In our exclusive collection, we chat to Sultanate of Oman Tourism’s country manager, Australia & New Zealand about evolution, her giant family and holding her own in a ‘man’s world.’
Can you tell us a little about your career progression?
My start in the travel industry commenced in August 2004, after being a fulltime carer for my dad, when I was offered a job selling travel to travel agents which I laughed at. I mean, I had no experience in the industry, merely a solid track record in sales and that’s what the company needed.
I didn’t know the difference between a GDS or a CRM or any of the lingo but the opportunity came to learn and I grabbed it. I was in the role for 18 months when another career change presented itself in 2006 – working for Oman Tourism. I knew that was a sign that I had found my path in this industry.
After 10 years, I still love what I do and that’s telling the story of an incredible land. I feel it even more so now that I get to share my own experiences with consumers and travel agents who want to delve deeper into the country and truly explore it.
What would you say is your defining career achievement or the thing you are most proud of?
Winning the 2012 Best International Tourism Board honour at the NTIAs – we had one fulltime staff member (me) and only a part time PR person who worked two days a week.
Being nominated by Emma Isaacs (founder of Business Chicks) for the 2014 Telstra Businesswomen of the Year Awards was also sublime.
Lastly, being headhunted to be 2IC to the global head of one of the biggest international tourism boards was also overwhelming.
What have been the biggest challenges to success you’ve encountered professionally?
Holding my own in a “man’s” world – two previous careers were in the arena of Foreign Exchange and International Money markets and also Freight Forwarding/Logistics – which are two very male dominated industries where you traditionally worked your way to the top.
I was very naïve and saw myself through ethnic immigrant where sheer hard work gets you places, so the name-calling and innuendo was spiteful and hurtful.
But I had an incredible mentor who basically kept saying that “nobody can dim your light without your permission” and that has been the most powerful statement that I still live by.
I didn’t go to university and have no formal qualifications in what I do. Some companies see that as a negative, but to me being street smart and attuned to life is the better than a degree from the finest university in this world.
With the benefit of wisdom, what advice would you give your 21 y/o self when you were starting out in your career?
How you feel right now won’t matter in one, two or three months let alone years. Life is an evolution and we as individuals have to learn to evolve with circumstances beyond our control. Let things go and back yourself. I would also give myself permission to make mistakes.
How would you describe your business/management style? What sort of things are most important to you professionally?
Empowerment is the greatest tool I have given myself and therefore other people as well as creating a work environment that encourages people to step up and speak up.
We spend so much time at work that if the environment is not conducive to allowing people to speak their mind then that causes dissent and negativity. A key is to listen to understand rather than listening to respond and giving people the opportunity to voice their concerns and ideas is paramount to me.
It’s also about challenging myself and pushing my own boundaries personally that allow me to grow professionally – because one is the hand, the other is the glove.
Who are the people you admire most professionally or in any field/walk of life?
Authors Caroline Myss and Marianne Williamson; two incredible women whose books have impacted my life in ways words can’t express.
The poem “A Return to Love” is permanently stuck on my desk. Her book “A Woman’s Worth” by Marianne Williamson is a mantra for each and every woman. Caroline Myss is one of this world’s greatest teachers – she spiritually challenging and has taught me to walk my path with gratitude and with grace.
What do you do to unwind when you aren’t working? What is most important to you outside the office?
I love cooking and get so much joy from having my whole family – four sisters, nine nieces and nephews – come together for a meal.
My personal time is my time and often just sitting in silence, meditating and being present gives me so much joy rather than being the social butterfly that some people perceive me to be.
For you, what’s the best aspect of working in the travel industry?
We work in a dynamic, ever-changing industry that is laden with opportunities and possibilities. It’s Inspirational and aspirational which most industries aren’t. The long-term business partnerships that are formed and the friends that you meet along the journey are so important as well. You never know how they may impact your life later on, you just know they do.
What one thing gets you through a stressful day?
Meditating or taking time out to just sit in silence for a minute or 10 is vital for me. You can easily lose yourself and taking time out to nurture yourself is so critical. Dancing around like a crazy aunt with my nieces and nephews is also awesome and so grounding.
You can see the other ladies from our exclusive Women in Travel series here: