Ben Gill

Graduating the Graduate Program

 18 months, 6 placements, 6 fresh-faced graduate trainees, one incredible journey!

With placement locations spanning the globe, high-profile projects reporting into senior management and relocating and taking on new projects every 3 months, the TUI Specialist & Activity Sector Graduate Leadership Program has been quite a journey! To mark the end of the 2011-2013 graduate intake, we have put together a video montage using a selection of photos taken over the course of our graduate program. Though this can only begin to document both the exhilarating, and often surreal highs, alongside the arduous, self-questioning challenges of the graduate program, we hope you will enjoy this snippet of our TUI journey so far… And now as we move into new roles within the company (and wave a teary goodbye to Laura) we thank you for your support over the past 18 months and for the opportunities the TUI SAS Graduate Leadership Program has given us. 

 

You can access our Graduate Program Video Montage here!

 

2011-2013 TUI SAS Graduate Intake

Categories: Ben Cook, Ben Gill, Deborah, Jennifer, Kelly, Laura | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Good times (in an office…)

With Christmas almost upon us and the rest of the Grads having a great time abroad, Ben reflects on the good times he’s had recently in the Brighton and Surbiton offices.

I’ve never been a fan of working in an office. Sitting all day, staring at a computer screen, occasionally making a cup of coffee is a little… er… dull. Fortunately, there are times when working in an office can be a lot of fun. Aside from the fascinating projects I’ve been working on recently (more info to come in the new year), the social side can also be great. Furthermore, I think a good social environment can create a happy workforce, which is essential for a business to prosper.

For example, whilst in Brighton with the Sector’s eCommerce and iExplore team, we had “International Food Fridays”. Brave volunteers would sign up and promise to make the national dish of whichever country came out of the hat. I was given Portugal. Unfortunately I’ve never been to Portugal and had no idea what to make. Fortunately, there was a resident Portuguese guy (Fred Cardoso) who was there to advise/encourage/pressure me to make sure it was a success!

The result can be seen in the picture below and (to my relief) it went down really well:

For someone that never cooked a Portuguese dish, Ben got really near a Portuguese Chef” – Fred, resident Portuguese food expert.

There was also Movember, Halloween bake sales and an amazing place to have lunch (see pics below).

I have recently moved to the Crystal Ski office in Surbiton, where there is also a great social atmosphere. We’ve had a huge Christmas party, numerous cakes, several gingerbread houses and even wrapped the Product Director’s desk up in Christmas wrapping paper! ‘Tis the Season!

I hope you enjoy the pictures below and have a great Christmas wherever you are.

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FanTravel: The Review

Ben finally reviews his experiences in America, where he worked as the Marketing Director for FanTravel

Ok, so this is a bit late; I returned from Seattle a month ago now. In my defence, I’d like to point out how much fun I had during my last 6 weeks in Seattle and how much effort it takes to relocate back to the UK, move to Brighton, start a new job at TUI Travel House and have a fantastic holiday in Greece!

However, I’m now back in the office and feeling settled enough to start getting on with my grad “chores”… i.e. this blog and the numerous HR forms/reviews that I keep forgetting to complete (sorry Jen!). As most of the HR forms are now up to date, I thought I’d better update this blog before I finish another placement.

FanTravel, the TUI North American Division and Seattle together made a great placement. I was warmly welcomed from the start, nicknamed “Trey”, as I was the 3rd British Ben on the grad scheme to work in Seattle in a row! (Tre = 3 in Italian), and even ended up taking my boss’ 6 and 9 yr old boys skiing! The Americans truly are a friendly bunch and I was amazed at their hospitality. So if any of you are reading this, thank you.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, at FanTravel I was responsible for the Marketing. Although most of the TUI North American employees thought I was an intern, I’d like to confirm that I’m a full time TUI employee and actually had a huge amount of responsibility at FanTravel. In 3 short months, this is what I did:

  • Created a Marketing Strategy for FanTravel (including: Brand guide, Style guide, Marketing plan/schedule and Budget).
  • Designed and produced marketing materials (FanTravel T-shirts, and team specific Bottle Openers and Flyers)
  • Sourced licence free imagery for the website
  • Created a social media campaign (Facebook page, Facebook competition and Facebook ad campaign)
  • Coordinated the Spring Game Road Trip and launched FanTravel across America

The highlight of the placement was the Spring Game Road Trip, during which Brian (Co-founder) and I visited 8 different universities (“colleges” in American) across the Western States, namely: Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and USC (see http://blog.fantravel.com for the full story!). The aim of the trip was to build relationships with key contacts and launch the brand at 8 of our 12 target universities in a month. It was a monumental task, during which we worked almost 7am – 10pm every day, moved to a new town every 3 days and spent almost every minute together.

