Career Curveballs: Changing Career Paths At 37 via LinkedIn

Posted on 04-23-2014 by
Tags: career setbacks , change , career advancement , Upgrading Your Skills , career management

Tony Fernandes, Group CEO at AirAsia, tells his story about changing career paths at the age of 37. This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers share how they turned setbacks into success. Read all their stories.

Music has always been a big part of my life, even from an early age. My mother was a music teacher so there was always music in the house. She would compose songs and I'd sit next to her on a Yellow Pages phone book and play the piano while she sang. She also often played host to visiting acts like The Platters, Ray Charles and The Ink Spots, and I was lucky to have spent my childhood around such great musicians. Seeing them around the house while growing up taught me two things. First, a love for music.

It was this passion that prompted me to join the music business soon after university, finding work at Richard Branson’s Virgin Records in London. The love affair continued after I returned to Malaysia, where I joined Warner Music, at that time a subsidiary of Warner Communications. What’s not to like about the music business? It’s exciting, you get to see amazing talent every day and there’s nothing like landing a big signing. I thought I would do it forever.

But life had other plans for me. In 2000, Time Warner and AOL announced that they were merging in what remains the biggest ever deal in the US. Everyone said it was new media’s coming of age. They believed the Internet would destroy traditional media and that this was the best way forward for Time Warner. I was not convinced at all and was dead set against the merger. But it was going to happen one way or another so I exercised my stock options and left.

It was the right move. The merger was a disaster – the dot-com bust wiped out more than US$100 billion in shareholder value – and has been called the worst mistake in corporate history. Of course, none of this changed the fact that I was now out of a job. Not quite where I had imagined I would be at 37.

By chance, I was travelling from New York to London when I saw an interview with EasyJet’s Stelios. As a boy, I’d wanted to own an airline but I was blown away by the low-cost concept. On landing, I went straight to Luton airport and spent the whole day there. It was fascinating to see how people were flying to Barcelona for eight pounds or to Paris for four pounds. I thought to myself, I have to bring this back to Malaysia. Of course, everyone said I was crazy.

But then I remembered the second lesson I learned from seeing my mother talk famous musicians into spending time with us: Anything is possible.

Armed with this conviction, I mortgaged my house and bought over a loss-making airline with my partner Datuk Kamaruddin. And the rest, I guess, is history.

Everyone has experienced a career setback. What was yours and how did you overcome the challenge? 


Posted on : 30 Apr 2014 3:50 PM

Careers can have lots of setbacks. Never give up.

Posted on : 25 Jun 2015 11:01 AM

Everyone faces challenges. But sticking to the path and finding a way to conquer in the challenge, only provides great success stories. I am sure it must not have been easy for Mr.Tony too. But he fought the challenge and came out victorious.

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