Growing up, Senior Director of Customer Service and Support Kurt Reid knew he wanted two things in life: to be an ice cream man and to become a pilot.
Originally from Jamaica, Kurt grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He recalled his days of helping his father sell ice cream out of his Mr. Softee truck during the summer. Once he accomplished that first goal, he moved forward with pursuing his dream to become a pilot.
Although Kurt was a top athlete in both Track & Field and Varsity Football, he gave up athletic scholarships in both sports during his senior year of high school and accepted admission into the Aeronautical Science program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. Kurt was now on track to accomplish his second goal to be a pilot. Once he began flying and learned more about the career and lifestyle requirements of a pilot, he realized he would rather pursue a different path in aviation.
After returning home to New York, Kurt applied to the Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology for Airport Management. “I felt a lot more comfortable with this direction,” Kurt explained. “I knew I found my calling in Aviation management.”
That calling brought him to a successful career at Atlas, where he has been a dedicated employee and leader for over 20 years.
Kurt was introduced to Atlas in 1999 when he was looking for an internship while a student at Vaughn. He met Vito Joya, Atlas Dispatch Manager, who was in the process of transitioning his career from Dispatch to Air Traffic Control, which was his dream. Vito and Kurt built a friendship while they were in the same air traffic control class, and Vito recommended Kurt for a job at Atlas.
Kurt joined Atlas two weeks later and was a student by day, employee by night. Before officially graduating with his Airport Management degree from Vaughn, he was promoted to Operations Manager in 2002.
“Atlas has truly been my first and only real job,” said Kurt.
He recalled good times with his colleagues working the midnight shift at JFK. The operations representatives took a liking to Kurt, which helped to reinforce his love for the Company.
“The mindset at Atlas is that nothing is impossible,” Kurt said. “We always conquer. We always push forward, and we always succeed.”
Kurt’s colleagues have noticed that Kurt embraces that very mindset as well. “Kurt and I have worked side by side since the very beginning of our careers at Atlas Air,” said Kevin Sarubbe, Senior Vice President, System Ops, and Kurt’s manager. “He arrived on day one with a “can do” positive attitude that continues to shine today. I think Kurt’s approach to problem-solving and customer service is a huge asset to Atlas and the cornerstone of his success. It is never about ‘why we can’t,’ but rather ‘how we can?’”
Kurt explained that although the learning curve was steep early in his career, the talent among Atlas employees — and their guidance — has made his job so much easier.
“We consistently find a way to get it done because of the teamwork here,” he said.
In 2015, Kurt was promoted to Director of Customer Service, and with the promotion came the opportunity to build a new department.
“It was a big leap – I had to step up and make it happen,” he recalled. “So many of the department heads reached out to me and offered their support. I was really touched by that, and it made me realize that the people at our Company are what makes Atlas, Atlas.”
In addition to his supporters at Atlas, Kurt is quick to express his gratitude for the champions in his corner while growing up.
The move to Brooklyn from Jamaica was initially quite jarring. He left a rural way of life behind for the inner city.
There weren’t a lot of opportunities in Jamaica, which led both of his parents to migrate to America.
“While in America, both of my parents worked very hard to put me and keep me on the right path – and I am so grateful for that,” he said.
Kurt recalled his fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Pollock, pulling him aside and telling him that she was going to recommend him to go to specialized junior high school.
“She saw something in me,” Kurt recalled. He went to high school in Sheepshead Bay, which was an hour and a half bus ride each way.
“I did that from the sixth grade all the way through to my senior year in high school. It was worth it – I went to school in a much better neighborhood that offered a rich diversity of people and experiences. I wish my neighborhood could have provided the same,” he said. “I know from my experience that without Mrs. Pollock opening up my eyes to something different, I likely wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Ronald McNair, America’s second Black astronaut, who sadly died in the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, was also a significant source of inspiration for Kurt.
“He showed me that with hard work anything is possible. He taught me to reach for the stars.”