Every second, a Pratt & Whitney Canada powered aircraft takes off or lands somewhere in the world.

When listening to Irene Makris discuss the aviation industry from a 30,000-foot overview, as her discourse periodically dives down into details, one gets the distinct impression that the Pratt & Whitney Canada vice president of marketing well knows where each of those takeoffs and landings in the last few minutes occurred.

Still, Makris stays on-message with clear, direct answers, befitting an executive with

the requisite resume that gives

one the opportunity to earn such senior responsibility: an engineering degree, an MBA, engineering, quality auditing, and service and operational experience


Honeywell and GE, maintenance, repair and overhaul program management, supply chain management, vice president of supply chain, and an extensive breadth of knowledge gained while serving as executive assistant to the president of Pratt & Whitney Canada.

Yet, despite those business bona fides, Irene Makris began as, and remains, an engineer at heart: studying pure and applied science in college prior to her engineering degree at McGill University in Montreal. Makris recalls when her enthusiasm grew for the engineering side of her alma mater’s campus. “I wasn’t totally convinced I wanted to major in mechanical engineering. My brother was in engineering at McGill. He was making things fly, building and powering cars, and designing bicycles. It fascinated me. Engineering became my passion and I stuck with it.”

Anne of Green Gables

There aren’t many marketers that can claim engineering passion.

That passion,

with a lot of stick-to-it persistence, has characterized Makris’ career. After starting off as a reliability engineer for Honeywell

in Toronto, still a green new grad she was then offered a role as ISO9001 chief auditor. The newbie took ownership of what many grads would have seen as dead-end career drudgery. “I took that job and made it my own. I want to learn something from everything. It taught me .... a lot. There’s no better job to learn the entire company than auditor; you get to touch everything. It was a super, super move.” Yep, such positivity can convince one that he’s listening to the wrong Canadian optimist, but a quick glance at Makris’ brown, highlighted hair confirms that she’s not the carrot-topped Canadian heroine Anne of Green Gables. Like Lucy Maud Montgomery’s fictional character, our “Anne” eventually returned to her childhood home, which wasn’t Prince Edward Island but Montreal, where she got to indulge her engineering bent as a materials manager for GE Appliances. “It was an amazing experience supervising almost a hundred senior hourly employees and building a relationship of trust, respect and collaboration (some treated me like their daughter) was a great team to work with,” Makris reminisces. But she found her real career home when she moved from Montreal to Longueuil, Quebec, to join Pratt & Whitney Canada.

“When I arrived here at Pratt & Whitney Canada, I thought: Ahhh, I’m home. I felt like I had completed my mission; aerospace tied all my past work experience together. What we do in aerospace is amazing; it’s incredible, we make things happen that no one ever dared to dream. Even two years

ago no one thought we could innovate like we do today. I feel like what I’m doing is very useful for the world.” Makris loves to share her infectious enthusiasm for aviation not only with industry audiences, but with another very interested, important group. “I even get to go to my kids’ school and tell their classmates what we do and see their eyes open wide. It’s very rewarding.” Makris also strongly supports McGill University, and is active in a program called Promoting Opportunities for Women in Engineering. “I really enjoy returning to McGill and giving talks to individuals or groups of engineers. It’s important for young students to hear firsthand other people’s journeys and career paths and motivating them, particularly young women, encouraging them to stick with it and let them hear all that engineering offers. These sessions helped me when I started off and I thought it was my time to give back.”

It takes another glance to confirm that Irene Makris is not that red-haired school teacher Anne Shirley.


While Makris is enthusiastic about her aviation career, she’s equally glad she did not come to the industry through traditional aviation ranks. “I never had a dream to

get into aerospace.

I’m a personal example of bringing in someone with diverse, non-aeronautical experience. It’s always good to bring people in from different industries with different ways of approaching things. I was well equipped from my roles at Honeywell and GE that prepared me to come here to Pratt; I had diverse experiences that I brought to my job and this industry.”


Of course some leadership principles remain constant across industries. “My mentor,

our president John Saabas,

always told me that responsibility is always taken, never given. That’s what I did in every role I’ve had, “says Makris.


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