Houston Global Leaders of Influence 2020 with Janette Marx
Janette Marx, CEO of Airswift, is a recipient of the Global Leader of Influence Award by the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston and had the privilege of speaking with Sandija Bayot, Director of Development at World Affairs Council of Greater Houston.
Dialogue with Sandija Bayot and Janette Marx
Sandija Bayot (00:04):
Hello, and welcome to today's program as the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston hosts the conversation with Janette Marx, council's global leader of influence. I am Sandija Bayot, director of development at the World Affairs Council, a bipartisan nonprofit organization, focused on better understanding of world issues and how they affect our personal lives.
Sandija Bayot (00:28):
Now more than ever, it's important to stay informed about what is happening, not only on our city, but around the world. The World Affairs Council of Greater Houston brings foreign affairs experts right into your home.
Sandija Bayot (00:42):
It's such a pleasure to welcome Janette, one of those global thinkers. Janette, welcome.
Janette Marx (00:48):
Thank you so much, and thank you for having me today.
Sandija Bayot (00:51):
We wanted to check in and see how you are doing, your family, how is Airswift currently doing.
Janette Marx (00:58):
We're doing very well. We've been navigating this current climate and working through the pandemic, as well as the low price of oil over the last couple of months. Both myself, family and the company are faring quite well, so very pleased with that.
Sandija Bayot (01:14):
Yeah. No, I'm really, really happy, too. Glad to hear that.
Sandija Bayot (01:18):
Janette, you have dedicated much of your career to improvement of the community. You've been very active participant in many initiatives here in Houston and abroad. Please allow me to highlight some for our listener.
Sandija Bayot (01:33):
You started with Airswift in 2014 and served as the chief operating officer for four years, before assuming this role of CEO. Congratulations.
Janette Marx (01:44):
Sandija Bayot (01:44):
You're a very active participant, as I mentioned, in the whole very different board roles with such organizations as CEOs Against Cancer, Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas, Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce and many others. As I said, you truly do a lot, and I'm sure you stayed very busy.
Sandija Bayot (02:05):
Wanted to see if you might have some guidance on best practices that perhaps you could share. How do you select who you participate with, and how do you find time to attend to those obligations and expectations that come with such participation?
Janette Marx (02:21):
I've lived in Houston now for about six years. When I first moved here, I really wanted to get involved with the community and become part of, a true member of the area in which I lived. I travel so much, so it makes it even more complicated as I'm spend more time on an airplane, typically, than I do the city I live in. So when I came here, I thought about some of the passions I had, and then also what impacted the people that I work with.
Janette Marx (02:50):
The CEOs Against Cancer was formed just about four or five years ago, and I was one of the founding members who was asked to join the initial group that started it up for the Greater Houston area. That was because so many of my colleagues are impacted or have been impacted by cancer, and you don't have to go very far to see that impact.
Janette Marx (03:14):
So this was about health and wellness and awareness, and raising that to help save that at least one more life, and to take that globally with our mission really has impacted the company, as we've taken our global Relay For Life annually and have done so much with that cause.
Janette Marx (03:33):
The other ones are still true to my heart as well. So Junior Achievement is about education, is about giving every child a chance to be able to be work-ready by the time they graduate and to be able to find that next step in their career. My whole life is about careers and helping people find their dream careers, so that resonated really well to me.
Janette Marx (03:54):
Then the Greater Houston Women's Chamber is such a great network of women. It's about really helping women in STEM areas really grow and develop.
Janette Marx (04:05):
So I would say when you're looking for a nonprofit to volunteer out or for different organizations to be part of, it really should be something that you're passionate about and that you really feel that you could impact by your involvement there.
Janette Marx (04:21):
I don't do it just myself. I pull my team in with me. When we look at the mission for each of these and what we can do, we separate it out by who's really passionate as well. It's something that we can do together that just really adds to the culture of our company at Airswift.
Sandija Bayot (04:38):
I salute you for doing and leading some initiatives. And like you said, having your team's feedback and participation is very strongly valued.
Sandija Bayot (04:46):
Wanted to see also maybe your own personal hobbies, time to do other things, or this is it?
Janette Marx (04:53):
No time. No. There's always time. It's how you find that.
Sandija Bayot (04:56):
Janette Marx (04:58):
It's interesting. Because as I said, I travel a lot and my husband also has a job that requires international travel. I would say that, we'll find at the end of a week, we'll sit down together and go over our calendars and say, "Okay, where are you going? Where am I going? Can you change that to this week or this week so that when we travel, we can try to travel either at the same time so that we're not away from each other for too long?" And/or what we love to do is overlap when we're in interesting countries or if we're on the same continent. Is there a city we haven't been to yet that then we can meet in and then fly home? So we get really creative with the way that we travel so we can see more countries together and find that balance. My son's at the University of Houston. So it gives me a little bit more freedom now to not have the mother guilt tied to it as well.
