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WORDS STEPHANIE SMOOK


OPINION


SOAKING UP KNOWLEDGE


Attending conferences and networking with peers is one of the best routes to success in the business travel industry


my opening speech. What could I convey to those people who were new to the industry or who had never attended a an ACTE summit before? I clearly remember my first


W


introduction to the industry. It was 2003 and it was an ACTE Conference in Dublin. Honestly, I felt quite ignorant and insignificant when I entered the networking area and I saw a


buyingbusinesstravel.com


HEN I WAS PREPARING for the ACTE Global Summit in Amsterdam recently, I was thinking about what to say in


large gathering of men in grey suits, looking at me as though to say: “What are you doing here, rookie?”


I was not to know at that moment that the people I met then would be influential and present throughout my entire business travel career, which had literally just started. One of those men became my mentor and I still owe him a lot of gratitude for taking me on a journey into the wonderous world of business travel. At Nike, where I worked back then, we had a few mantras that


we lived by. One of them was: “Be a sponge” and it was dear to my heart. Whatever you do and wherever you go, be a sponge! Those industry events offer a lot in the way of education, which is great and very helpful in optimising your day-to-day businesses, but working in this niche industry it is also very much about networking, as we all know. It’s all about meeting peers and industry colleagues who understand what you are saying (the number of acronyms and abbreviations in our industry is crazy!). They are people you can share knowledge and experiences with, who do not think that as a travel manager the only thing you do is make bookings, and who can help you evolve as a professional as well as elevate your programme. All this is vital to a career, plus it makes the job more fun! Let’s be honest, we like this industry and its people; that’s why we are here. I know this makes me sound like something of a crusader, but I consider myself a travel management junkie. Once you enter the business, as the song has it, it’s like checking into Hotel California – you can never leave!


HELP ALONG THE WAY Also this business requires so much extra knowledge. You need to know so much about so many things. We can only learn by working together and helping each other. In my Nike days, I frequently spoke at industry


ONCE


YOU ENTER THE BUSINESS, IT’S LIKE CHECKING INTO HOTEL CALIFORNIA – YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE!


events to share knowledge and best practice, and that’s why I chose to work for ACTE, developing its education programme and building bridges. It’s why I like to share with peers, mentor students and work with others on finding new solutions. To be candid, I am not sure if I am the best student mentor, though. The first student assigned to me to learn about a potential career path and his personal development said, after only two sessions, that he wanted throw all it in and travel the world. Oops! That was not the intended outcome. But in the end that is what it comes down to; find your own journey, explore and don’t forget to have fun while you are at it!


Stephanie Smook is regional director EMEA of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (acte.org)


2019 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 111


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