JetBlue CEO David Barger Visited SMG to Talk Airlines, Aspirations

in Dean's Speaker Series, News, School
April 10th, 2013

Tells students: “Don’t take the first job that comes along”

Excerpts from BU Today:

David Barger, JetBlue president and CEO, liberally mixed humor and candor throughout an hour-long discussion last week at the School of Management about JetBlue’s success in an airline industry replete with bankruptcy, mergers, and acquisitions.

Barger was greeted by a standing-room-only crowd for the SMG Dean’s Speaker Series, where he and Kenneth Freeman, SMG’s Allen Questrom Professor and Dean, discussed Barger’s career path, his leadership style, and the future of airlines. Students were invited to ask questions during the second half of the session, and two lucky participants earned a pair of free tickets.

In a nod to the packed room, Freeman remarked, “We have full capacity utilization, which is great in the airline industry.”

Barger, who helped found JetBlue 14 years ago, was the latest guest in the speaker series, which has brought to campus industry stars like Adam Bryant, New York Times senior editor for features, Ed Weiss, general counsel of the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Sports Group, and Dannon CEO Gustavo Valle.

The open secret to JetBlue’s success isn’t strong financials or having the best seats or airfares—although the company has them, Barger said. “At the end of the day, that can all be replicated,” he said. “It does come down to the human equation. It’s our frontline crew members who are making the difference.”

When Freeman opened the discussion to students, some wanted to know about the industry’s future (expect better in-flight entertainment, faster check-in, and satellite-based cockpit navigation), his day-to-day life (“Do you want people to leave the room now?”), and his most beneficial college experience (his political science courses at the University of Michigan).

But on the tip of everyone’s tongue was: what advice does Barger have for job seekers?

“Don’t take the first thing that comes along,” he said. “Look for places that stretch you, if you want to be stretched. Make sure that they stretch you.”

Read the full article on BU Today.

Photos by Kalman Zabarsky via BU Today