Brian and I would eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together, share a hotel room, attend meetings together, travel together and socialise together every day for a month! Fortunately Brian is an easy going guy and we got on well the whole time. In fact, by the end of the trip I began referring to him as my “life partner”… We had a fantastic time, working hard and playing hard at every opportunity. This helped to develop our own team dynamic, led to the generation of more ideas for the business and enabled us to gain valuable insights into each destination.

The overall experience taught me huge amounts about the importance of building personal relationships in order to forge business partnerships, developed my ability to align my sales pitch to whoever I was talking to and also how to succeed in a completely different cultural environment.

Initially the FanTravel project was very tough. I was tasked with creating and implementing a marketing strategy for a company that I didn’t know, about a sport I didn’t know, marketing to a culture that I didn’t know. It was like an American coming to the UK and being tasked with marketing a new university rugby travel company to the Brits… after only 1 day in the country, before ever seeing a rugby match! Furthermore, I had no idea what a marketing plan/strategy looked like. It was a challenge to say the least.

However, after 3 months there I was very proud of what I had achieved. I have left a solid marketing plan in place, successfully launched the brand and have high hopes for the future of FanTravel. The road trip provided a great opportunity for me to really get to know the American college football culture and I left wishing I could stay longer as I now have a clear vision of how FanTravel will work (and who they’ll be selling to!).

Alas, I was unable to extend the placement any longer (unlike this blog post – don’t worry it’s almost over) and returned to the UK with very mixed feelings. I was extremely sad to have left the great friends that I made in Seattle and to have to drop the FanTravel project when we were on such a roll. However, it was also a great feeling to return home. Life in America was a lot of fun, but it was also stressful. The 8 hour time difference made communicating with anyone in the UK difficult, the culture is completely different, the supermarkets are weird and the job was a challenge. So it was nice to finally relax when I got back to the UK, even though I long to go back.

Below is a photographic record of some of the highlights of the placement.

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Seattle: Life. Work. Play.

Ben describes his challenging experience of moving to a new city, finding somewhere to live and launching an exciting new business in North America.

Sunset over Puget Sound

Views like this make going to work a lot less painful...

Life

Moving to Seattle was an exciting prospect: from Starbucks, Microsoft and Boeing to Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix to mountains, ocean and microbrews – it seemingly had everything – even Amazon.com!

Although I was sad to leave my friends and beloved pet sharks (RIP George) in London behind, I love a good adventure and the excitement that comes with visiting a new place.

The first week was wild. I slept in the basement apartment of one of our colleagues’ houses, along with another TUI Grad (Ben Ireland), a professional American football player (Brian), and a genius IT wizard straight out of Silicon Valley (Erik). The apartment was small and bedding was sparse. We took it in turns to sleep in the laundry room, the closet and the “art room”, which was interesting to say the least. However, fortunately (thanks initially to my jet lag and then to our nights out in Seattle) I slept like a baby on the hard floor. Then suddenly everybody left.

After only a week, Ben went back to England for training, Brian was extradited to Canada (even Stanford alumni struggle to get a visa for the US nowadays) and Erik flew back to Cal for some sunshine, so I was left alone. Life immediately got a lot quieter and became far more challenging that I had anticipated. Work was fine, finding my way to the office was a daily challenge (until I got my American sim card and was able to use Google maps) and getting into a normal routine was tough.

Fortunately I did eventually sort myself out with a house, gym membership and social life, which combined to help me find my feet and enjoy Seattle once more.

Work

Work has been a lot of fun. I’m currently assisting with the launch of a new company called FanTravel (www.fantravel.com), a joint venture between TUI Travel and 2 former Stanford football players. We’re aiming to tap into the potentially huge market of travelling college (university) sports fans, as most American college football matches attract over 60,000 fans every week, some over 110,000!

