meet steph: chicago aviator

Steph at Coffee

Stephanie hails from Silverthorne, Colo., a small town near Breckenridge. But she says she loves Chicago and plans on staying!

I just made a very serious, long-term commitment.

I decided to join a book club. But really. If you’re a busy person and you’ve ever been in a book club, you know the struggle of completing one whole book every month is real. But I am determined to read more, so I shall persevere!

Anyway, at my new book club, I met Stephanie Hlavacek. And Stephanie is an aviator.

Stephanie flies private. She works in the aviation department of JD Norman Industries, an auto parts manufacturing company headquartered in Addison, Ill. Mostly, she flies the CEO and other executives in their private Hawker 800 XP aircraft to their various plant locations around the Midwest, and she also occasionally transports them to Canada, Mexico and England, too. But the road to becoming a pilot is long and can be turbulent (see what I did there? But Steph advises not to worry about turbulence—the planes and pilots can handle it. Really.).

Steph’s journey to the sky began when she was 10 years old. One day, out of the blue, she told her parents: “I want to be a pilot.” In high school, when it was time to think about college, she was still dreaming about aviation, so they sent her to a single flight lesson to make sure she really loved it. Of course, she was hooked and wanted to begin training immediately. She attended the University of Illinois’ aviation program in Champaign, Ill., where she did all of her flight training. After graduation, she worked at the university as a flight instructor for two years, then moved to Chicago and got a job at the Aurora airport—instructing and flying charters and eventually a private jet. A few years later, she was offered the position as one of JD Norman’s first private pilots.

Steph in a Plane

Compared to other careers, aviation has huge gender disparity. From Air & Space Magazine: Of all 599,086 pilots in the United States (as of December 2013) only 6.61 percent are women. But take out the student pilot licenses and you’ll find that women make up just 4.21 percent of all U.S. pilots.

The licensing process is long and complex, so here’s the jist: You start training and get a private pilot’s license—the most basic license you can get—that allows you to do nothing but fly a small, single-engine plane on a sunny day. Then you get an instrument rating, which lets you fly in the clouds. Then you can get a commercial license, but the name is misleading—it allows you to get paid to fly but doesn’t necessarily qualify you for a job. After that, you need to build up hours—one option is to get certified as a flight instructor like Steph—and eventually you can get an ATP (Airline Transport Pilot). The hours and ATP are basically what you need to get a job.

People with Panache: What’s it like to be doing exactly what you said you always wanted to do when you grew up? Not many people can claim that!

Stephanie Hlavacek: I’m very happy that I did it and I’m proud that I accomplished something in that sense. I also thought for a long time that I would be working at an airline, but I’m happy I found the business aviation side of things. It’s a really nice, small community, and I’ve met a lot of great people through it.

PWP: Do you remember what made you want to be a pilot at 10 years old?

SH: My family traveled a lot when I was young. I always enjoyed flying and thought it was a neat part of the vacation to get to go on the plane and go somewhere.

Steph H

“What do you guys do when you’re traveling in your down time?” I asked. “We go to a lot of the same places, so we’ve gotten into our routines of doing our own thing,” she says. “But if we’re someplace new, we’ll try to find some sort of sightseeing thing or something to do.”

PWP: That’s funny; a lot of people dread that part of a trip. What do you love about your job?

SH: I still really enjoy the act of flying—getting in, starting up the engine, taxiing out, taking off and, of course, landing. Landing is the hardest part to master. There’s always a sense of accomplishment in a good landing. Flying is my favorite part of what I do; that doesn’t really get old.

PWP: Do you consider this to be your dream job?

SH: There are parts of it that are my dream job, but I’m still not exactly sure what my “dream job” is. Our job is still a job. Even though I love the flying part, there are things that aren’t so great that I didn’t think about when I was 10—like that my normal schedule is being away from home Tuesday to Thursday every week. But as far as a flying job goes, it’s hard to find one where you don’t do a lot of that.

PWP: I can see how that would be tiring! What’s a typical day like flying a private plane?

SH: So in charter, you’re just sitting at the airport waiting for your passengers to show up. They say we’re going to leave at 4 p.m., and sometimes 6 p.m. rolls around, and you’re still waiting with no heads up. At my company, our CEO says he’s going to leave at 4 p.m., and he’s pretty much there at 4. Usually we get a text around 3:45 p.m. saying “I’m on my way!” just to confirm. It makes things really nice.

