I am a female executive in the field of aviation operations, a role that’s predominately held by males. Achieving success wasn’t easy; I took risks and certainly faced obstacles and challenges, but I was given the chance to lead and build a talented team at US Airways. It’s been a rewarding journey. I hope my story inspires young people to seize opportunities, take risks, and find their passion. Careers and lifelong success can start anywhere but what matters most is to listen, learn from your relationships, and have courage.
My love of the airline industry began around our kitchen table. My uncle told us stories about his job at Ozark Airlines, while my cousin shared stories about the travel agency she managed. Their enthusiasm and love of their work gave me the encouragement and inspiration to take my first career step.
My first summer job was at the regional airport in Owensboro, working for a small commuter airline. I worked reservations, cargo, the ticket counter, and even loaded bags on flights. Although I was nineteen years old, that early experience taught me valuable lessons about work: You can’t accomplish anything successfully on your own, except make mistakes. It takes a diverse team of people to support and learn from one another to deliver results.
I’ve worked in thirteen airports in eight states and uprooted my family to work in many places, but the risk always produced rewards. Each opportunity allowed me to conquer my fears, grow, and become a stronger individual and leader. I was fortunate to learn many lessons through relationships formed throughout the years. I’ve led through some challenging times, bankruptcies, acquisitions, mergers, 9/11, and the Miracle on the Hudson, to name a few. Through every challenge, I’ve found that calm control allowed for clarity of thought.
Listening is an important leadership skill. I give this advice often; never become so involved in things that you’re not cognizant of the needs of your employees and you’re not listening, really listening. People want to work for someone they trust and respect—that will come from valuing your employees.
As I’ve matured as a leader, I’ve grown more and more transparent, sharing my mistakes with all who will listen and hoping they learn from them faster than I did. I believe in mentorship, something I experienced little of in my early career. The joy I feel helping someone achieve career goals are as rewarding as my own accomplishments.
How has education affected your career?
I recognized early on that the airline industry was my career path. The learning experience in this industry never ends.
Is there a role model who has had a profound impact on your career and/or life? What did he/she motivate you to do?
The incredible women in leadership positions at US Airways: Elise Eberwein, Kerry Hester, and Donna Paladini just to name a few. They have inspired me and taught me so much.