BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Behind AWAR’s success is our dedicated team of experienced leaders, drawn from multiple sectors of the aviation industry including major airlines, leasing companies, financial institutions, law firms and professional services organizations. We share a passion for the advancement of women in all aspects of the industry, and an unwavering belief that by engaging with our male and female industry colleagues, we can drive real change.

AMELIA ANDERSON

AWAR Co-Founder & President

Amelia Anderson is Co-founder and President of AWAR. During her 30-year career in corporate finance, Amelia saw first hand the challenges that women often face in advancing their careers. She also saw how dialogue across gender lines can help leaders recognize and overcome bias to level the playing field.

Amelia also serves as Chair of the DCU and Aviation Year of Inclusion, a joint initiative between Dublin City University’s Center of Excellence for Diversity & Inclusion and the Irish aviation industry that is focused on studying and promoting diversity in all sectors of aviation across Ireland.

In addition to her international advocacy for diversity and inclusion, Amelia works to protect voting rights and expand voter participation in her home state of Texas, the second largest state in the U.S. by both land area and population. Amelia is a certified Volunteer Deputy Registrar in three Texas counties with a combined population of 4.9 million, and she serves as an Ambassador for Texas’s 24th Congressional District with Powered by People, a grassroots organization led by former U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke with a mission of registering voters and promoting democracy across Texas.

Prior to her retirement from corporate finance in 2018, Amelia held numerous roles of increasing responsibility in the telecommunications, mining, and aviation industries. Most recently, Amelia was Managing Director, Assistant Treasurer of American Airlines, the largest airline in the world in terms of revenue passenger miles, scheduled passengers carried, and fleet size. At American Airlines, Amelia and her team executed over $50 billion of best-in-class transactions, including financing 500+ new aircraft. Amelia also served as co-chair of the American Airlines Women’s Leadership Program.

DANA BARTA

Executive Director, Head of Aviation Capital Markets, JP Morgan

AWAR Co-Founder & Treasurer

Dana joined JPMorgan in July 2021 as an Executive Director to focus on EETC origination and to work with the bank’s other capital markets experts on both aviation and transportation deals.

Prior to JPMorgan, Dana spent 11 years at Morgan Stanley’s Capital Markets division where she was responsible for originating and executing deals in the transportation space. Dana has been involved in all Morgan Stanley EETC transactions 2010-2020, raising $45Bn+ for domestic and international EETCs.

In 2016 Airline Economics has recognized Dana as one of the “40 under 40” to watch. Dana is a co-founder of AWAR.

Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, Dana worked at JPMorgan as an Analyst in Structured Credit Products and at Wachovia as an Associate in Structured Equity Products. In these roles, Dana was involved in structuring Synthetic Collateral Debt Obligations and Alternative Investments respectively.

Dana graduated Magna Cum Laude from Mount Holyoke College with a B.A. in Economics and Computer Science and from Columbia’s MBA – the Executive Program in 2015 with Dean’s Honors, sponsored by Morgan Stanley.

Dana was born and raised in Romania and moved to the U.S. to attend college. She lives in Westchester with her husband and two kids.

JOEY JOHNSEN

Founding Principal and Chief Executive Officer of Zeevo Group

AWAR Board Secretary

Joey is Founding Principal and Chief Executive Officer of Seattle-based Zeevo Group, a business, finance, and information technology consulting services firm.

Joey has dedicated her career to enhancing enterprise and shareholder value through finance leadership, transformation, and compliance. She has worked for recognized global and publicly listed companies and led strong, cohesive, and multicultural teams. Broadly respected as a reputable industry voice in decision-making, Joey is revered for her integrity, expertise, and insight into organizational transformation and improvement.

At Zeevo Group, Joey leads an international team who are often tapped to improve the effectiveness and success of client organizations’ processes, policies, tools, and technology. Zeevo Group delivers comprehensive solutions that address the wide and complex array of challenges facing clients in aircraft and engine leasing, consumer products, entertainment, and technology.

Prior to founding Zeevo Group, Joey held senior leadership positions in finance at Deloitte and Touche (“Deloitte”); International Lease Finance Corporation (“ILFC”), AIG’s aircraft leasing arm; AerCap, the world’s largest aircraft lessor; and Western Wireless (T-Mobile).

Joey’s aviation background dates back to her Finance Strategic Initiatives function at ILFC where she drove key finance transformation activities and assisted in preparation of ILFC for an IPO and later AerCap’s 2014 acquisition, leading integration management efforts for Accounting, FP&A, Tax, and Treasury.

