When we call our latest Modern Muse Andrea Duff a “hurdle jumper”, we don’t mean she’s physically jumping hurdles on a track. Even more impressive, she’s jumped the proverbial barriers in her life that have made her a strong woman, a loving mom raising an impressive young lady (whom we can personally say after meeting her ourselves) and a business force to be reckoned with!
Andrea is the first female Executive Director of the Allied Pilots Association (APA), headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas near DFW International Airport, the largest independent pilots’ association in the world, serving 15,000-plus professional pilots who fly for American Airlines. She oversees the staff organizational planning, administration, budgeting, training, employee relations and the facility maintenance/operations and also handles labor relations with their internal staff union APSEA.
At 26, she started her career with the APA, moving up, up and up through the years despite professional and personal barriers. She never gave up and continues to push the envelope, utilizing the gifts she’s been given to succeed and motivate other women and girls to do the same through example.
And this is just the beginning of her incredible story. Read on to learn more about Andrea and be inspired to jump your own hurdles to achieve your dreams!
In Her Own Words
“When I took [the Executive Director] position, I made it a personal goal to improve morale and quality of life for the APA staff—at all levels. Since becoming the Executive Director, we have instituted a short-term disability plan, an accident/serious injury plan, and we have several things we are releasing in the near future to further benefit quality of life. To incentivize and retain our in-house staff, we created more opportunities for promotion and growth within the organization by adding new career opportunities—not just jobs.
“Also near and dear to my heart is our recycling program, which expanded a few months ago by finally eliminating Styrofoam cups with biodegradable ones. Probably one of the staff favorites recently implemented is the on-site masseuse that comes every other week!
“I strive to inspire women in this male-dominated field (IT, Aviation, Executive Management) to keep pushing forward, break down their barriers and embrace trailblazer goals! I encourage fellow females to open their minds to all career possibilities even if they’ve not considered a career move. I think Rosie the Riveter said it best—YOU CAN DO IT!”
“Ladies, own those hurdles, don’t let them own you. You will get there, you will find a way to jump it and keep moving.“
What inspired you to do the work that you do/motivates you today?
“I have been a Mom more than half of my life. My daughter [Lyndsey] motivates and inspires me. I’ve raised her to be powerful, fierce, unstoppable. She has jumped over many difficult hurdles life has put in front of her. She is the light of my life, she is the reason I never allowed myself to give up.”
How did you get to where you are and what challenges did/do you face?
“I always wanted to be in business, even as a little kid. I had aspirations of being a CEO before 30. Growing up, TV shows featuring female business women were not prevalent. While my female friends wanted to be like Mallory Keaton on Family Ties, I connected with Alex P. Keaton, the son who was misunderstood by his family because he wanted to be a young CEO. Not having a female role model to look up to in my small world was a hurdle I could jump without hesitation.
“Fast forward to my senior year in high school, I had taken every business class offered in school, had my college picked out and was on track to my goal of CEO by age 30. All boxes were perfectly checked. The plan I had mapped for my life took a U-turn. This was a defining moment—jump or fall. Although I did not technically jump across the stage at 5 ½ months pregnant, I held my head high as I received my diploma.
“My daughter Lyndsey was born with a severe heart condition; one of my most difficult hurdles. This meant a lot of care was needed during her formative years, a great deal of in and out of hospitals (sometimes months at a time), doctors’ offices, medicines, surgeries….again I jumped. I continued my CEO goal at a slower pace, but with even more resolve; for now I had the most important female in my life, my daughter, to care for and be an example for.
“I began my career with APA in August of 1998 at the age of 26. I started in Communications, was promoted three times, moved to IT and was promoted a few more times. At age 36, I accepted the role of Director of Information Technology. This was monumental to both me and the Association. Since the inception of APA in 1963, I am their first female Director. Glass ceiling shattered!
“In 2008 my daughter turned 18, and I started college. I’m not going to sugar coat it, working 60-hour weeks and going to college was a challenge, but again, a hurdle I overcame. “Fast forward to June 2018 (age 46), when I was asked to be the Executive Director of the Association. So, at age 46, not 30, I reached my goal. Did I mind that it was 16 years later? Not at all, the hurdles I jumped make me who I am. The hurdles made me stronger, better, faster. They made me a fighter.
“Ladies, own those hurdles, don’t let them own you. You will get there, you will find a way to jump it and keep moving.”
Who is your she-ro?
“My long-time friend, Pilates instructor and Sensei Carmen Sivadge. Carmen is the perfect balance of femme fatale and strength all rolled into one package. She is a source of positive energy and motivation to every one she meets. Her previous life as a classically trained dancer led to her calling of teaching the art of Pilates.
“Pilates requires a lot of attention to detail; your movements have to coincide perfectly with each breath to get the full benefit. Carmen can break it down to a level that even a brand new student can understand. Pilates takes a lot of strength and some moves can be very intimidating, but Carmen is always patient and kind, encouraging you through each move – she’s a Pilates whisperer!”
What is your favorite quote? “And though she be but little—she is fierce.” – William Shakespeare Learn more about Andrea: Instagram | @texansatplay
Do you know a #ModernMuse who has an amazing story to tell? Send us her story to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to know her: 1) Name, 2) Age if under 25, 3) Location, 4) Relationship to you, 5) Why you think she is a #ModernMuse (what is she doing or has she done to make Inspire, Empower, Impact the world or the community around her?). We’ll let you both know when we’d like to publish her story, send her a few more questions and will share it on our social media channels. Looking forward to your submissions!