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Practitioner’s Profile: Yohei Kakuda: From the Airfield to Behind the Scenes

Practitioner’s Profile: Yohei Kakuda: From the Airfield to Behind the Scenes

Beginning of the dream

As a child, Yohei always wanted to be a pilot, or be involved in aviation in some way. This led him to pursue a major in aviation operations. But throughout the years he found his interests growing, shifting to wanting to be a part of airport operations.

Yohei graduated from San Jose State University and then went to complete his masters in Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. He got his masters in Aeronautical Science specializing in Aviation Management, Operations, and Safety.

Career takeoff

For as long as he can remember, Yohei’s life has revolved around aviation. He began his career as an intern at San Jose Mineta International Airport. After the internship ended, he continued his journey in aviation at the Contra Costa County Airports.

The county had two airports in its system, Buchanan Field Airport and Byron Airport. Buchanan Field is a small airport that held a Part 139 Operating Certificate. Being a smaller airport also meant the employees wore multiple hats, which allowed Yohei the opportunity to experience not only the airport operations aspect of the job, but also the tedious things such as mowing the lawn, painting, cleaning the terminals, and even had the opportunity to experience being a firefighter.

As a Part 139 requirement, the airport had to provide aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) services. Employees received annual ARFF training courses including participating in the live fire drills. Yohei mentioned that becoming a firefighter, policeman, or even a baseball player is many kids’ dreams growing up, “getting to experience training to be a firefighter was fun, but challenging.” Through working in many aspects of the airport, Yohei gained valuable knowledge, skills, and confidence in this field.

With the skills gained from working at Contra Costa County Airports, he transitioned his career to the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). At his new job he was an Airfield Safety Officer, which is in the airside operations department. His role included daily inspections, making sure that the airfield was in compliance with FAR Part 139, as well as airfield escorts, coordinating and setting up of runway and taxiway closures for construction, and wildlife hazard mitigation. For three to four years, he was also a training officer for incoming Airfield Safety Officers as well as employees from other departments, airlines, and ground handling companies. Being an Airfield Safety Officer meant being a first responder, responding to anything and everything that happens on the airfield such as aircraft emergencies, fuel spills, hazmat spills, medical emergencies, and vehicle accidents to name a few.

During his time at SFO is where he first heard of and began utilizing Veoci. Before using Veoci, the SFO Airside Operations was using a program built by its IT department. As part of the SFO Veoci Team,Yohei helped implement and design the needs of the department within the platform. Having a thorough understanding of technology, he was one of the administrators working with Veoci from the airport and he also helped to design, troubleshoot, and implement their citation mobile app.

Career transition

After spending over 15 years working hands-on in the airfield at an international airport, an opportunity opened up for Yohei to change careers. From all the great things he heard about Veoci, as well as getting to work with the platform, he felt that perhaps this was the change he was looking for.

Although he’s not a programmer, he’s always had an interest in this type of platform. As a Solutions Engineer, he has the knowledge and depth of experience to make solutions better for airports. During his time as an Admin for the airport, he could only have certain control within the platform, whereas now, in his current role at Veoci, he has many resources to better understand how powerful it can be to an organization.

Throughout Yohei’s time at SFO, he witnessed and responded to many accidents and incidents ranging from a major aircraft crash to a minor incident on the airfield. After working hands on with emergencies, when asked what keeps him excited at a job that isn’t at the emergency site, he replied, “when things are going wrong, when a solution you’re working on for something that the customer requested isn’t working the way you want it to work, but you’re trying to figure something out. All of a sudden, an idea pops into your mind, applies it to the solution, and it works. You know that’s exciting. It’s a different kind of excitement mixed with satisfaction.” When looking at airports, Yohei isn’t looking to be in the middle of it but looking from the outside. It gives him a better perspective of the views from other companies.

An advice to his younger self was, “get as much experience as you can and build your confidence.”

Aside from work, Yohei loves to travel and experience new cultures, especially the food. His favorite Japanese dish is anything homemade. He says he’s biased due to the fact that he gets authentic food at home.

From working at emergency scenes at airports to working behind the scenes, Yohei has so much experience as the rest of the aviation team does.

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