Flying high with a career in finance

Meet Virgin Australia's Michelle Antonious CPA.

Michelle Antonious CPA is only beginning her leadership career. However, the 27-year-old already has a wealth of experience to call on. Completing her CPA designation in October of 2012, Antonious has had significant experience in the aviation industry, which began with Qantas’ graduate program.  

Antonious then moved on to Qantas’ Engineering Supply Chain, before taking up her current position of Cost-Efficiency Analyst at Virgin Australia. Her CPA designation was a requirement for her current position and a significant step in her leadership progression.

Making her mark in the male-dominated Engineering Supply Chain division of Qantas was an early-career challenge for Antonious who, despite her limited experience, was given the opportunity to hit the ground running, managing a substantial contract. 

“It was a challenging experience, learning about engineering, being in a male-dominated arena and being responsible for operationally critical tasks,” Michelle says. 

“However, I was determined to succeed. While in this role, I was able to effectively implement processes to facilitate business improvements and transformation. I succeeded in supplier management through negotiating contract clauses to align with the business needs. It was a very fulfilling experience.”

Leadership skills needed in finance

Antonious regularly seeks the counsel of mentors to help her grow as a leader and, she notes, “my CPA mentor provides advice when there’s a difficult issue that I am grappling with and is able to provide ideas that guide me in the right direction”.

While Antonious gathers inspiration from her business mentors and colleagues, her biggest motivation comes from her family – Michelle's parents relocated from Egypt to Australia to offer their children a chance at a better life.  

“They left their world behind in Egypt, preserving only fundamental traditions, habitual ideas and religious beliefs in their new home, Australia,” Michelle says.  

“I can only imagine what it is like to leave all that, having to learn to speak a new language and follow new traditions. My mother taught me that there is no substitute for hard work and my father taught me that the line between what is possible and impossible is determination. My parents’ wisdom and strength to succeed has inspired me personally and professionally to strive for excellence.”

Career mistakes to avoid in finance

While already enjoying success in her field, Antonious appreciates that mistakes made on the learning and leadership journey are sometimes essential to growing as a leader. 

“You learn from picking up the pieces from your mistakes and striving towards your next goal,” Michelle says.  

“I honestly think if you are not making mistakes you are probably playing it too safe.” 

When asked what valuable lessons she can pass on to the leaders of tomorrow, Antonious says: “The leaders of tomorrow need to think about the legacy that they want to leave behind. What do they want to be remembered for? How are they going to be judged by their peers?”

Michelle's tips for future leaders in the finance industry 

  1. Aim high and set yourself realistic but challenging goals. If you aim for the sky, and you miss, you may land in a tree. However, if you only aim for the tree, your feet may never get off the ground
  2. Remember that discovering what you don’t like to do is just as important as discovering what you do
  3. Make as many professional contacts as you can from as many different areas as you can
  4. Challenge yourself - you’ll be amazed at what you’re capable of

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