Emily Davenall - Finance Director at Volare Aviation... What advice would you give to your younger PQ self?
1) What attracted you to your industry?
The perception of glamour within the private jet industry was particularly appealing. Whilst growing up in north Oxfordshire I regularly passed the Oxford Airport, and was always intrigued to learn about the setup and companies that ran from it, so the chance to work within the airline industry was a real draw, and as I entered the accounting profession, so they became more available.
2) Did you realise that opportunities of this nature were available?
I can't say I particularly thought about it initially, but as I started my AAT studies, the type of accounting roles undertaken became more apparent, and I understood more about the interesting elements of financial management that are part and parcel of the airline industry – and that was a real draw. Whilst in the early stages of studies, Financial Director and Controller jobs can seem very distant, but as I developed my reporting skills, so they quickly became a more realistic target.
3) In what ways does the nature of the industry affect the accounting work you undertake?
The airline industry is particularly seasonal, and brings with it a high degree of unpredictability – aircraft need regular maintenance, much of which cannot be planned for – which creates a need to react quickly to a series of challenges, in order to continue effective trading. The industry provides exposure to umpteen different currencies, as trade is conducted across the globe, and so require a solid understanding of foreign exchange and currency hedging.
4) How much impact can you have upon the strategic development of the business?
Every commercial business strives for profit, and so the accounting function will always play a key role in the analysis of key business drivers, and be best placed to interpret for senior management. My current role allows me to consider not only how to make the most from our current operations, but also to look at where we can maximise profits in future ventures, and how to do so in the most streamlined fashion – all of which gives me a measure of control over the future of the business.
5) How would you compare your current industry to others you have worked in – is it more engaging?
I find the airline industry to be particularly engaging, because it is so different to the lives of the majority. For example, having previously worked as a Management Accountant in the retail sector, although the associated benefits were pleasant, there was a very familiar feel to the products, key business drivers and challenges faced – which I found a little less enticing. Working in an industry so very different, and rather extravagant, gives access to high net worth individuals and a world so far removed from other aspects encountered in daily life, which can be really enjoyable.
6) What piece advice would you give to yourself when you were training as a PQ accountant?
With hindsight, my advice would be to throw myself into every opportunity, taking up the chance to learn as much as possible at every turn. Always asking questions of senior Finance personnel, in order to take on new skills continuously, is absolutely vital, particularly in order to make qualification studies relevant, and to avoid plateauing. In short, go hard or go home – it's all worthwhile in the end.