Amanda Vella

Top 40 Under 40 2014

Photography Curtis Comeau

Age: 32

Job Title: Director of Finance, Business Planning and Performance Improvement, Canadian North Airlines

Why She’s Top 40: For helping change the business culture at one of Canada’s fastest growing airlines.

How I Relax: “It’s probably all the exercising I do – going for a walk and bike rides.  I also signed up to do the Ironman Canada Triathlon in Whistler.”

As someone who earned her pilot’s licence at the age of 16 – via her formative years in the 507 Royal Canadian Air Cadets program – Amanda Vella says her gig at Canadian North Airlines is a dream job.

But you won’t find her in a cockpit. Instead, she’s crunching numbers for a company that’s keeping pace with its sudden growth. And little wonder. That growth includes a growing fleet of Boeing 737s and a Dash 8 aircraft servicing 21 national destinations. Meanwhile, the company’s also experienced increased status as the Canadian Football League’s official airline and there’s a possible merger with First Air on the horizon. While all of this is exciting, Vella admits her job is a challenge.

“The company is growing significantly, and they’ve been very proactive in looking to implement new business processes to handle that growth,” says Vella. She’s introduced a weekly dashboard for executives to stay on top of activity, in addition to monthly reports. She also put into effect a tool to decentralize the budgetary process, allowing more staff across the country more input. “A big part of my role in these improvements is not being afraid to ask the questions that need to be asked.”

Even back in her university years, Vella was a leader, serving as a training officer for more than 100 cadets while also instructing youth – many of whom could not drive cars – to fly through the open skies. Vella’s also served as the YWCA’s president, and now sits on the board as treasurer. She dedicates 20 hours monthly to the YWCA fundraising committee, developing its leadership centre for aspiring young women.

For all those responsibilities, she still enjoys a few perks, including company junkets to the north, where she can witness the nuances of life in remote areas, including one experience in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

“Once out of the airport, all of a sudden five strangers piled into a cab with me,” she recalled. “It happens all the time there. The cab driver sets a flat rate and takes you to wherever you want to go.”

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