In Profile: Julie Stewart
As the Manager of Airport and Aviation Development for Tamworth Regional Airport, Julie Stewart has a wide range of responsibilities including operations, leasing, airport master planning, asset management and business development. Julie spoke to us about her industry experiences and the leadership lessons she has learnt along the way.
How did you get your start in the airport sector?
I had aspirations to work for the airlines for many years and saw an opportunity to realise my airport vocation when I moved to Sydney in 1998. The role I obtained was in terminal operations at Sydney International Airport and this gave me the knowledge and skills I needed to expand into airfield and airport operations management.
What advice would you give to women aspiring to leadership positions in the airport sector?
Try to get a broad range of knowledge across the various areas within the airport business. Find a mentor or specialist in the field and ask many, many questions.
Also understand that no two airports are the same – many have similarities, but most have their own unique operating conditions and challenges.
What is one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career that you apply to your day-to-day work?
It’s your staff who can make or break a successful work place. Listen to and develop your team. They are the arms and legs and eyes and ears in your facility. Without their hard work and innovative ideas, you can’t continue to adapt and grow. Make sure you recognise and reward the achievers amongst them.
What are some patterns you’ve noticed over the years about women at work and things they could be doing better to advance their careers?
Women tend to go unrecognised with many downplaying their own achievements. Most won’t step forward or up unless they’re really confident and certain they have all the skills they themselves deem as necessary. Someone once told me if you apply for or find yourself in a job that doesn’t challenge you 60 per cent of the time, it’s probably not the job for you. I think that’s very good advice.
What do you love most about your job?
I really enjoy the diversity of my position. Major city airport roles have very distinct areas of responsibility, whereas regional airports tend to have responsibilities across a broad range of areas from operations, leasing, airport master planning, asset management and business development. Transitioning from a major city airport operations position to a regional position gave me a very steep learning curve and injected much more diversity into my daily activities. I’m a bit of a sponge, so I thrive on learning something new and putting that knowledge into practice. Bringing about positive change is also a constant goal.
Do you have any moments in your career that you’re particularly proud of?
Most days I’m proud of what my team and I do but one particular event first comes to mind when talking about having pride in my career. Although the fruits of your efforts often go unrecognised or acknowledged, a few years ago I received a private acknowledgment and thanks from a once young staff member who I had mentored at the start of his career. After a number of years, he had progressed to become a successful senior manager. He expressed how grateful he was that I had given him the foundations which allowed him to rapidly escalate to that senior role. Making a difference and providing inspiration for those just starting out is always something to be proud of.
Any other advice or thoughts to share?
It’s amazing how many resources are available to you. Networking has provided me with many opportunities to learn new ideas and see problems from a different perspective. Get to know your peers and know where to go to ask for help if and when you need it.
This article was written for the Australian Airport Association’s Women in Airports Network – an online community to support the advancement of women across all aspects of airport operations.