'I like looking for the story behind the figures'.

Michelle is the first person to see the quarterly figures for Air France-KLM Group. From her office in Paris, she receives information from various divisions and presents the figures to the CFO and Group Controller. She would not have thought possible four years ago, that she would end up here.   Since she joined KLM as a Finance Trainee, her career has taken off. 'I thought, I’ll just try it, and it turned out to be a good match,' she says - laughing - about her choice of the Finance Traineeship at KLM.

Coming home to travel

'Travelling has always been my passion - and not just because of the destination, but also because of the flying itself. For instance, after my exchange, I flew back from New Zealand via Kuala Lumpur and boarded a KLM plane: friendly flight attendants welcomed me and I immediately felt at home again. What I didn't know then is that this feeling of coming home also fits in to the corporate culture. Everyone has a unique, personal reason for working here. In retrospect, my choice of KLM is also logical one: I used to look up whenever a plane flew over and fantasise about exotic destinations - and I still do now!'

Difference is allowed

'With my understanding of numbers, I was well placed to study Accountancy & Control. But an accountant mainly looks at the past - and after an internship at EY and PWC I realised that I am fascinated by what the figures mean and how you can use them to develop new business perspectives. With this in mind, I applied for the Finance Traineeship. During the assessment I discovered that I didn't have to fit into a mould - KLM is actually interested in colleagues with different backgrounds. Because of that palette of perspectives and experiences, we make better decisions and work together more enjoyably.'


Boundlessly authentic

‘As a trainee, you are trained for a management position and that happens gradually. You get a mentor with whom you can discuss everything, so you keep developing yourself. That suits me, because in everything I do I am curious about how I can further challenge myself.  For example, I learned that if I allow myself to be vulnerable, colleagues feel safe to be themselves and share their ideas. That trust is important to me, because then I can ask critical questions and come up with practical solutions. And when we achieve a top result, then we celebrate it together!'

Deals of vital importance

'My first position as a trainee was within the cargo division, in the Management Team of the Benelux region. Besides people and luggage, aircraft also carry vegetables, medicines and cars, for example. They even fly live animals. When I visited the animal hotel in my first month, the staff were just preparing two gorillas for their trip to Taiwan. And of course, you don't see that every day!'

'From day one, my colleagues welcomed my input and critical fresh perspective. Because of COVID-19, the world came to a rapid standstill, but at the cargo department, the demand for medical relief goods increased enormously. Together with other multinationals and the Dutch government, we set up an airlift to transport life-saving supplies to China in time. And that's where I got to do my bit. In fact, I helped think about how to set that up financially, so that all parties would honour the deal.'

Your own journey

‘The coffee is always ready here and everyone talks enthusiastically about the work in their department. As a result, you find out during your Traineeship how many opportunities there are. You might start at the passenger branch, and then do an assignment at Network - where they decide on our destinations. Your third stop might then be in the maintenance division, for example. And perhaps you'll finish at Corporate Control, Internal Audit or Treasury after that. It's your journey, and you have a lot of influence on where you go. Besides your substantive project, you and other trainees follow a personal development programme with an external agency. In this you discover your motives and develop other skills - such as communicating in a connecting way, practising practical situations with an actor.’

Room for your future

 'When I started, the Traineeship still lasted four years, and we rotated after two years. I asked KLM if I could do the second half of my Traineeship abroad. A few days later, I was asked if Paris was far enough! Not much later, I was walking through Le Marais to pick out my flat. Now I cycle through the French capital to the office every day - past Notre-Dame and with the Eiffel Tower  in the background.'

'I still like to fly, but I'm also aware of the environmental impact. So if I have to return to the Netherlands for a business trip, I just take the train. Because when it comes to the transition to sustainability, my eyes are also on the future!'