PWP: What has it been like working in a male-dominated industry?

Steph Family Photo!

Steph with her husband, Matt, and her adorable dog Piper! At home, Steph is involved in CABAA—the Chicago Area Business Aviation Association. They give out scholarships every year and get to meet with the next generation of aviation students. Their biggest scholarship last year went to a female pilot at Steph’s alma mater—U of I!

SH: I get mistaken a lot for a flight attendant and things like that. When I did charter, it happened a lot more often because they didn’t know. They’d see me at the airport standing by the plane and ask “Oh, are you coming with us today?” I’d say, “Yep, I’m going to fly you today.” There’s definitely a generational thing I’ve noticed. It doesn’t bother me; I don’t take it to heart or anything. It happens, and it’s usually nothing too offensive, just a lack of understanding I guess.

PWP: What has been your favorite trip ever?

SH: My biggest accomplishment flight was my first trip to England. It’s a very long trip, but there are also a lot of interesting, unique procedures crossing the Atlantic because you don’t have radar or anything like that. You’re out in no man’s land basically. Also, flying in Europe is pretty different than flying here. Our air traffic control in the U.S. makes it really easy and is more flexible with our flight plans. In Europe, it’s a lot more complicated and structured so you have to be more aware.

PWP: What advice do you have for other people wanting to get into aviation?

SH: Stick with it. There are so many ups and downs in aviation as far as the economy goes, but it’s been worth it. When I was in high school, I’d meet pilots and I’d say, “Oh my gosh, it’s so cool you’re a pilot; I want to be a pilot.” And they would say, “Don’t do it, it’s too tough.” That’s a pet peeve of mine when people say things like that. I would never tell anybody that. I think we need pilots. It’s a unique job, it’s a fun job, and I would absolutely tell anybody to do it and stick with it.

PWP: I like that. Just because someone thinks it’s hard, doesn’t mean you’re not going to love it or be passionate about it. What makes you happiest?

SH: When it comes down to it, family and friends… and my dog. But she’s family, too.

[Photos by Kate.]

Like us on Facebook:
Follow us on Twitter: @pwpanache
Join us on Pinterest:

meet sara: yogini, teacher and nomad

Sara and Alysse at Cathedral Square in Milwaukee

Koha (as in Koha Yoga) is the Maori word for gift. After missing a flight from L.A., Sara headed to Venice Beach and caught eyes with Whakapaingia. It was “love at first flight,” as they say on their website. An instantaneous partnership and Koha Flying Yoga were created (in 2009). Baby Kotahiataahua, meaning “Beautiful Oneness,” followed soon after. Most of us call her Tahi!

A big part of Sara Laimon Luke’s story begins on a farm in Zimbabwe.

But we’ll get back to that in a minute.

Instead of 8,456 miles away, I first met Sara at a park 4 blocks from my apartment. In 2013, during Milwaukee’s Bastille Days, Sara and her husband Whakapaingia (Whaka) were sharing their acroyoga moves on the grass, inviting anyone to play. Together, they own and run Koha Yoga, and what I experienced was basically grown-up gymnastics mixed with the airplane move you do with your mom when you’re little, infused with some realllllllly good-feeling back stretches, and I’m so happy I joined in! From there, I went to my first-ever Koha Yoga acro workshop with Jessy, and I spent a week-long retreat with Sara and Whaka in Costa Rica this March. It was a trip of a lifetime.

And yet, until a couple weeks ago when I met Sara at the home where she grew up—above a bait shop on a lake halfway to Madison—I didn’t know about Africa or a huge section of her path. Continue reading

meet monique: milwaukee ph.d.-to-be

Monique has worked hard to be fully funded through her entire collegiate career, which gave her the spaces and time she needed to study, read, research and organize. “I’ve been able to find opportunities that nurtured passions but also put food on table,” Monique says. This woman is an inspiration.

Monique has worked hard to be fully funded through her entire collegiate career, which gave her the space and time she needed to study, read, research and organize. “I’ve been able to find opportunities that nurtured passions but also put food on the table,” Monique says. This woman is an inspiration.

Monique Liston is power and light. I don’t really know how else to say it without getting into corny territory.

She has a gift for taking seemingly insurmountable problems and bringing them down to earth; while some people suggest I share a few traits with the Energizer bunny, Monique’s energy is passionate, unrelenting, focused and true. Kate and I are grateful for this blog to give us a reason to sit down with people like her.

I first got to soak up some of Monique’s awesomeness at the most memorable session I’ve attended at the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee: Toward a Dignity-Based Framework for Serving Boys and Men of Color. Monique and Dr. Decoteau Irby, the assistant professor leading the project, presented a workshop that brought in nonprofit organizations to talk frankly about race, dignity and opportunity. The duo is creating a scale to measure dignity, especially when it comes to working with boys and men of color.

Monique graduated with her Master’s in Public Administration from University of Delaware and returned afterward to where she was born and raised: Milwaukee. Her first job back was Project Assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Women’s Resource Center. She then moved on to UW-Whitewater to teach in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, returned to UW-Milwaukee to be Assistant Director of the Resource Center, and is now a research assistant with Dr. Irby at the Research Center for Urban Education and Leadership Development. She also does consulting on similar work—and during all of this, she has been pursuing her Ph.D. in urban education and leadership development since 2011. She plans to finish by fall 2016. Continue reading

our first pwp party!

Last Thursday, we hosted our first-ever real-life PWP party! We have talked with each other and the women we interview about bringing everyone together for more than two years now, so we finally set a date and made it happen. June 30, oh, you were a good day.

It was so exciting and fun to bring together nearly 40 people—including women we’ve featured from Milwaukee, friends, and panachies-to-be—in one of our favorite Milwaukee spots that we also happen to have featured: The Ruby Tap. Brooke, Sarah and their staff graciously hosted our gathering and put together the most delicious cheeses, charcuterie, olives, almonds and popcorn to pair with our glasses of rosé, pinot and more. Yum yum yum—same thing next week?IMG_8865

Top Five Moments: Continue reading

meet the mcginnitys: laying a strong foundation for milwaukee’s future

A few weeks ago, I was very excited to read in The Atlantic how a person can make a great difference in the world. This area of study assesses “effective altruism.”

Effective altruism: a philosophy and social movement which applies evidence and reason to determining the most effective ways to improve the world

Betsy, Annie and Megan

The McGinnitys use a systems approach to their foundation and would love to incubate newer, smaller nonprofits, and then help them along a pipeline to midrange and eventually larger foundations for funding. They’re on a quest for the answers: “What difference does this make? How do we know?”

My heart broke a teeny bit when I read what these scientists believe about how to make the biggest difference. Work for a nonprofit that aligns with your life goals? Nah. Instead, they say to get a job that makes great money and donate (a significant percentage) to possibly even fund an entire salary. That’s how you do it. Well, shoot.

I looked into a bit of what I’ll call “actual altruism”: 95.4 percent of Americans donated to nonprofits in 2014, a 7.1 percent increase from 2013. The average person donates about 2-3ish percent of their income to nonprofits, depending on how much money they make. That is generous, kind and necessary, and it makes me think of Jazz when she said how nonprofits and other organizations create the infrastructure and resources that enable policies to actually get boots on the ground. These organizations and their donors are vital.

Some people have a little extra panache when it comes to making the biggest difference in their community. The McGinnity family of Milwaukee—grown daughters Megan, Betsy, Annie and Katie, and parents Tom and Maggie—launched the McGinnity Family Foundation in winter 2014. Continue reading

piequest pilgrimage

I just got home from a journey so intense, so grueling and so challenging, I’m not sure I can share the full extent of it with just words.

That’s why I’m glad we have pictures. (And taste buds and imaginations!)

My mom and I just got back from the First Annual PieQuest Pilgrimage! And it was deeee-licious.

We decided to take three days to explore and locate some of the Midwest’s best pie. And we didn’t forget the rest of the family: fruit pies, cream pies, quiches and tarts! Potpies, pasties, and even a cobbler made the docket. We ranked them by crust, filling and overall experience.

We deviated quite a bit from our original plan (pictured), and instead went Madison >> Viroqua, Wis. >> Red Wing, Minn. >> Stockholm, Wis. >> Minneapolis >> Pepin, Wis.

We deviated quite a bit from our original plan (pictured), and instead went Madison >> Viroqua, Wis. >> Red Wing, Minn. >> Stockholm, Wis. >> Minneapolis >> Pepin, Wis.

Continue reading

meet kate: chicago improv teacher and performer

Kate Cohen, People with Panache

Kate’s favorite play is Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman. Her favorite musicals are The Music Man or Little Shop of Horrors. Her favorite characters to play right now are stressed out moms or angsty teenagers.

You know those times when you feel like you’ve never been busier and your to-do list keeps getting longer and then you meet someone who somehow does even MORE?!

Yeah, it kind of makes you feel a little bit better.

That’s how I felt when I spent an afternoon with Kate Cohen, a spunky improv comedian/grad student/education administrator. Her passion for all three oozes through in conversation and you can tell she loves the role each one plays in her life. Over fancy teacups of decadent, gourmet drinkable chocolate (Editor’s Note: Alysse is very upset she was not at the “drinkable chocolate” party and is boycotting this post from here on out.), Kate and I discussed what it’s like to work 9-to-5 in education administration at Northwestern, teach improv at Second City Training Center, perform improv on nights and weekends for four different theaters, and attend school part-time (also at Northwestern) earning a Master’s of Science in Learning and Organizational Change (MSLOC). Continue reading

meet missy: milwaukee photographer and artist

Missy + Pepper are Milwaukee

“When I was stationed in San Diego, besides being away from my family, I missed Milwaukee,” Missy says. “It’s authentic and real—not this uniform, plastic-surgery look and way of life.”

Missy Ziebart and Pepper

From 2003-2007, Missy was in the Navy!

It’s kind of funny photographing a photographer.

Missy Ziebart is an artist, a creative soul, an intriguing Milwaukeean. She was always a painter and illustrator—but she fell in love with photography and ceramics during college. Kate and I found her on Facebook through her Brightmoor Portrait Project, a “community art project aiming to celebrate the residents of Detroit through portraiture, written word and interaction.” It’s a gorgeous endeavor to burst through preconceived notions about one of the Midwest’s most talked-about cities. Continue reading

meet kathryn: chicago voluntour entrepreneur

Kathryn Pisco, Unearth the World

“One of my favorite quotes from The Alchemist is like ‘When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’ That’s how I felt in hindsight, looking back on the process of prepping for the trip.”

If you live in a state of perma-wanderlust as badly as Alysse and I do, you are totally going to empathize with the range of emotions I experienced while putting this story together: longing, joy, wonder, jealousy, conviction, a little more jealousy. I can’t actually complain—I’ve been lucky enough to plant my own two little feet on insanely breathtaking places, from Ireland last winter with our good friend Alayna to South Africa in college for a three-week study abroad. And Alysse may work for a nonprofit now, but she’s had some super cool travel experiences herself, from visiting a friend in China to doing yoga in Costa Rica this March. For 2016, I am planning/hoping/dying to finally take the trip I’ve been dreaming about and visit India for a couple weeks in the winter—then go to Peru later in the summer! If it all works out, I think it might be my most epic year yet. BUT I don’t think I can even dream of approaching Kathryn Pisco’s passport. She visited 20 countries in nine months! Continue reading

happy father’s day!

Yesterday was Father’s Day and all we kept hearing on the radio was how Mother’s Day was way more important. We thought, well that’s pretty ridiculous! Dads are important, too! So today, the day after the Day of the Dad, we wanted to write about a certain group of people, the likes of whom are rarely discussed on this blog: Guys! Needless to say, none of what we or our awesome Panachies do would be possible without our dads. PWP is equipped with no shortage of fatherhood: Kate’s dad Stan and stepdad Dave as well as Alysse’s superfantastic dad Ken. Steve of Purple Door and Steve with First Class Care have been featured on the blog, and since we’ve started writing in 2013, no fewer than five PWP babies have been made, all with great dads (with panache).

Alysse and Dad! #nofearkengear

Alysse and Dad! #nofearkengear

Whether your dad is your rock, your support system, your best friend, your caregiver or even just your sperm donor, let’s all take time to thank them for giving us life so we can go on to be the best we can be! Continue reading