globe.
Q: How has your job developed at Smiths Detection?
A: I started in the company 20 years ago as an assistant supporting both the product management and event management teams. I organised many exhibitions around the world which included co-ordinating service technicians to ensure the equipment was up and running on time – this gave me the opportunity to get experience of the technology in action.
In time, my line manager introduced me to product management and in 2014, I took on the position of Junior Product Manager. Irrespective of your formal qualifications, you can learn on the job and with enough time and effort, progress beyond your expectations – I certainly didn’t think I would ever be a Product Manager!
I was given the chance to grow and fully supported by my line manager and all my colleagues, especially in R&D and Service – I couldn’t have done it without their input and patience. I am very grateful for the opportunity.
Q: What are the real world challenges you help to overcome?
A: Hundreds of people per hour can pass through airport checkpoints and in current times, it is even more important to keep both passengers and staff safe from both visible and invisible threats. Protecting people from bacteria and viruses such as COVID-19, will help to not only reduce transmission, but also restore confidence once travel restrictions ease. Accordingly, we have developed a UVC Light Tray Disinfection Module which reduces tactile spread by automatically sanitising trays as they are transported back from reclaim to the front of the checkpoint.
Q: Is UVC disinfection a new technology?
A: No, it’s not – in fact UV light has been used in disinfection applications for around 70 years, often in medical sanitation and sterile work facilities. It has also been increasingly employed to sterilise drinking and waste water and more recently, in air purifiers.
At Smiths Detection, we have developed this proven technology and applied it to airport checkpoints where it is integrated into the tray return system. As a standalone solution, it can be used equally successfully in a range of locations such as corporate and government buildings, prisons, museums or hotels.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Working with safety products always feels like a valuable contribution to society. Our solutions are constantly evolving – there is always something new and that is another reason why I love it so much! Whether it’s UVC disinfection, or risk-based screening, we are advancing safety – we’re helping to make the world a safer place. At the moment, the goal is to help people travel again and generally get things back to normal quicker by minimising the risk of contagion.
I can’t imagine being a Product Manager in any other sector. Once they have worked in aviation safety, people tend to stay there – you see this throughout the industry. It’s like a family.
What could be more rewarding than keeping people safe from threats and risks and, at the moment, working with solutions which will help people regain confidence in travelling when the pandemic is finally under control?