Company and Executive Women Worth Watching® 2014 Award Winner
“I LISTEN to what my team needs and do my best to help them with what they need so we can all succeed together.”
HEADQUARTERS: Chicago, Illinois
REVENUES: $37 billion EMPLOYEES: 85,000 TITLE: Senior Vice President, Network Operations and United Express
WAS DRAWN TO AIRPLANES SINCE A FLIGHT TO VISIT FAMILY IN GREECE WHEN I WAS SIX YEARS OLD. Looking out the window, over the great wide ocean, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. Airplanes were the way to connect to our family. While the engineering and science behind air travel fascinates me, it was that basic idea of bringing people together from all over the world that attracted me. I began my career with People Express Airways after college. To my initial childhood motivation I added a newfound appreciation for the nearly staggering complexity of the enterprise that delivers people around the world to their loved ones. I also saw the dedication of the people who pulled off this tremendous feat. No fewer than thirty pairs of hands touch an aircraft before it takes flight, not to mention all the people behind the scenes. It’s this mostly invisible teamwork, people working together to deliver safe, reliable service each day in all kinds of situations that has made me an airline “lifer.” One of the highlights of my career was becoming the first female country manager in United Airline’s history—in Greece. I’d managed an airport in the U.S., but never internationally. I needed to hire an entire local employee team and build a network of support and work with new partners and agencies. Two weeks before we were set to open, we still did not have phone lines. I had to call the embassy and ask them to help. Bringing everything together seemed impossible, but we accomplished it. Two decades later, I oversee thousands of flights and coworkers each day for United Express and the operations center. There are challenges, but the same teamwork is there. I listen to what my team needs and do my best to help them with what they need so we can all succeed together. Through deregulation, fuel shocks, 9/11, and Hurricane Sandy, it’s still the thrill of working in a team of people and constantly reinventing our business that keeps me motivated.
BA, Harvard University
FIRST JOB: Working at a bakery in my neighborhood in Boston
MY PHILOSOPHY: Success is most fulfilling when it is accomplished together. I can’t think of many important tasks that I’ve worked on that would have been possible without a team. What I’m Reading: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness, by Erik Larson
How has education affected your career? I am a first-generation American and first-generation college graduate. My parents are natives of Greece. They always stressed that education provides opportunities like nothing else can. It’s the best investment you can make in yourself. 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? There have been many smart, talented people who have helped me. I continue to learn from my employer, peers, and team, but my main role model has always been my mother. It has been her diligence, dedication, and courage that have always inspired me.
What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career? Stay focused on your goals and work hard. You can’t expect to succeed unless you are dedicated and can show others what skills you have. Finding another woman in your field whom you trust and admire, who can give you guidance when you need it, is also valuable.
PROFILES IN DIVERSITY JOURNAL
Published on Sep 1, 2013
In this celebratory issue, senior executive women discuss their business and life experiences while giving leadership advice.