LATTE chats with Rose Thomson, Chief HR Manager, Travelport, a travel commerce platform providing distribution, technology, payment and other solutions for the travel and tourism industry.
1. Tell us about your career progression. How has it led to your current role as Chief HR Manager at Travelport?
My career has predominantly been with very large multinationals – IBM, The Walt Disney Company, The Coca-Cola Company and most recently Barclays Bank. I didn’t get into HR until after I had been working for about 8 years, so having had line management roles and experience in the pointy end of the business has been important in my HR career success. I have always put my hand up for greater responsibility, even when it meant doing something I have not done before. Like everyone, I have had many lessons (both good and bad) in each role I have held, and have tried hard to learn from them all. In my new role, understanding the commercial context, the organisational context and the external context of the organisation is critical for success.
2. Which achievement at Travelport are you most proud of?
I was only recently appointed to my role at Travelport, in November last year, but we have a People Strategy that has been endorsed by the Board of Directors and the Leadership Team. We have a plan for 2017, and I am getting out and about and trying to visit as many as our offices as possible. I am doing a lot of listening and learning and I am asking lots questions.
3. Tell us about the people who have inspired and/or challenged you.
My mum was a huge inspiration to me. She was always a full-time working mum, when that was quite unusual, and she was incredibly strong. We never felt she wasn’t there for us; just the opposite in fact. She just kept going, regardless of the circumstances. She worked until she was 74 years old. My other inspirations include Christine Nixon, who was the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police who I admired from afar in a really tough job when I was starting out in my career; Carol Wainaina who is the Assistant Secretary General for HR at the UN who really encapsulated what being human, in human resources, was all about and my friend Rachel, who has faced life’s worst moments and turned them into positive drive. I’ve also been challenged by many but that’s part of the job and part of the learning.
4. How would you describe your management style? What do you value professionally?
I am open, direct, and enjoy a good laugh – you can manage serious things without losing your personality. I value integrity, honesty and fairness above all things. I once sat on the floor and stuffed envelopes with the team during a restructure. I had no idea the positive impact that had on the team, that I wasn’t above doing what I was asking them to do. It became folklore and every time I think of that story I am reminded that as senior leaders we often forget the size of the impact of our actions and behaviours.
5. How has Travelport seen the travel industry change? What do you do to stay ahead of these changes?
The travel and tourism industry continues to grow. In 2015 the industry generated US$7.2 trillion and its growth of 3.1% was faster than the wider economy (Source: WTTC). The traveller now has a plethora of options these days, and are always looking for value. While our products don’t always get seen by the end user, as we are a B2B company, what we do impacts our customers’ customers. Whether it is a mobile or digital offering, developing easy booking tools, or additions to a booking (upgrade, baggage or a hotel room) or new corporate travel solutions that make it easier for the corporate traveller, or simply delivering information to our customers quickly and reliably. Understanding what our customers need to make their customers happy is essential for our long term growth and staying ahead.
6. Tell us about Travelport’s presence in Australia. What do you hope the next five years hold for you?
For Travelport, Australia is a market with a lot of opportunity. We are dedicated and focused on creating value for all our customers, by helping them grow their businesses. We have a stable of great products, compelling vision for the future and a belief in real partnerships with our suppliers and customers. Our commitment to innovation is reflected in our investment in digital assets such as Travelport Digital, our mobile proposition; and Travelport Locomote, our Corporate Travel Management and Travel Commerce offering. Our Beyond Air solution, eNett, continues to enjoy significant growth in the travel payments space.
7. Where is your favourite place to go for a personal holiday? Where in the world would you still like to go?
I have a great passion for skiing, so any mountain location is high on my list. I grew up on the beaches of Sydney, so love beach holidays too and I have recently fallen in love with Barbados. I harbour ambitions to tour Japan, Alaska and the Outer Hebrides.
8. How has being an Australian living and working across Asia Pacific, the USA, Europe and now the UK influenced the way you see the world?
Australians are usually regarded well in other countries and my variety of experience helps me in building relationships quickly. Australians are also great explorers and I am no different. I am curious about culture – both the differences and similarities. I love food and drink – so I always start there and that, without fail, brings people together! I remember once being at a meeting in Baltimore USA with American and Japanese colleagues. Upon being introduced to them, I spoke to them in Japanese (well what I knew – hello, how are you, thank you and goodbye) but the Americans thought I was amazing!
9. What does luxury mean to you?
I have no single definition of luxury, it means many things to me – from a simple day at home pottering around the house, through to lying on a white sandy beach watching the waves, to watching the snow fall on the top of a mountain. The common thread is that it always involves family, friends and good food.
10. What’s the best coffee experience you’ve ever had?
My husband is a trained barista and my Sunday morning coffee at home with my family is always the best of the week.