Dublin Airport’s Valerie Price on driving change and innovation

Rotation

Valerie Price, head of strategy at Dublin Airport Authority (daa), decided that she wanted to pursue a career in international business after watching a video in her high school French class. “I just thought, ‘Yes, that’s me that’s what I’m going to do.’ It really struck me that the real international language was business,” she said.

Travel was part of her life early on. Price, whose father is American and mother is Irish, spent her childhood in Ireland and grew up between Europe and the US. After graduating college with a BSBA in International Business Management, her career path took her to Africa.

“I was given a lot of opportunity because of the tight labor market and my willingness to travel. I learned so much from it,” Price says. “I was able to really get a kickstart early and accelerate that early bit of my career.”

She believes that it’s easier for many women to be recognized and gain opportunities at the entry level, but points to a plateau in middle management that is harder to overcome before advancing.

“In male dominated industries in general – so it doesn’t just apply to aviation – it can be really difficult for someone to visualize you in a leadership position as a woman,” she says. “It leads to all of the biases that we all know about – whether that’s women or any kind of diversity – if we don’t fit in the box very well.”

Price says it’s important to change the frame and help people see the benefits of a more diverse workplace. She recommends that women focus on proving their business acumen. She pursued her MBA at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business school, ensuring she had the credentials she would need to move to the next level.

“Prove that you have the right to be there,” Price says. “Make it a sales pitch that you’re always on message with. Then, of course, the networking side of that is also very important as well. Other people have to want to see you in those positions also. The right people have to want to see you succeed.”

Price recommends that women be selective when processing feedback.

“Take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt, first of all. Everyone is coming from their own experience and what works for them. What works for them may not be what works for you. Ask a lot of people for advice, as a toolkit that you can use at your discretion,” she says. “My own advice is to focus on being really good at your job and the job that you want. Always do the next job, not just the job that you’re in.”

Rotation
Innovation must be data driven, based on research and observation, Price says. She believes in data-based decision making, but warns that metrics must be considered and applied in a way that yields meaningful insights. “The way we set our objectives around measurement is really important to understand the implications,” she says.

Price also recommends “combining things that you wouldn’t traditionally combine”. For example, studying the time staff spent cleaning the terminal can help inform design, choosing materials and furniture lay-outs that make cleaning easier.

“We start a little higher than the technology trends and really ask ourselves: what is driving these trends? What’s the unfulfilled need that you are looking to meet with this technology?” she says.

“If we over-focus on what the technology can do, rather than what the customer needs, we can get into some trouble where we’re coming up with solutions that aren’t for anybody or do anything that is of value to anyone.

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