Joey is passionate about mentorship and throughout her career has been dedicated to inspiring colleagues and rising young professionals to extend their thinking and drive superior performance to achieve organizational objectives and success.

The mission of AWAR is aligned with Joey’s professional philosophy as she has been a champion for the advancement of women in the workplace. Among many efforts throughout her career, Joey supported the creation of the ILFC Women’s Initiative (IWIN) to accelerate the retention and advancement of women at ILFC and led company-wide activities of a large global consulting firm as part of Deloitte’s Women’s Initiative to promote women through mentorship and coaching. Joey serves in an advisory role on the ISTAT Foundation Internship Committee, supporting efforts to shape new leaders in aviation.

Joey holds an M.B.A. in Technology Management and B.A. in Business Administration from the University of Washington, and completed undergraduate studies in Business Administration at Babson College.  She holds a number of professional certifications, including CPA, PMP, CISA, CGEIT.

IRENA BADELSKA

AWAR Board Member

Irena is a Board Member of AWAR and has spent over eleven years in the front lines of the aircraft finance and leasing industry, most recently as a Commercial Officer and a Senior Vice President at Amedeo, an asset management platform and a principal investor focused on commercial aircraft leasing with AUM of US$ 8 billion. Irena was a founding member of Amedeo and has represented the interests of UK institutional investors and multinational private equity shareholders.

In addition to her Board Membership at AWAR, Irena serves as a Committee Member at the Aviation Club in the UK and is a member of the Dublin City University Aviation Industry D&I Advisory Committee.

Irena was a partner at Doric Partners LLP and a member of Doric Asset Finance’s structuring and advisory team from 2008 until 2013, having worked in the Corporate Finance and Investment Banking divisions of leading global financial institutions between 2004 and 2008.

Irena has spoken at numerous aviation conferences and institutional investor events over the past decade on the topics of aircraft investments, asset management, aircraft redeployment and secondary market development, aviation finance, lessor consolidation, aircraft programs evolution as well as gender equality and human talent.

Irena has originated, structured and executed cross-border commercial aircraft financing and leasing transactions involving major international airlines, introducing a suite of financing instruments including equity & debt capital markets products, mezzanine securities and commercial debt financing.

Irena has been closely involved in managing the IPOs of LSE-listed, aircraft investment companies and has led the structuring and execution of US debt capital markets transactions, raising in excess of US$1 billion. Irena has successfully negotiated multilateral lease and loan agreements with the senior management teams of international airlines across multiple jurisdictions.

Irena has extensive experience in managing relationships with key aviation industry stakeholders such as equity investors (pension funds and insurance companies), commercial lenders and investment banks, aircraft and engine manufacturers, international airlines, major leasing companies and asset platforms, and various brokers and intermediaries.

Irena was recently acknowledged by Airline Economics as one of the ‘40 under 40’ future leaders in the aviation industry and was featured in the 2018 issue of the magazine ‘Aviation Life’.

Irena has completed an Executive Leadership Programme in Strategic Negotiations at Harvard Business School and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Studies from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany.

Irena is a graduate of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Programme at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford and is interested in exploring opportunities of developing innovative investment solutions focusing on key socio-economic and environmental challenges related to the accomplishment of the 17 SDGs established by the UN in 2015 and leveraging off the latest trends in AI (deep learning and advanced machine learning), IoT, Big Data, and blockchain.

Irena is a keen mountaineer, and an amateur sea-kayaker and ice-climber and has undertaken several expedition-style adventures over the past six years including climbs in Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, France, Greenland, Iceland, Mongolia, Peru, Russia, Tanzania, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

As part of her mountaineering pursuits, Irena has completed successful fundraising initiatives for several charitable organisations, most notably in aid of the inspiring projects established by Orbis and WellChild.

MURRAE ROSS-ESKELL

Founder and Managing Director, Horizon Executive Search International Ltd

AWAR Board Member

Murrae Ross-Eskell is Managing Director and Founder of Horizon Executive Search Int’l Ltd. 

With over fifteen years experience in executive search, Murrae is a specialist executive search consultant for the Aviation Industry.  She has successfully placed people in executive and senior roles across the value chain, including aircraft leasing companies, aviation financiers, airlines, airports and service providers (including MRO, catering and ground handling).

Horizon Executive Search, formed in early 2007, was created with two goals in mind; Firstly, that the focus be solely on the clients’ requirements and secondly it would be a search firm that would span not only the various sectors of the aviation industry but also a wider range of personnel levels from board and executive level, to senior and middle management levels across all the functional areas.

The type of roles Murrae has filled extends from C’Level, senior and middle management in varying functions, across the globe from Asia, Europe and Africa, giving her a wealth of experience. 

