Career in focus

MELISSA Elf

General Manager, FCM Travel Solutions and Campus Travel

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

I have been in the role of General Manager for Flight Centre Travel Group’s (FCTG) corporate division for over 12 months and with FCM Travel Solutions for 11 years. My role is to drive the strategic direction of the brands for our large market clients, and ensure there is the right support and leadership in place for our people and our customers for long-term growth and success.

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

After living in Japan as an exchange student when I was 15, I fell in love with travel. My first travel role was as a tour guide for Japanese tourists, before I completed my studies in business management. While studying I participated in work experience at Qantas, after which they offered me a role in business travel. From there I moved to the Flight Centre Travel Group, where I’ve been ever since.

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

I have a Diploma in Business Management, specialising in Tourism, which did get me a foot in the door at Qantas. While I believe study is important and provides an excellent understanding of business management and practice, I am also a firm believer of ‘experience, exposure and education’ in the workplace. I’d advise students or industry newcomers to get as much experience as you can in the industry or your discipline, get as much exposure as you can to a role or the people you need to network with and then leverage education or training programs in your workplace to continually up-skill.

4. What do you love about your job?

I love the people I work with! Working with a great team makes such a difference to your work life and I’m fortunate to have awesome people around me. Secondly our customers — many of them I have known or worked with over the years in various roles, which makes client events enjoyable. I also love the company I work for. FCTG is a great organisation to work for, employees have access to many benefits and in-house products and services, plus there is always the opportunity to travel!

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

As a mother of two small children, juggling career and motherhood was a challenge for a number of years. But with the help of my mentor and a good support structure, I’ve been able to have a fulfilled business and personal life. This is my first full time job since having children, which is a testament to the flexibility of FCM and also proof that having a family doesn’t need to hold you back.

6. What factors were central to your success?

I believe in surrounding myself with amazing talent and a supportive team — and I’m very lucky that I’ve always worked with inspirational leaders who have pushed me to be my best. Another vital factor has been having a mentor who has encouraged me to extend myself beyond my limitations and to break through barriers. And of course, my supportive husband and family have been absolutely crucial.

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

I’ve had an amazing mentor for six years now. My mentor is a past FCTG manager who I really admire as a leader. She has helped me throughout my leadership journey and on a personal level with managing stress, family and work commitments. I still see her today and I also believe in paying it forward by mentoring a number of women in the business.

8. What are the keys to good business?

I think having solid relationships are key — with your teams and your customers, and also having passionate employees that are engaged with the business and their clients. I also believe leaders need to have strong commercial acumen, a thorough understanding of what customers are looking for and the problems they’re trying to overcome.

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