We chat to Tourism & Transport Forum Australia’s chief executive officer about saying yes to tough jobs and having a life outside of the office.
Can you tell us a little about your career progression?
I was an advisor to several NSW Government Ministers who had responsibility for a range of portfolios including regional development and business and then I moved on to the State Chamber of Commerce in New South Wales.
Ultimately I became CEO of the Chamber and as an organisation we had a very strong emphasis on the tourism. With over 170 regional Chambers of Commerce I spent a great deal of time outside of Sydney getting ‘up close’ with regional communities and tourism operators.
I was also a member of the Major Events Board in New South Wales and led the successful bid for the International World Masters Games to be held in Australia. I then went on to Chair the Organising Committee for this global event which Sydney held in 2009.
This event brought over 10,000 international visitors to Sydney and 20,000 locals took part in the Games. I was also on the NSW Tourism Board and very much enjoyed my time with a great group of people.
As the new CEO of the Australian National Retailers Association I had the opportunity to establish and grow the new organisation and change the economic messaging and profile of the industry. Over the eight years in that role I literally became Mrs Christmas doing a lot of media every year on the joys of Christmas shopping and how much we were all spending over the holiday season.
I started at TTF in October 2014 and my first year has just whizzed by at a blinding rate.
What would you say is your defining career achievement or the thing you are most proud of?
The thing I am proudest of is that as I have moved roles I have stayed connected to a great alumni of former staff who I still see as often as possible and in some cases, mentor – this is really satisfying to me.
On a more public level, standing on a stage at the Olympic Stadium and being responsible for welcoming 31,000 Masters athletes to Sydney in 2009 with so many of them from overseas and seeing Australia for the first time – now that was a thrill.
What have been the biggest challenges to success you’ve encountered professionally?
Finding enough hours in the day would be top of my list.
With the benefit of wisdom, what advice would you give your 21 year old self when you were starting out in your career?
Eat less carbs and always say yes if you are offered a tough job. Seriously, it is the jobs that might be a bit beyond you that I think deliver the best experience and stretch you to have a go. Stepping outside your comfort zone willingly is really important.
The other message I would have given myself as a younger manager is that very few people situations are black and white and sometimes you have to take a deep breath and ask yourself, ‘am I hearing all sides of the situation?’
How would you describe your business/management style? What sort of things are most important to you professionally?
I am pretty relaxed and like to empower the people around me to make decisions and get on with the job. You have to give people space to make mistakes and learn to manage independently. My only non-negotiable is not pulling your weight as part of a team.
You also need a life outside the office that puts you and your work into perspective, so volunteering or helping out charities or the arts gives your day job a different flavour and I think enhances your capacity to innovate.
Who are the people you admire most professionally or in any field/walk of life?
Since coming into this job I have met so many extraordinary CEOs the list is just too long.
What do you do to unwind when you aren’t working? What is most important to you outside the office?
I collect vintage kimonos which I buy from Japan. And every day in made happier and better by spending time with my two dogs, Nellie and Rosie – it does not matter how difficult a day is, all that unconditional affection puts the day into perspective.
For you, what’s the best thing about working in the travel industry?
The energy of the travel industry and the capacity of the sector to keep on delivering for the Australian economy is a real positive and seriously presses my buttons! With a new Prime Minister and effectively a new Government team, there seems to be a greater interest in the tourism sector and this means some exciting times ahead.
What one thing gets you through a stressful day?
I drink gallons of black Russian Caravan tea and too many jelly snakes.
You can see the other ladies from our exclusive Women in Travel series here: