Meetings & Events UK – Business Leader, FCM
What did you enjoy studying in school and what does that mean for you now?
My favourite subjects were pretty diverse - geography, biology and art were the stand outs! I liked having a good mix of creativity at school, whilst also enjoying developing a more detailed understanding of the world, it's people and places, and the science behind how people, animals and our environment came to be as they are today!
What’s your career trajectory – have you always been in travel?
After studying anthropology at university and taking a year off to travel (with some waitressing and bar jobs in between!), I was eager to get into the world of work - I was looking for a fast paced work environment, where I could learn on the job. I wasn't too sure of my plans long term, so I decided on a London-based estate agency, and ended up staying there for three years.
I learnt a lot about working with people, how to have a hard conversation or two, but something was missing. Variety! I heard through a friend of a friend (who is now a friend and colleague) that Flight Centre Travel Group offered variety and opportunity in bucket loads, so took the leap and joined Corporate Traveller as a Business Development Manager.
Since joining Flight Centre three and a half years ago, I have experienced three very different roles –
- Sales and understanding our customers' needs
- Supporting our global executives and being a part of Flight Centre Corporate's Strategy
- Now growing the Meetings & Events business
What was your first impression of FCM and how do you feel now?
My first impression of FCM was how customer centric we are as a business. That first impression was right - we know travel inside and out and we value working alongside our customers to ensure our travel (and Meetings and Events) solutions fit their businesses. We don't have a 'one size fits all' approach!
What do you consider your greatest career achievements?
Being given the opportunity to grow and develop an M&E business and team that loves working together and problem solving for our customers is high up on the list. We’ve only 'scratched the surface' when it comes to the bigger picture and building out our offering!
What do you think is your most important lessons learned?
A long term strategy and goals are key to work towards, but really it's the smaller plans and objectives that are part of the long term strategy that matter the most. Small steps, small wins enable the big wins.
Team work is gold - we are lucky that Flight Centre has a brilliant culture (and brilliant people). Our people continually go above and beyond, lending a hand and their expertise wherever possible.
What do you think it means to be a woman in a senior leadership position?
To me, it means to try and be a 'role model' for my team, celebrating and using their strengths, whilst helping them develop their weaknesses, as I develop my own. I definitely haven't got it all worked out, but I emphasise the importance of team work, open, honest and safe communication and the role that these elements play in personal development, and the success of our business.
What do you think of the opportunities available for women at FCM and the corporate travel industry?
Speaking specifically to FCTG/FCM, we have a lot of women in leadership positions and are focused on retaining talent. The move towards more flexible working has definitely been welcomed and provides more accessibility for women returning to work after having children, but I would like to see more diversity in C-suite positions.
Solid industry data on the percentage of women in C-suite/board level positions is hard to come by but there is an increasing focus on diversity and inclusion in the industry, and there are several organisations that are dedicated to promoting women's advancement in the corporate travel industry, such as the Association of Women Travel Executives (AWTE).
As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?
Speaking honestly and as a 'young' leader, it's a barrier I feel I put on myself, and that's lack of confidence and self-doubt. I'm sure other women can relate to this one, but I have been my own 'worst critic' and haven't always been able to see leadership qualities that others have seen in me. It's one I've worked VERY hard on, and I'm lucky to have been given an opportunity to prove myself wrong.
How should women support other women in their organisations?
Mentorship provides a great opportunity to support other women. I think a lot of women have concerns around taking time off in the future to have children, and how that might affect their career trajectory. Having a female mentor that might have gone through a similar situation provides reassurance and advice.
Another way we can support other women in our organisations is by celebrating each other's accomplishments and encouraging women to 'go for it'. Lastly, ensuring women's ideas are heard is important - this can be supported by providing opportunities for others to 'take the floor'.
Do or did you have a woman leader as a mentor or are there specific women who inspired you and why?
I am lucky to have Alison Zacher, (Senior Vice President, Strategy Execution, FCTG Corporate) as a mentor. Ali is an experienced senior executive - alongside sharing her wealth of industry knowledge and leadership tips, she has encouraged me to put myself forwards for roles which I felt were 'out of my reach'.