Janette Marx (05:52):
But the thing with balance is you've got to prioritize yourself first and make sure that you take care of you and, in return, that means you can take care of others. So whatever you do, it's always making sure that you take care of yourself so that you can take care of others as you work through that.
Janette Marx (06:11):
I will say one of my favorite hobbies to do when we do travel, because I like going to beachy locations as well, is scuba diving so-
Sandija Bayot (06:17):
Janette Marx (06:17):
... that's the lighter side of me. So it's fun.
Sandija Bayot (06:21):
That's really good, valuable lessons. Like you said, it's for our future community leaders, right, to have that balance. Like you say, take care of your wellbeing, so you have something left and energy to do all these other passions that you've might have.
Janette Marx (06:34):
Sandija Bayot (06:35):
If you would share maybe some points about Airswift, kind of turning to your career. Maybe some of us know some, but maybe not so much. Some highlights, perhaps?
Janette Marx (06:45):
Absolutely. I joined Airswift a little over six years ago and I was thrilled to join an international company where I could really impact not only in my home country, but globally.
Janette Marx (06:58):
At Airswift, we're a technical and engineering workforce solutions company. We focus in the energy process and infrastructure industries. So if you're looking for work and you've got a technical background, you can call Airswift. We're in 60 different countries around the world. And if you need help at your company, either finding talent or moving people from one country to another country, or even consultancy services where you're looking at a new country to go into, how do you set up, how do you get that structured, how much do I need to pay for different people in and out, we're all about people, so identifying, sourcing, recruiting, employing, and moving people all over the world.
Janette Marx (07:42):
I think one of the things that I love about what we do at Airswift is we really find the passion in what we do every day, which is transforming lives through the world of work. We impact everybody that we come into touch with, whether it's their career or how we work with them and their families, to make sure that they're taken care of when they're in a country that's not their home.
Sandija Bayot (08:04):
That's a lot of moving parts, from the individual's personal lives to business, and then we put in the component of what's happening in the world and any situation might be taking place in the given continent or a given country. It's a lot of things to manage so congratulations on that.
Janette Marx (08:22):
Sandija Bayot (08:22):
Just as you said, that education is a big part of every passion of what you do, it's very important to our council and it is that mission for us. For us, it is education and that's from education, high school students, university students. And we educate anybody who wants to learn something. I always say I still learn something every day, so the education never stops.
Sandija Bayot (08:43):
So this initiative of working with our students, we have student World Affairs Councils and there was high school students who are members of these councils and the area high schools. Proud to say, we have almost 40 councils established, so very proud of the fact.
Sandija Bayot (09:00):
Some of the questions actually are submitted from those students. Please allow me to share some of their requests to you.
Janette Marx (09:09):
Sandija Bayot (09:09):
From your personal travels and visits with foreigners here or abroad, what are your two to three simplest guidelines for interacting or getting to know someone from another country?
Janette Marx (09:21):
That's a fantastic question because I think so many times when we go to another country, we bring who we are and our customs, and don't quite understand what that country's customs are. So I would say the number one most important piece first is study and research the country, their customs, their norms, before you travel there. So that when you are there, you can assimilate more to what their culture is because that's a sign of respect. It's a show of respect.
Janette Marx (09:52):
Even if it's not what you're used to, what you're not comfortable with, it's really understanding where you're going and what their expectations are when you go there. So understand their culture first and bring that. That can be anything from, do they shake hands here or do they not? Do they bow? When I go to some of the countries, do I have to wear a covering over my hair or my head? It's everything that you need to think about of how you show your respect for their culture and their beliefs in a very respectful way.
Janette Marx (10:29):
One of the other things that I like to do is I like to learn to say thank you in their language. It's simple. I'm not very good at language. I wish I knew how to speak multiple languages. It's one of the things that I would love to do, but it's a simple thing to be able to show that you're trying. When you show that you're trying, you find that people are much more open to you.
Janette Marx (10:50):
Then the last thing I would say is there's a lot of training, especially now, on unconscious bias and the bias that each of us bring to our interactions or how we get to know another person because of how we were raised or what our beliefs are.
Janette Marx (11:08):
I would also go back to the statement of understanding where you're going, understand the way they communicate. If you understand the way they communicate, you can make sure that you don't misinterpret why they say things the way they do, how they come across, if they come across too strong or too soft.
Janette Marx (11:23):
There's a lot of misinterpretation that can happen when you go to different countries and by truly understanding the way people speak and then how you can interpret that message, you can find that you can get to a much better place with getting to know people from different cultures.