Murrae is a member of the International Society of Transport Aircraft Traders (ISTAT) and currently sits on the ISTAT Foundation Board as a trustee, along with being the Chair of the Education Committee which includes both the Internship Committee and ISTAT U. Additionally, she is a member of the International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA), as well as the Aviation Club of the UK and is a Board Member of Advancing Women in Aviation Roundtable.

Prior to her role at Horizon, Murrae worked at Odgers (Ray &) Berndtson initially as manager of the Global Response Department, and then as an Associate, in the Aviation practice, with particular responsibilities for search, business development and marketing activities.

Murrae’s early career was in media production and the education sector. 

Danielle Roman

Partner, Banking and Finance, Mourant

AWAR Board Member

Danielle is an experienced banking and finance specialist and advises on a broad spectrum of transactions, including asset finance (in particular aircraft and shipping), structured finance, acquisition and leveraged finance, fund financing, debt restructurings, project finance, real estate finance, securitisation and general corporate lending. Her corporate experience includes advising on corporate reorganisations, directors’ duties, mergers and acquisitions and private equity investments. Danielle regularly advises major international banks and financial institutions, lessors, airlines, listed and private  corporations, investment funds and leading onshore law firms. Danielle previously worked at Clifford Chance in Hong Kong and Dentons in London. She is a member of the Steering Committee and appointed as the Philanthropy Committee Chair for ASIFMA’s Women in Finance Asia forum. In 2018, she was named as a ‘Leading Lawyer’ by Corporate Jet Investor, a ‘Rising Star’ by Expert Guides and recognised by ‘Who’s Who Legal: Aircraft guide’ for her expertise in the Aviation Finance sector. Danielle is a proud mother of three children (ages 4, 6 and 8). The directories say that the “technically strong, attentive and responsive” Danielle Roman is “very knowledgeable in the asset finance space” Legal 500, 2018.

Kellianne Kelly

Vice President, Corporate Advisory, Evercore Partners

AWAR Board Member

Kellianne Kelly is a Vice President in Evercore Partners’ corporate advisory business focused on privately-placed transactions across all industry verticals that require debt, equity or hybrid solutions from financial investors. In addition to her transactional responsibilities, she is heavily involved in Evercore’s diversity efforts around recruitment and retention of Underrepresented Minorities, Women and Veterans.

Prior to joining Evercore in 2018, Kelli worked in Barclays’ M&A Structuring and Global Finance Advisory group where she focused on the Healthcare and Transportation / Airline sectors. At Barclays, she spent her time advising clients across various industries on a variety of corporate finance topics: tax consequence analysis, corporate structuring for joint ventures, spin-offs, carve-outs and RMTs, capital structure optimization, fixed / float and liquidity analysis, hedge efficiency, and capital deployment allocation and strategy.

Some of her recent transactions include:

  • $1,200mm convertible preferred investment in Expedia by Apollo

  • $400mm convertible preferred PIPE into OUTFRONT Media by Providence Equity Partners

  • 44% preferred stake sale in Pabst to Oaktree

  • $150mm privately placed convertible preferred equity to facilitate a shareholder

    replacement for AvePoint, an enterprise software company

  • $295mm privately placed senior secured debt facility used to fund Blue Ribbon Holding’s

    acquisition of City Brewing Company

  • $165mm privately placed of structured credit facility for Celadon Trucking

  • $60mm privately placed subordinated notes offering for Edmunds.com

    Kelli received an M.B.A. from Cornell University, a J.D. from University at Buffalo and a B.A. from the Ohio State University (Islamic Finance).

    She also served in the United States Army as a Persian Linguist.

Sarah Pirzada Usmani

Managing Director – Global Head of Sustainable, Asset & Project Finance, UAE, First Abu Dhabi Bank

AWAR Board Member

Sarah has 21+ years of Corporate and Investment banking experience, having worked across a number of banking divisions such as Aviation Finance, Sustainable Finance, Project Finance, Structured Export Finance, Asset Finance, Structured Finance, Structured Trade Finance & Financing Solutions, and Client Relationships across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Currently based in UAE, Sarah is Managing Director & Head of Sustainable, Asset & Project Finance at First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB). Sarah joined FAB in 2016 from Standard Chartered Bank, where she worked for 16 years and held a number of senior roles, including but not limited to Regional Head of Asset Finance & Leasing, Regional Head of Structured Export Finance, Structured Trade Finance, and Financing Solutions while based in London, Singapore and Karachi.

