PODCAST: HOBART AIRPORT CEO SARAH RENNER
Hobart Airport CEO Sarah Renner set her sights on a career in aviation very early on. But it was her dad’s advice that really ignited the spark to pursue a leadership role in the industry.
She says it all started with a conversation about what she wanted to do when she grew up, while walking through the Olgas at the age of 12.
“I said that I wanted to travel the world and make money and therefore I wanted to be a flight attendant,” she says.
“He said to me why would you want to be a flight attendant when you could fly the plane? And that was really the start for me.”
After learning to fly before she could drive, Sarah was in only the second cohort for Swinburne University’s aviation degree.
That led to a graduate position at Melbourne Airport in 1997. She’d go on to hold a series of roles spanning safety, emergency planning, airfield and planning and development during her time at the airport.
But a future in leadership and management beckoned.
“When I was aviation planning manager I had a really strong female role model and boss at the time and I started specialising in airspace … and I thought I could pursue this and become a specialist or go back to school and become a generalist,” she says.
“I really didn’t look back from that. I really love nurturing people, I embrace diversity and different views.”
After studying overseas at Harvard Business School and joining the Melbourne Airport executive team, Sarah took on her current role as CEO of Hobart Airport.
She says the small team of about 60 staff is nimble, allowing people to experiment and grow in their roles.
The airport has experienced five per cent year-on-year passenger growth over the last six years, with the tourism hotspot continuing to build its popularity.
“It’s so exciting given the growth but also the challenges that come with that – so our terminal for example needs to double in size over the next 10 years,” she says.
“I have quite the amazing executive team … it’s a really cohesive team that I guess sets the example for the rest of the business.”
Sarah also takes time for 1:1 meetings with all staff each year.
“It’s really important that all of the team can say anything, that they can identify issues, that they can put forward ideas in a really encouraging, safe and innovative environment.”
And Sarah’s advice to women starting in the industry? Get involved in the operations side of the business.
“Get into areas of airports that are probably not as traditional … infrastructure, project delivery and definitely operations,” she says.
“That really set the groundwork for me, it really challenged me.
“In operations you really need to think on your feet, you’re making at times really critical decisions around the operation and infrastructure and safety and security.”