Podcast: Lee de Winton – Sydney Metro Airports CEO
Sydney Metro Airports CEO Lee de Winton was “luckily” posted into an air traffic control role early in her career with the Royal Navy.
This fortuitous posting sparked a lifelong career in aviation that has taken her around the world – from defence posts in Baghdad, Sudan and Afghanistan to her current role as the chief executive officer of Sydney Metro Airports.
“It’s one of those things when you get the bug, it absolutely never leaves you,” de Winton tells the Women in Airports Podcast of working in aviation.
After 14 years as an air traffic controller and time in airport management at the Williamtown base in New South Wales, de Winton made the move from defence to forge new opportunities in her career.
After a stint at Qantas, she told a recruiter she wanted to get back to airports – and at some stage be a CEO.
Her timing was right, with the brief for the CEO of Sydney Metro Airports having just crossed the recruiter’s desk.
“There’s no such thing as luck, that’s when opportunity meets preparedness, but it happened quite quickly for me,” she says.
With a love of leading and investing in people, de Winton says her start in the Royal Navy where she was trained to lead people from an early age was important to her development.
Now, she’s paying that forward with a focus on supporting women in aviation in her current role.
“Your corporate social responsibility really is at the behest of the CEO and I knew I wanted to do things for the community, but as a new CEO I had a lot to learn and time is limited,” she says.
“For me I focused on two things. One was defence and the other one was helping women and specifically women in aviation.”
An event held in partnership with Liverpool City and Canterbury Bankstown councils with school students from the area is one way she’s done this.
And her advice to women starting a career in aviation?
“Don’t accept no for an answer – no is just the start of a negotiation.”
She also encourages people to “be brave”, network and reach out to people who can support them.
“People are incredibly generous with their time, just ask.”