INSPIRING STORY BY JC INSPIRE
Simon Dodd – General Manager Aus & NZ – American Airlines
From a young age, Simon Dodd was ALWAYS FASCINATED by airlines but he NEVER IMAGINED he would end up as GENERAL MANAGER Australia & New Zealand for AMERICAN AIRLINES, the LARGEST airline in THE WORLD. So HOW did he get there at such a YOUNG AGE?
Simon completed his Bachelor of Tourism Management at the University of Technology, Sydney and then nabbed a job with Qantas, managing a portfolio of accounts over the phone. From there, he took to the road to manage the airline’s government accounts based in Canberra. Eventually the opportunity came to base himself back in Sydney, working for Qantas Business Travel in his first TMC role as Business Manager. But his big break came when the Jetset Travelworld Group merger took place, giving him the chance to lead a team – a huge opportunity for someone only in his early 30s. “When you have people around you that have faith in you, it helps you to step up and grow,” he tells Jito.
CHANGING things up
In 2012, Simon decided to scratch his itchy foot and took a six months travel sabbatical. When he returned, he joined American Airlines as Commercial Manager. Back then, it was still an offline carrier. Little did Simon know at the time that he would play a pivotal role in helping AA start to fly out of Sydney. “Being remote from such a large organisation was a challenge,” Simon says. “But it pushed me to make decisions on my own.” One of those decisions was to lobby the airline’s head office for it to launch the first AA flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. The carrier agreed, and made him General Manager. “My proudest moment was seeing that aircraft touch down in Sydney – it actually coincided with my birthday, making it a year I would never forget,” he reveals. “We had also just announced that the following year we would start flying Auckland to LA as well.”
Simon had already achieved so much, but now he faced the mammoth task of setting up two brand new ports for the world’s largest airline and putting together strong teams of people as well as setting the airline’s local direction. A major part of that has been building trust with his colleagues. “It’s important to listen and ensure you are in a headspace to take advice from people who have placed their trust in you,” he says. “If you look after team members and make sure they feel like they are trusted and in a safe place, then they’ll take care of customers.” Fortunately, he relished the experience, describing it as “amazing”. Learning to challenge himself, and to grow and change in the face of new challenges has been critical to Simon’s success, he tells Jito. Even now, he continues to challenge himself, finishing an MBA while running the new AA regional office and continuing to grow the team.
Here is Simon’s tips and words of advice for GROWING YOUR CAREER...
- Find a way to make sure you’re constantly challenged. Keep learning, studying and be open to new and different approaches.
- Find a mentor and be willing to listen and receive constructive criticism.
- Take chances, enjoy yourself and always be kind to others.
- Learn to be yourself, rather than being concerned about what others think of you – your authenticity will shine through.
- Leadership sets the tone of the environment and we respond to the environment.
- Speak to a customer every day, no matter what your role and try and make one change for the good of the customer.
- Acknowledge the success of your colleagues in a way that’s meaningful to them.
WE ALSO ASKED SIMON A FEW NEED TO KNOW QUESTIONS…
What is your proudest career moment so far?
“Launching American Airlines back into the Australia and New Zealand market. Seeing the aircraft touch down in both Sydney and Auckland for the first time since 1992 made me immensely proud to have been given the opportunity.”
What opportunities came easy and what ones did you have to push for?
“Building trust with your team and colleagues is critical to success in any role. Learning to challenge myself and to grow and change when presented with a challenge.”
What is the biggest hurdle you have overcome in your career so far? And what did you learn?
“Learning to listen more and ensuring you are in a headspace/open to take advice from people who have placed their trust in you. Learning to work remotely from the majority of your colleagues and to trust your decision making.”
What do more businesses need to do differently? And what change would you like to see the industry embrace?
“Businesses need to look after their team members and make sure they feel like they are trusted and in a safe place. They’ll then take care of customers.”
What is the best advice you have ever received?
“When you learn to be yourself, rather than being concerned about what others think of you, your authenticity will shine through.”
What life quote or “motto” do you live by?
“Leadership sets the tone of the environment and we respond to the environment.”
What daily tasks would you encourage others to embrace?
“Speak to a customer every day, no matter what your role and try and make one change for the good of the customer. Acknowledge the success of your colleagues in a way that’s meaningful to them.”
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