Career in focus: Vanessa Budah
Vanessa Budah, Head of PR, The Travel Corporation
1. What does your role involve and how long have you been in your current position?
I’m the Head of PR for The Travel Corporation (TTC) and have been in the role for 11 months. I manage a team of three and look after 15 travel brands in Australia including AAT Kings, Adventure World, Busabout, Contiki, Insight Vacations, Inspiring Journeys, Luxury Gold, Trafalgar, Uniworld, U by Uniworld, Red Carnation Hotels, and our sustainability foundation, TreadRight. I work closely with the MDs, marketing and various stakeholders to ensure our brands make a positive impact with trade and consumers.
2. How did you start out in your career? Were you always destined to work in the travel industry?
I was an associate producer for Olympics.com during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, after this experience I realised I had a knack for writing, event management and networking — I then switched my studies from Bachelor of Multimedia to focus on Public Relations and then later secured a job at Channel Nine, before eventually going out on my own. Over the years I launched big brands such as Under Armour and GoPro. GoPro enabled me to make a segue into travel media as I was training them on how to capture content and edit videos.
Working for TTC is my first introduction into the travel industry, having said that, many moons ago when I was at university I took a gap year and did ‘Work Experience USA’ which enabled me to work in the USA on a J1 visa — that’s when I caught the travel bug and realised how much of a better human I had become through my travels across the US and then later the UK, Europe and Asia. I was so inspired, I felt the responsibility to tell everyone they must travel and live life. So I took it upon myself to give presentations at numerous universities on the benefits, and then volunteer my time at STA Travel and sign up students for a J1 visa. For years I wondered why I didn’t enter the travel industry, so the fact I found my way from volunteering at STA to eventually my position at TTC, I did a complete circle, I guess you could say I found my way and was ‘destined’ for travel.
3. Did you complete formal qualifications, and do you think they are important?
I studied Business and Public Relations at RMIT University in Melbourne. Formal qualifications are needed to get a foot in the door from a junior level, but ultimately it’s a candidate’s practical skills, attitude and contacts that work in your favour to help progress your career. After all, PR is not only about what you know, but who you know.
4. What do you love about your job?
I’m fortunate that I enjoy going to work, engaging with my team, and working with the brains behind the outstanding family of brands. It goes without saying, I love that I have the opportunity to travel for work! In my first few months I booked a trip to Europe to experience the brands like a guest — In three weeks I covered 11 cities and four different TTC guided holiday brands — It really made the difference as I was able to speak from the heart and developed an appreciation from an operations standpoint — so much work goes into these trips behind the scenes, but to the guest it’s a seamless experience and service.
5. Did you have a mentor, and if so, how did you find them?
I haven’t had a mentor as such, but I’ve always had someone I looked up to throughout my career, whether it be a boss, senior colleague or a friend I admire. It’s not so much I go looking for them, it’s rather, I know what I need to grow and develop so I’m aware of the traits that I can learn from. Being new to the travel industry, I’m fortunate to have such an inspiring team to work alongside such as John Veitch (CEO, TTC Australia) and the MDs and heads of marketing. I’m like a sponge taking in as much as I can about the travel industry and really respect their knowledge and experience.
6. What are the keys to good business?
Support, trust, drive, strong leadership, a good strategy, appreciation of your team (you’re only as good as your team!) and open communication in all your dealings.
7. What advice would you give to others in the industry who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Stay focussed on your goals – sometimes you need to be bold and go for what you want, other times you need to have an open mind and be aware of opportunities that may present themselves. And read the trade publications to keep on top of what is going on in travel, this is especially important to those that may be new to the industry!