Tui UK & Ireland’s marketing and digital director Jeremy Ellis, who has spent 23 years with the business, told delegates at TTG’s Tomorrow’s Travel Leaders Conference that they can also build a successful, rewarding career within one company.
“You might think 23 years is a prison sentence but it doesn’t feel like that to me,” he said.
Ellis said he never expected to remain with the company so long - and didn’t even sign up to the pension scheme when he first joined Thomson as a graduate - but gradually realised Tui could offer him the opportunities he desired.
Ambitious young travel professionals should aim to get as much experience on “the front line” as possible, and spend time in a wide variety of roles and departments, he advised. “You need to understand the diversity of the business in order to be effective,” he explained.
Showing initiative is key in impressing prospective employers, he insisted, recalling how he had called up Thomson before his job interview to ask some questions, and by chance ended up speaking to Colin Mitchell - who would ultimately conduct his interview.
“It was fluke that I got through to Colin that day but the fact that I’d shown initiative really impressed him. To become a great leader you have to show enthusiasm and motivation.”
Aspiring leaders should also “get involved in stuff that’s about change,” he emphasised, using examples of ground-breaking projects he’d worked on at Tui such as introducing flexible-pricing for the first time in the UK, and developing the stripped-back Just brand.
Later in your career, however, it is important to be more strategic in your approach, he added. “Decide what you want to do and then make the gaps [in between] happen,” he advised.
Being a strong leader will sometimes mean having to stay true to your vision when others doubt it, he warned.
“When I was working on our Simon the Ogre campaign, I had to push something I really believed in when some of the senior team didn’t believe in it,” he recalled.
“If you genuinely believe in it, stick to your guns; that’s what leaders do. You will make mistakes, but learn from it and move on,” he added.