The important of resilience in business

The important of resilience in business

Carolyn Pearson, CEO of Maiden Voyage is my guest blogger this week. Carolyn will speak at the #WTM2015 #WomeninTravel meetup on the topic of resilience in business (‘Not for the fainthearted: entrepreneurship, resilience and the art of bouncing back’ Tuesday 3 November, 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm). Resilience is a hugely important topic in business and one that is increasingly talked about. It would seem that women entrepreneurs have a natural tendency to be resilient, which means they can think on their feet and find alternative solutions to challenges whilst remaining grounded and realistic in their approach.  Herebelow Carolyn introduces her work, company and why she thinks resilience is so important in her travel business.

I feel blessed that my passion for travel has been a common theme throughout my career.  I fell into a career in IT at an early age and little did I know that that would stand me in good stead to work wherever I wanted and earn a decent salary at the same time.

At 25 I took a year out to travel the world and used my technology skills to work as a consultant for the prison service in Brisbane Australia to develop a new prisoner information system. This funded my trip, in style and as a result I was able to tag on stints in New Zealand, Hawaii and LA.   On my return to England I was fortunate to land a role in the English Lake District, arguably one of the most beautiful regions of the British Isles.  Years later I took relocation and my dream job at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, where I was head of IT for KLM Cityhopper.  The culture at KLM was like no other I had experienced, the Dutch pride, the emotion attached the brand, the excellent people development and my own inspirational leaders made it an absolute pleasure to work there. The perks of being able to fly standby, anywhere in the world meant I could further indulge my passion for travel and I got to visit many beautiful places including ticking Alaska off my bucket list.

Most recently I was in charge of the Commercial IT Systems at easyJet, Europe’s busiest travel website and game-changer in the online travel market.  Here I had the privilege of working alongside many talented colleagues.

Given my fairly swift move up the corporate IT ladder, I was often asked to be a mentor and role model for women in technology, something that gave me huge satisfaction, not only do I love helping other women I’m passionate about showing the shortcuts in a very male dominated industry.

Back in 2007, however whilst working for ITV I took a business trip to LA.  With fond memories of my backpacking days there, I tagged on a weekend with plans to reminisce in Santa Monica and Venice Beach.  When I landed however, I found myself in a business hotel in Downtown LA and whilst I enjoyed my own company immensely during the days, the nights were quite frankly – very boring.  I was desperate to get out and see the city, try the latest bars and restaurants. I think it’s a travesty when one visits an exciting city, seeing little other than the four walls of a hotel room.  We miss out on such rich, cultural experiences.  It was at that point I decided to create a network through which women could connect and have dinner or do some other fun activity in like-minded company.

Two years ago I waved goodbye to corporate life and now work full time on – the name I gave to the network to depict both women and travel.   To say the press have been supportive is an understatement and I owe huge thanks to the likes of CNN, BBC WorldService, the New York Times,  Caterer, The Business Travel Magazine and many many more, for constantly giving Maiden Voyage ‘airtime’.  As a result, our membership spans the globe, with members in over 70 countries.  Members can use Maiden Voyage  to expand their professional networks when travelling, they can connect up with local ambassadors prior to their trips for top tips and to learn about the local business etiquette and dress codes and they can also find ‘Female Friendly Hotels’ those that have been physically vetted by us for safety and all those little extra’s that women travellers appreciate, including a decent hairdryer that you can actually reach when in front of a mirror!  But we’ve moved way beyond my original plans, which at the time were never meant to be a business.  Nowadays we are known for our intelligence and research into the female traveller market.  We have a certification and training programme for hotels specialising in Female Guest Excellence and work with some of the most well-known hotels around the world, including the prestigious New York Plaza.

We’ve also moved into the corporate travel market with a range of corporate solutions and are used by women in some of the worlds biggest multi-national organisations.  We have recently developed our Female Business Traveller Safety Programme.  This launched on the back of research we did into female traveller safety issues for the Duty of Care Conference and has been a year in the making.  We’ve consulted experts all the way including women security specialists, travel risk organisations, the Met Police, British Transport Police, and the Foreign Office and many more experts as I wanted to make sure we had a credible and trustworthy product.

I have to pinch myself when I look at what has become not only a global business but every day I get to work with my three passions:

  1. Helping women
  2. Travel
  3. Technology

Confucius said that if you do something you love you will never work a day in your life and I used to glibly repeat his words, until I launched my own business. That’s why I am delighted to be bearing my soul with Alessandra, talking about resilience at World Travel Market.

In my former life I completed an MBA with distinction, moved house, job and country in a heartbeat with barely a sleepless night, but launching a business is different or at least it was for me.  Moving away from the security of a steady salary, perks and colleagues is only half the story. As an IT’er I had never had to sell, except for charming the odd Finance Director to sign-off a technology investment and I was oblivious to responsibilities and legalities that come with running a business.   A typical week for me includes sales, marketing, finance, IT, strategic partnerships, VAT, legal, staff, product development, PR, writing and usually with a good amount of travel in the mix.  Now sleepless nights are the norm and I’ve been to the edge and back of self doubt, emotional and physical turmoil.  I may well be doing something I love, that I could never contemplate failing at, but I have to inform Confucius that I pretty much do work every day of my life.  I’ve developed my own resilience enhancing programme which I affectionately call “Holistic Bingo’ – it keeps me sane.  I look forward to sharing this with you at WTM.

In the meantime, I invite you to join us on and connect with other amazing women whilst you travel and never again have to suffer  the humdrum of ‘dinner for one’.

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Alessandra is founder of social enterprise Women in Travel CIC which she launched in January 2017 to provide communities in key regions (for example UK, Middle East, Africa and Latin America) with a sustainable livelihood by enabling women to become economically independent through entrepreneurship and a thriving career in the travel and tourism industry. Alessandra is also Chief Mentor & Consultant at Everyday Mentor, where she provides mentoring, coaching and consulting services to a range of clients in the commercial and public sector. Alessandra also collaborates with a number of Universities, including Hertfordshire, Normandy and Surrey. Alessandra is passionate about gender in tourism and has written and spoken extensively on the subject over the last 12 years, including at the United Nations World Tourism Day. She is well known as co-founder of Shine People and Places – a boutique outfit dedicate to supporting women in the workplace - and The Shine Awards for Women Achievements in Travel Tourism Hospitality and Events, which she ran between 2004 and 2010 before Sector Skills Council People 1st took them over. Prior to Shine Alessandra worked at KPMG, where she built the Travel & Tourism division, and the World Travel and Tourism Council. Alessandra has an executive MBA from the University of Ediburgh/Grande Ecole Pons combined; she is a qualified coach/mentor for performance in the workplace and she is a member of several industry bodies including AWTE and the UK Tourism Society.

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