NAZNEEM HASHIM, 28, Helicopter Pilot
Floral blouse, Levi’s.
The first female offshore helicopter pilot in Malaysia is Nazneem Hisham, but don’t go asking her to yell “Get to the chopper!”. Despite standing at 5’2″, and being badgered about her flying capabilities, Nazneem has grown her self-confidence over the years and does not let the comments get to her, as she has proven herself time and time again.
Tell us a little bit about what you do—what inspired you to become a helicopter pilot?
I fly helicopters primarily for the transportation of passengers and workers to offshore oil exploration and development rigs for oil and gas companies. Initially, I wanted to become an airline pilot but after doing a little bit of research, I discovered that flying helicopters would be more lucrative as a career. Thus, I joined the industry seven years ago which propelled me to become a pioneer in the field as the first women offshore helicopter pilot in the country.
When you’ve not been flying, have you had the chance to do much travelling?
Yes, I love travelling! I believe that travelling is an investment in yourself—it broadens your insights and opens you up to seeing other ways of living the world. Some of my favourite places I’ve been to are Hawaii, Egypt, and Croatia.
My most memorable flights would have to be during flying school, at the tender age of 17 on my first ever practical flight lesson. My instructor pushed the control column and the whole aircraft suddenly dipped. Without thinking, I hugged my instructor. Once I realized what I was doing and that we were perfectly ok I quickly apologized for hugging him. I was so embarrassed! But I’m glad I can laugh about it now.
— On Nazneem’s most memorable flight.
How did you overcome any gender-related roadblocks in your career?
Being a woman my size, standing at 5’2″, inevitably I had—and still have—people questioning my flying capabilities. At first, I did let it get to me, questioning myself whether I can do this, because women just don’t fly helicopters. But I gained confidence through constant practice and persisted regardless of my self-doubt. Over the years, as I gained more self-confidence, I’ve been able to prove my capabilities and minimise the doubters.
Who or what do you consider to be your “lucky charm” in life?
I believe my lucky charm comes from generally being an optimistic and positive thinking person. I genuinely do believe in the law of attraction and that focusing on positive thoughts can bring positive experiences into your life.
If you could share a flight with any successful woman, dead or alive, who would it be? Why?
I’ve always wanted to meet Bethany Hamilton. I first heard about her when I was 14 years old. She’s a professional surfer who survived a shark attack, which led to her losing an arm, when she was 13 years old. But she recovered, returned and succeeded in her career as a professional surfer. She is still taking on monstrous waves until now! It’s very inspiring how she was able to push through, despite the odds.
What is the most rewarding thing that you find in your work?
Although the job is inherently risky, I love the adrenaline rush that comes with flying and landing a helicopter on oil production platforms, drilling rigs and seismic vessels. That and having a personal view of the sky and ocean—it’s total bliss!
To hell with gender stereotypes and patriarchy— what’s the one thing you think women should do?
Every woman should know that they have the power to choose their own path in life. We need to know and believe that we always have a choice, and more importantly, a voice.
What are you most curious about in life? Why?
I’m always curious about finding and doing the things that makes me feel content and brings me the most happiness. Whether it’s learning to surf, going on that holiday or changing your career path. If you want to do something, then just do it. I feel like a lot of people talk about their dreams and ideas but only a few actually act on it.
Empowerment to me is gaining power and confidence within yourself as a result of doing all the things you want and love to do, despite the odds and what people tell you you can or cannot do.
— On what empowerment is to her.
In your opinion, what is one of the biggest trouble facing our society?
I feel that we place a lot of limits on our little kids. We kind of shove them down one path or another based on nothing else but stories we’ve created in our culture. I think if we altered and broadened our mindset a little, we’d be able to achieve much more.