Career in focus

CAMERON Neill

Trade Relations Manager,

Bench Africa

1. What does your role involve and how long have you been in your current position?

I essentially create materials and new programs for our BDM’s and travel agent partners to use, anything from basic marketing materials to fleshed out virtual reality videos, whatever I can conjure up. I’d say the position is half creative director, half sales manager. I’ve been with Bench Africa for close to six years but this position was only just created to better service our travel agents and make sure they had what they needed to grow their Africa business with an eye to the future.

2. How did you start out in your career? Were you always destined to work in the travel industry?

I have a mishmash of various experiences and qualifications that I picked up around the world during my eight years of travel. This knowledge and experience suits the travel industry more than any other as they actually count being a randomly skilled nomad as an asset! Back in Australia I started in this industry as a travel agent before moving onto being a BDM and now this.

3. Did you complete formal qualifications, and do you think they are important?

I did, but not in this area. I have a degree in theatre performance. Formal qualifications are only useful if they provide some framework to further develop from, they shouldn’t be seen as the finishing line.

4. What do you love about your job?

Being able and encouraged to use my creativity means that I’m not bored by the same day endlessly repeating, I’m always trying to look at new ways to do things. The fact that it is tied to Africa means that inspiration usually comes easily. It helps that Bench Africa is a wonderful company to work for and I feel supported, appreciated and encouraged to push the envelope.

5. What are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your career?

Boredom and staying motivated. I’m a creative person and get bored easily with repetition so I have had to learn to figure out a way to incorporate that restless energy in a productive way that benefits the company and my personal growth.

6. What factors were central to your success?

Without sounding sycophantic, the support of Bench Africa. They gave me the freedom to work on numerous side projects which took away some time from my “real” job, knowing full well that it would end up benefiting the company in some way. I also think if you enjoy learning new things then you have an arsenal to use when a challenge comes up.

7. Did you have a mentor, and if so, how did you find them?

I’m been lucky. Apart from giving me freedom to work, Martin Edwards (GM of Bench Africa) has taught me so much about the industry and has never been protective about information and his position. Being exposed to a bigger world outside your own small sphere helps you to see how all the pieces fit together. Before that, Brett Wendorf (currently with Princess Cruises) was very open to sharing information and opportunities with me in a similar fashion, throwing me into situations way above my head.

8. What are the keys to good business?

Take care of your staff. Enthusiasm for a brand is easily recognisable and contagious so take care of your own people and it will flow through to their customers. Secondly, know what it is you do, and do that as best you can.

9. What advice would you give to others in the industry who would like to follow in your footsteps?

I find that if you are passionate about something, people will respond to it. Find a way to effectively communicate that passion and your work is almost done. Explore what you are good at outside the job description, learn new skills and incorporate those into your work. Photography, cooking, coding — whatever it may be, it can all be useful and help you to stand out.

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