Cover art for podcast Women Who Went for It! Podcast

Women Who Went for It! Podcast

65 EpisodesProduced by Sara McArdleWebsite

Women Who Went for It! is a bi-weekly podcast, hosted by Certified Whole Person Coach and Career Change Agent, Sara McArdle. The show features inspiring chats with successful industry changers who share how they found the clarity, courage and momentum to step into a deeper vocation and a life of mea… read more


Episode 021: From International Marketer to Pilot with Michelle Knoll

In this episode, Sara talks with Michelle Knoll about her twisting, turning journey from international marketer for the Walt Disney Company to corporate pilot. Michelle opens up about what it's like to be a female in such a male-dominated industry (only 6% of commercial pilots are female), gives tons of tips for women getting into aviation and speaks passionately about how it's never too late to make a career change. Formerly an airline pilot for US Airways, Michelle built her flight time as a skydive jump pilot, a 1st Lieutenant for the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary / Civil Air Patrol, a medevac pilot on Life Flights and a private pilot for a small charter company. Today, Michelle is a Gulfstream 650 and 550 International Captain for a U.S. Fortune 50 corporation, and the first female Captain in her aviation department’s history.    Sara and Michelle discuss:
  • Sara finding Michelle via an article on "Day In The Life: What It's Like To Be A Female Pilot At 40,000 Feet"
  • Michelle graduating early from high school
  • Moving to California at 18
  • Working odd jobs to pay for college
  • Taking prerequisites for veterinary school
  • Feeling discouraged and leaving the sciences
  • Looking into other options and feeling at a loss for what to do
  • Taking time off to travel and live abroad
  • Moving back to the States
  • Getting an international marketing job with the Walt Disney Company in Hong Kong
  • Getting laid off and turning down the opportunity to work for Disney in Australia
  • Becoming half owner of an import / export business in the chocolate industry
  • Finding herself on an "all stress, all chocolate" diet
  • Selling the business after the market took a turn
  • Moving to Cape Town, South Africa
  • Flipping houses there
  • Receiving an offer on the dream house she'd created that she couldn't refuse
  • Taking it as a sign to move back to the States
  • Moving to Miami Beach and continuing real estate development there
  • Getting out of that business just before the market crashed
  • Taking it as another sign
  • Visiting family in New Orleans at the time Hurricane Katrina hit
  • Feeling compelled to help
  • Inquiring with nonprofits doing relief on the ground and hearing they were at capacity
  • Collaborating with individuals doing relief work in Houston
  • Doing animal rescue runs into New Orleans
  • Moving to New Orleans
  • Feeling like she couldn't go back to what she'd done before, but not knowing what to do next
  • Learning how to fly while she figured out what she was going to do with her life
  • The pressure that Michelle put on herself to figure out her passion
  • The influence of others' opinions on her career decisions
  • Dismissing "fanciful" career ideas she had along the way
  • Noticing how much she'd already accomplished
  • The illusion of "security" in a job
  • The fallacy that it's "too late" to make a career change
  • Her supportive family
  • How she got into the Civil Air Patrol
  • Flying medical evacuation flights
  • Doing National Weather Service buoy drops
  • Doing counter-drug flights
  • Her one mosquito control flight
  • Flying a Southern Baptist church leadership from location to location
  • Flying skydive flights
  • A mentor that made a real impact on her
  • Learning how to navigate by the stars
  • Going to an aviation job fair and treating it like an informational interview
  • Getting invited to interview and deciding - why not?
  • Telling herself she wasn't going to get the jobs, anyway
  • Getting a job offer from US Airways
  • Again, thinking - why not? - and taking it
  • Questioning herself in training
  • Meeting a fellow pilot who proved to be a key contact
  • Being invited for an informal meet-and-greet for the "holy grail" of aviation jobs
  • Not knowing how it went, and months going by
  • Writing occasional emails to follow-up
  • Suddenly, after 5 months, hearing, "When can you start?"
  • Michelle's current lifestyle
  • How she takes care of herself, with changing time zones and sitting so much
  • The importance of staying physically active and listening to one's body
  • How she cares for her personal relationships when she's gone so much
  • What it's like to be a woman in such a male-dominated industry
  • The advice Michelle has for women interested in aviation (now is a GREAT time to get into it!)
  • Resources:
  • ...and more!
Michelle's full bio: Michelle Knoll is a Gulfstream 650 and 550 International Captain for a U.S. Fortune 50 corporation, and the first female Captain in her aviation department’s history. She has flown to nearly 50 countries on 6 continents, and yet never loses her enthusiasm for the travel, adventure, and spectacular views from 40,000 feet.

Formerly an airline pilot for US Airways, she built her flight time as a skydive jump pilot, a 1st Lieutenant for the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary / Civil Air Patrol, a medevac pilot on Life Flights and a private pilot for a small charter company.

Before discovering her love of aviation, Michelle studied International Marketing at UCLA and worked in Hong Kong and Australia for The Walt Disney Company. She became a business owner in the chocolate industry and developed hundreds of new products, which were then produced and distributed throughout the Asia-Pacific region. She has been a corporate executive, an entrepreneur, a property developer, a mentor and an active volunteer. She is a passionate advocate for women in aviation, disaster relief, animal rescue, and military and first responders.
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