Career in focus: Vic Naughton
General Manager Australia and New Zealand, Air Canada
1. What does your role involve and how long have you been in your current position?
In my role as Air Canada’s general manager Australia and New Zealand I am responsible for leading the commercial teams and maximising the airline’s profitability across the region, where we now operate non-stop services from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne to Vancouver and beyond. I have been in the role since November 2017 so am just hitting the one year mark!
2. How did you start out in your career? Were you always destined to work in the travel industry?
After completing university in 2004 I picked up a backpack and travelled the world for a year. When I got back to the UK, I landed a role in finance at a major bank and quickly realised it wasn’t for me. So I jumped and started working as a travel agent for STA Travel and found my calling. In some ways I do think I was destined for a role in the travel industry. In my younger days I did a few flying lessons and even applied for a British Airways cadetship.
3. Did you complete formal qualifications, and do you think they are important?
I studied English at Brunel University in London. Like many people I eventually ended up on a completely different career path — and I think it’s never too late to change direction. I believe studying for formal qualifications is important particularly for the life-skills it provides, including discipline and independence.
4. What do you love about your job?
I love working in the travel industry, it is so exciting and there are many great people I get to work with daily. I’m lucky to work for an airline that is on an extraordinary growth trajectory, not just in Australia but globally. Air Canada is now the 8th largest airline in the world and has grown 40% in the last three years alone. When you just look at the expansion of Air Canada’s operation in Australia, it’s very hard not to be energised and motivated.
5. What are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your career?
My age has always been a mental challenge as I’ve always tended to be the youngest person within teams or in meetings, even when I held the most senior role. By my early 20s I was managing my own travel agency store then by mid 20s, I was responsible for 13 countries across Africa & Middle East and negotiating with people who were much older and more experienced than me. It has led to many situations where I was far out of my comfort zone. At one stage, I was posted to South Africa and within a week of starting the role I found myself alone on a flight to Accra, Ghana, where I was interviewed on national TV. It’s time like those that you think “How did I get here?!”
Undoubtedly, however, my current role has been my biggest challenge. I joined just as Air Canada was experiencing phenomenal growth locally (with the launch of our Melbourne service) and around the world. Air Canada has become a major force in the Australian aviation industry which offers a variety of new challenges for myself and the team to face.
6. What factors were central to your success?
I think my career has been characterised by a restlessness, along with a willingness to accept challenges and take risks — I don’t like to stay in my comfort zone for too long. I see change as inevitable and I believe it’s important to face it head on. I work very hard and I have chosen to only work for companies and brands which I believe in.
7. What are the keys to good business?
People, people and people. That means knowing your customers, listening to their needs and putting yourself in their shoes. With your team it means ensuring you have people around you who are motivated and engaged. It also means putting their needs first and regularly gathering and valuing their feedback.
8. What advice would you give to others in the industry who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t be afraid to take risks and challenge yourself, get out of your comfort zone! Often that’s not easy, but I’ve always found it pays off.