Tourism

Women in Travel: Kaylene Shuttlewood

We talk to Travelport’s General Manager, Pacific, about hitting the pool, collaboration and moving up the ranks.

Can you tell us a little about your career progression? How did you get your start in the travel industry?

I’ve been in the travel industry for over 25 years with various roles based in Australia, the UK and the USA. I started my travel career at Concorde Travel (now known as Air Tickets) in Brisbane as a ticketer and progressed through the ranks from there.  

It was a great time to start out in travel, and we had a lot of fun in the work environment. I’ve remained firm friends with a number of people I worked with in those early years, most of which have remained in the industry and are now holding senior roles. It’s great to see your good friends succeed.

My willingness to move and relocate has definitely helped me to progress my career. Whilst I went into new roles, cities and countries with a bit of trepidation, I always had the mindset that I was going to give it my best shot.

The learning curve was usually rather steep, however hard work ensured and the results were very satisfying. When I reflect on the roles I’ve had, I would like to think that I left the business in a better state than when I started.

My international experience and my ability to understand the travel distribution system in the UK and the US, were key factors in securing my role at Travelport. I joined Travelport in November last year as General Manager – Pacific.

I oversee Travelport’s commercial operations and drive business growth across Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and PNG. I sit on the Asia Pacific Management Team – it’s an exciting time to be involved in APAC with the rapid growth that’s underway.

What would you say is your defining career achievement or the thing you are most proud of?

During my second tour of duty in London as Director Air Product at Stella Travel UK, myself, along with a dedicated team, led the successful turnaround of several businesses including, Travel 2, Travelbag and Global Travel Group.  

I’ve found that facing challenges in business tends to sharpen the mind and make you focus on prioritising what’s really important.  While this was a particularly challenging project, with many tough decisions made, I’m proud of the results that we achieved and I’m pleased that I had the opportunity to experience as much as I did during that time.

What have been the biggest challenges to success you’ve encountered professionally?

Ignoring people telling me “that’s the way we’ve always done things”. I really despise that statement and my teams know never to use those words. If you have an idea really pressure test it, model and plan it out – talk to people about it.  Collaborate with subject matter experts, look at other markets for guidance.

Try something; give it a go. Better to have given it a shot, than sit and do nothing and die wondering.

Most recently, the greatest challenge that I’ve faced working in the travel technology sector is encouraging agents to embrace, adapt and evolve to the changing technology landscape.

While it can be difficult to modify the way you work, technology provides greater opportunities for efficiency and increased productivity. It also allows us to increase that level of personalisation for a customer, that ultimately keeps them coming back for more.

KAYLENE SHUTTLEWOOD3

With the benefit of wisdom, what advice would you give your 21 y/o self when you were starting out in your career?

To value your own personal reputation and continually develop a strong personal brand. It’s important to consider what you want to leave behind and what your legacy will be. 

Across all of the various roles I have enjoyed over my career, I have always been approached through contacts.

I have also grown to understand the importance of having a mentor – someone to ask questions, to assist me when the going gets tough or you’re at a crossroads. Mentors offer insight and knowledge into our industry, introduce you to a wider network of contacts, provide an alternate perspective and offer the benefit of vision and long-term thinking.

Within a professional context, a mentor can really help to ensure you are always focused and have the support you need.

How would you describe your business/management style? What sorts of things are most important to you professionally?

One of the most important aspects of my role is to build relationships.  Strong customer and staff relationships are key to any good business. In addition, it’s sometimes forgotten that our employees produce some of the best business ideas.

By presenting them with the tools, techniques and opportunities to be productive, creative and efficient, your staff can and should be your greatest asset. I’ve been very impressed at the high calibre of our Travelport team and their level of professionalism.

It’s imperative to follow up, even if you don’t have the answer just continue the dialogue and communicate. I also dislike the overuse of email, we are all guilty of it. Generally, you can’t beat a good conversation, whether it is face to face or over the phone.  Listen, collaborate, communicate and then get on with it.

Who are the people you admire most professionally or in any field/walk of life?

I admire many figures in the travel industry, particularly those who have pioneered change. It’s great to see some talented women taking senior roles.

Whilst business is important to the economics of the world – it’s not like you are saving a life. I admire surgeons and talented medical professionals who are truly making a difference.  Anyone who saves a life through medical advancement is pretty amazing. This rules me out, as I don’t like the sight of blood.

KAYLENE SHUTTLEWOOD

What do you do to unwind when you aren’t working? What is most important to you outside the office?

I enjoy travelling.  My ideal holiday destination is warm and sunny with a good beach, with a chance to relax with friends and family. I would like to add going to the gym – my gym gear is very well travelled but, unfortunately, many times it doesn’t leave the suitcase.

For you, what’s the best aspect of working in the travel industry?

The best thing is the entrepreneurial people that I meet and their willingness to do business in a creative manner. The chance the industry provides to work across multiple markets, helps me to broaden my outlook. The blend of many cultures and how to adapt to each environment to make sure you are able to get the best out of each opportunity. 

Having been given the task of managing a Region for a global company, I have a responsibility to grow and develop my team so that they can reach their aspirations. It’s fulfilling to see your team do well and to play a small part in shaping their careers.

What one thing gets you through a stressful day?

Walking the floor, talking to our staff.  We have over 150 talented people in the Travelport Sydney office, all working on really exciting projects. Its’ a great chance to talk to them and find out what’s going on – what’s the latest development, where did that innovation come from, how long until we can take it to market and which of our customers will utilise this new product to grow their business.

I try to keep in mind that there is more to life than work, and my need to balance the two together.  Hitting the pool to churn out a few laps also helps clear my mind.

You can see the other ladies from our exclusive Women in Travel series here:

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