Career in focus Bridie Commerford
Bridie Commerford, Vice President Marketing & Communications Australia, AccorHotels
1. What does your role involve and how long have you been in your current position?
I manage marketing, communications, social media and guest experience for AccorHotels in Australia. My team set the direction and assist the hotels to implement our key projects across 13 brands from luxury to economy. We also manage the PR and communications for AccorHotels corporate team, hotel openings, key events and new product initiatives. I’ve been in my role for four years (including a year on maternity leave).
2. How did you start out in your career? Were you always destined to work in the travel industry?
I started in marketing for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), then moved to fast food and advertising. I have always had a love of travel — hotels in particular. I was always researching the hotels we were going to stay in before I booked flights, so in a way, I suppose I was destined to be in hospitality.
3. Did you complete formal qualifications, and do you think they are important?
I have an undergraduate degree. I think it depends on your role whether a degree is important. I have seen it benefit people, giving them the theory from which to base their work. However there is no substitute for experience, so I would encourage any ambitious individual to seek experiences that develop them professionally.
4. What do you love about your job?
My team. They are incredibly passionate and I have complete faith that they not only strive to do their best every day, but that they bring their best selves to work.
I also love that no two days are the same. We might be thinking about how to optimise guest experience for a hotel (or the group) in the morning, working on our luxury portfolio and PR plans at lunchtime and speaking to a guest or working on the latest advertising concept in the afternoon.
5. What are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your career?
Juggling parenthood with the demands of the role. I’m not sure I have the answer yet, but I’m working on it.
6. What factors were central to your success?
The courage to try different industries and to step well outside my comfort zone. Also the training in FMCG provides a great commercial grounding. Ultimately what we try to do every day is deliver commercial results to our hotels and owners.
7. Did you have a mentor, and if so, how did you find them?
I have a few people who I strive to emulate across different areas as I’ve seen them do wonderful things in very different organisations. There are also a few who I’ve tried not to emulate!
8. What are the keys to good business?
Understand other people’s objectives and needs, know how to drive commercial outcomes, take calculated risks, be good to people.
9. What advice would you give to others in the industry who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Find an organisation whose values align with your own. Use any missteps along the way as a learning experience. If you don’t fail sometimes, you’re not trying hard enough.