Sarah has successfully delivered bespoke financing solutions (both conventional and Islamic) to clients across sectors such as power, water, oil & gas, mining, construction, transportation (i.e., shipping and aviation, including airlines, lessors, and manufacturers), demonstrating her ability to meaningfully support the sector in multiple ways.

Under Sarah’s leadership, FAB has been awarded Best Aviation Bank in Middle East-Africa by Airline Economics for 2017, 2019, and 2020, with several award winning/landmark transactions in the aviation sector underpinning this accolade.

Sarah is also the Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Lead for the FAB loans business, advising aviation and other clients on sustainable financing structures. Under Sarah’s direction, FAB has been awarded Outstanding Leadership in Sustainable Finance in the Middle East 2021 by Global Finance.

Sarah has also worked closely with European and Asian Export Credit Agencies (ECAs), having originated, led, and concluded several landmark, award winning project and export finance transactions and advisory assignments for regional and international clients across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. She also successfully set up the ECA business within FAB.

In addition to her leadership role in FAB’s Investment Bank, Sarah successfully launched and is leading GCFWomen, an initiative designed to empower female staff and provide a platform for women in FAB’s Global Corporate Finance group.

Sarah holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Institute of Business Administration Karachi (Pakistan).

Fiona Scott

Head of Human Resources, CDB Aviation

AWAR Board Member

Fiona is Head of Human Resources at CDB Aviation where she is responsible for delivering strategic HR solutions and change management initiatives; developing and aligning a HR people strategy to support the goals, values and objectives of CDB Aviation.

With a strong aviation background, Fiona spent approximately 15 years in executive search, recruitment and selection roles within the aviation industry. Initially supporting airlines across Europe, CIS and Asia with aviation recruitment requirements, she later partnered with aircraft leasing companies, private equity clients, OEMs and aviation finance institutions. Fiona has successfully led international search and recruitment campaigns across all industry functions including C-level, Marketing, Legal, Trading, Risk, Finance, Technical, and others.

Fiona was formerly a member of the AWAR Steering Committee, is a founding member of PropelHer, and is a recipient of the Airline Economics 2018 40 Under 40 Award. She regularly speaks at the Career Panel Event for the Aircraft Leasing and Financing Courses at the Law Society.

An honors graduate in International Marketing & Languages from Dublin City University, Fiona is currently completing a Master of Science degree in Talent, Leadership and HR Strategy, also at DCU.

Laura Cunningham

Partner, Aviation and Asset Finance, Arthur Cox

AWAR Board Member

Laura is a partner in the Aviation and Asset Finance Group in Arthur Cox, Dublin, Ireland where she specializes in asset and structured finance with a focus principally on aircraft finance, leasing and related tax driven structures. She represents leasing companies, lenders, equity investors and airlines in a broad range of cross-border transactions including financings, restructurings, Islamic financings, leasing, asset portfolio sale and purchase transactions and sale and leaseback transactions.

In her role as a partner in Arthur Cox she has dedicated herself to the advancement of women to positions of leadership and is a founding member of EMBRACE, the firm’s diversity and inclusion network. Laura is also a mentor as part of PropelHer’s mentoring programme, which aims to help women in the aircraft leasing industry advance their professional and personal development through connections with senior aircraft leasing professionals.

Prior to joining Arthur Cox as a partner in 2019, Laura worked internationally in aviation with Milbank, principally in their London office having also spent time in their Singapore office. Laura has also worked in Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer’s aviation and asset finance team, having begun her career training as a solicitor with Arthur Cox.

Laura graduated with a Bachelor in Corporate Law and Spanish and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the National University of Ireland, Galway. She also holds a Master of Laws in Commercial Law from the University of Cambridge. She has been admitted as a solicitor in the jurisdictions of Ireland and England and Wales.

Laura regularly lectures in the Masters in Aviation Finance program at the Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, University College of Dublin. Laura is also a contributor to the upcoming 5th edition of Aircraft Financing by Rob Murphy, published by Bloomsbury Professional in aid of Orbis.

Client feedback featured in legal directories describe Laura as “a fantastic lawyer. [Laura] commits herself to any given deal and works tirelessly until the transaction is brought to a successful close,” (Legal 500 EMEA 2020) and “Very responsive, client friendly, pragmatic, deal maker, bright, flexible and good at finding solutions,” IFLR 1000: The Guide to the World’s Leading Financial Law Firms, 2021.

ImpactfuL AWAR EVENTS

Unique opportunities for real engagement – across gender and seniority lines

AWAR events seek to educate and enlighten, providing unique opportunities for engagement with our industry colleagues. Roundtable exercises set the stage for meaningful dialogue and learning through shared experiences.