Sandija Bayot (11:42):
Well, that's a very valuable points. And I would say some of it even applies, right, to visitors here-
Janette Marx (11:47):
Sandija Bayot (11:48):
... that had come from other places and come with their own expectations.
Janette Marx (11:52):
I will say, that this before I started traveling internationally on a regular basis, I think that Americans, we take it for granted. I'm so thankful that the international language is English. I didn't have to learn other languages or feel forced into it.
Janette Marx (12:07):
But when people travel here to the US and they don't speak English, we're pretty short. We don't understand very well, and I think we can do a better job of that. When you go to another country where English isn't spoken as widely, you come to really appreciate your ability to communicate in different areas. For instance, when I've gone to Russia and not everybody will speak to you in English there. There's other countries where it's not as normal. So I think we can practice a little bit more understanding of visitors and foreigners who come from other countries here as well.
Sandija Bayot (12:49):
Absolutely. Thank you. If you could have dinner with anyone that are alive, who would it be and why?
Janette Marx (12:58):
Oh, there are so many wonderful people to sit down and have a dinner with. I think I'm going to go with somebody who's alive right now, though. If I think around the world and I think one of the global leaders and people who have an influence globally, I would probably want to sit down and have dinner with Angela Merkel.
Janette Marx (13:16):
The reason for that is she's the first female chancellor of Germany. She's been in her position for so long she's had to make extremely difficult decisions throughout her tenure there. She leads a country that is tied to so many other countries and is on the global stage. The decisions that they make in Germany impact so many other countries that I would love to just sit down and get her insight on her approaches to difficult situations, her approaches to how she makes those tough decisions and especially how she deals with it when there's so many opposing views-
Sandija Bayot (13:55):
Janette Marx (13:55):
... with every decision that is made.
Sandija Bayot (13:58):
Yeah, and sometimes those decisions are tough, right, and they might not be popular, but certain times makes for decision-making.
Sandija Bayot (14:06):
On a lighter note, you touched a bit about the travel part. Where is your dream destination for vacation? Maybe there was some adventurous thing that you did that reminds you of your travels, a place comes back to mind?
Janette Marx (14:20):
Oh, okay, so my dream destination for vacation. I'm going to go a little crazy here.
Janette Marx (14:29):
I've been to 44 countries. I feel very lucky to have seen so many different parts of the world everywhere. So I'm going to take us off-world for a second and say my next dream would be to be one of the first tourists in space. Let's switch it up a bit and see the world from a completely different view. When I was younger, I wanted be an aeronautical engineer, so that would be fun.
Janette Marx (14:54):
But I do feel blessed with the number of places I've been able to go to and to see. Some of the adventures that I've had, I mean, it's been really fun. I'll talk about one that I was honored to do with Airswift. As I said earlier, we do a lot of Relay for Lifes around the world, and every country gets to pick their own when we're raising money for cancer and cancer awareness and education.
Janette Marx (15:21):
One year we did it in Wales, up in the UK, and it was kind of our own version of a really tough triathlon, where it was a cold day. We started off paddle boarding and you had to go on a long mountain bike. Then we had to climb Snowdonia, a mountain where it started to hail, not snow, not rain, hail, and it was vertical or horizontal, I should say, horizontal snow coming, like ice pellets coming at you. So that was a crazy adventure with the team that was quite fun.
Janette Marx (15:55):
On the flip side, I would say one of my more memorable moments was one of my first visits in Papua New Guinea off the coast of Australia, close to Indonesia. In Papua New Guinea, they have a World War II memorial, and it's back from when all the Americans and the soldiers from the UK and from Australia where they're helping to try to stop the war from progressing and standing there with different team members from 10 different countries around the world and for us to look at unmarked graves and how many different countries were part of that and how it impacted so many lives. When you're standing there with people whose ancestors may have been on the other side of the war from what your side of the war was, it just brings a whole different perspective and view and appreciation for peace and for bringing people together to be better and to take us forward.
Janette Marx (17:03):
So I will say there's been memorable, there's been adventurous. I am a little bit more adventurous from swinging in trees and ziplining in Singapore to Costa Rica, to doing my scuba diving in Bali and off the islands in Asia to the Caribbean. I do love a good adventure, and I definitely feel blessed that, as I've traveled the world, I've made time and focused on ensuring that I enjoy those trips as well.
Sandija Bayot (17:31):
Well, I have to say what a great way. I can't even think there's a better way to finish our visit with you today.
Sandija Bayot (17:38):
Janette, just wanted to say thank you for being so active. Thank you being wonderful leader here in the community. It is our absolute pleasure and honor to recognize you and to be called the World Affairs Council's global leader of influence. As the conversation show today, it's indeed you are global and you're a leader and more than that. Thank you again for your opportunity. Thank you for the dialogue and we wish you and your staff and your team, everybody, all the best to come. Thank you again.