There is no greater feeling than witnessing one of your own succeed. That's how the Dhillon School of Business feels about Bachelor of Management (BMgt) grad, Devon May (BMgt '98). Devon graduated with a major in finance from the University of Lethbridge and has gone on to do amazing things with his degree. Here, Devon shares his passion for aviation and takes us on his journey to the top of a multi-billion dollar company.
Putting in the groundwork
Tens of thousands of airplanes take off from airports all over the world each day. Imagine the organization and financial planning it takes to keep those planes flying and airports running. For most it’s too much to comprehend. For Devon, it’s not, but that wasn’t always the case. Devon says he could not foresee the position he is in today; he had no idea what he wanted to do with his degree beyond graduation. “I got a nice foundational understanding of finance, business and economics at ULethbridge, but I didn’t really know what a corporate environment looked like. At the time I actually wanted to be a pilot,” says Devon. So, Devon got his commercial pilots license and flew crop dusters out of the Lethbridge County Airport for a couple of summers. Devon says he loved every second of flying, but felt it wasn’t something he could really build a career out of. That’s when Devon made a major life decision and moved to Daytona Beach, Florida to attend grad school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Taking his passion for flying with him, Devon dove deep into the business side of aviation and got a better feel for how airlines operated. After grad school, Devon accepted his first position with Continental Airlines in Houston, Texas, and started his career in the airline business.
Climbing the ladder
After two years at Continental Airlines, Devon made the move to American West Airlines (AWA) in Phoenix, Arizona. He says he was intrigued by the young and exciting management team and wanted to become apart of it. This ended up being a pivotal move for the former grad student. It was within this management team that Devon found his mentor who helped set him on the path to some major goals. Devon spent the first six years of his career working on the commercial side of the business. “You’re deciding where you’re going to fly, how much revenue you can generate from that flight and really looking at the profitability of every flight,” says Devon. In 2005, AWA merged with US Airways. Shortly after, the father of two moved to the finance department where he led the financial planning and analysis team for the next five years. Then, in 2013 Devon and his team underwent another merger, this time with airline giant, American Airlines. This merger took Devon and his young family to the hub of American Airlines and a place they now call home, Dallas Fort-Worth, Texas. Since this latest move, Devon has found himself in many roles, the most significant being his finance role during the pandemic. “I moved back to finance to help the team figure out how American Airlines was going to get through this period where there was almost no demand for air travel,” says Devon. It was a rough couple of years for the airline industry, but now that the demand for air travel is back and reaching new heights, so is Devon’s career.
Soaring to new heights
After decades of experience in the airline industry, Devon finally reached a goal he had set years ago. This last December Devon was named, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of American Airlines. “I’m excited about the role; I’m excited about the opportunity,” says Devon. The ULethbridge grad says this transition had been something he and his former CFO and mentor had been talking about for a while. “It’s one of these things you kind of become humbled by. It’s a big job but it’s something I think the company has prepared me well for,” says Devon. The former finance major says he’s happy to be coming into this role in the year 2023. Now that airlines are fully operational since the pandemic, Devon says he can focus on moving American Airlines forward instead of trying to keep its head above water.
Never forget where you came from
Even though Devon has reached CFO status and now resides in the United States, he says he will never forget where he came from, “I love Lethbridge, I loved growing up in the city of Lethbridge and I loved being at Winston Churchill High School and ULethbridge." However, reaching big goals sometimes means taking a leap of faith and in Devon’s case that meant leaving his home in Lethbridge. Devon says he misses his family, many who still reside in southern Alberta, but he encourages undergraduates to find their passion and be curious about it no matter where it takes them. “Find something that you really like, get out there and try to understand what it is that you can do to succeed and get better,” says Devon. The aviation enthusiast says there are a ton of great companies out there that are looking for the skills you develop at a business school like the Dhillon School of Business. The flight path you choose to get to these great companies is up to you. You never know, Devon says, “you could have this career that’s different, fun and unique from what you might have expected when you were 20 years old.”
The Dhillon School of Business at the University of Lethbridge is known for its immersive experiential learning opportunities, connecting learners with industry, its supportive, personalized approach and for exposing students to emerging technology. Study options are available in both Lethbridge and Calgary.