I’m working with a small team in the TUI North America office in Seattle, Brian (currently in Canada) and Erik (in California). Due to our dispersed team, we’re forced to use innovative communication techniques. So in addition to the standard male grunts and mumbles, we also use Yammer (like a private Facebook for companies), Skype and Dropbox. These tools have been invaluable, enabling seamless workflow across states and time zones.

I’ve been tasked with creating a marketing plan, strategy and launching the brand. As I haven’t done much marketing before, this was quite a steep learning curve! However I think I’ve finally got my head around it and in a matter of weeks have created a solid brand strategy, style guide, marketing strategy, schedule and budget for the coming year. Now all I have to do is to do it!

So next is the exciting bit… I’ll soon be launching a Facebook competition, Facebook ads and PPC campaign in order to generate awareness of our new brand. Then we’ll be touring around the West Coast (visiting LA, Oregon, and Arizona) in order to meet our target market and promote the new company at the upcoming Spring Practice football games (which are a big deal over here; last year the University of Oregon game attracted 45,000 people!). This should be a lot of fun. I’m really excited about promoting our company that we’ve all been working so hard on to create. Of course, I’m also excited about experiencing American college culture (it is literally just like what you see in the movies…).

Play

Aside from work, I’ve been making the most of living within an hour from the mountains by going skiing as much as possible. Seattle is in a fantastic location, with the Cascade Mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. It’s an outdoor enthusiasts dream and the standard uniform around here is a fleece jacket.

In fact, the fleece jacket represents Seattle pretty well: not good in wet weather but dries quickly, unfashionable but carefree as there’s so much more to life.

P.S.

This is my first post since Movember, during which I raised a total of £135 – Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! It was worth it in the end.

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The End of Movember!

Ben reviews his recent ordeal and reveals his new look…

I’m writing this on the 2nd of December, post-mo-shave, after the most challenging month of my life. Even so,  I can safely say that I’m glad I did it. So far I’ve raised £95 for charity (come on, lets make it £100!) and to be honest the mo did start to grow on me…

So as I sit here with a cold and naked top lip, I’d like to thank you for your support and for putting up with me talking nonsense on this grad blog. If you are a prospective applicant, then I hope that it’s given you an insight into the outgoing and non-corporate attitude that is embedded throughout the Specialist & Activity Sector. It truly is a great place to work and I would highly recommmend the grad scheme. Now if you want any more advice then you’re gonna have to donate to Movember: http://mobro.co/BenjaminGill   😉

Anyway, enough corruption. This past week has seen me take my mo to  Birmingham University to judge a large group of students ideas for a social media strategy for Gullivers Sports Travel (one of our sports brands). They found it highly amusing as I tried to keep a straight face and ask them serious questions with a bushy top lip! I also decided to remove my “tickler” (despite the lack of votes) in order to try a different look for the final few days of the month, which was very refreshing. Finally, a kind old friend of mine donated a generous £10, but then asked whether it was for charity or just for my back pocket!

So just to make this clear, I didn’t do this for profit. All the money donated is in aid of testicular & prostate cancer charities. For more info and to donate click here: http://mobro.co/BenjaminGill.

On the final day of Movember, it was only right to have a silly photo shoot with a Mo Bro… see the result below.

Celebrating the end of movember in style

Celebrating the end of movember in style

 

And finally, here is the timeline of the month:

 

Thanks for reading and even more thanks for your support.

Mover and out.

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24th Movember: Should I keep the “Tickler”?

After a tough 24 days with a mo, Ben asks whether he should remove his “tickler” and adopt the more traditional moustache design.

It has been a long month. I thought that as I got close to December, having a mo would become easier. However, even though I have less that a week left, it is now that the mo is really making a significant imact on my life and actually taking over my face. Furthermore, I haven’t received any sponsorship for almost 2 weeks now… [sob, sob].

To remedy this, I have had an idea: I have been debating whether to keep the “tickler” (the mini goatee below my lips) for a few weeks now. As I originally thought that it “balanced out my face”. Unfortunately this has led to comparisons to a muskateer and this week to William Shakespeare himself (see image below).

So do you think I should keep or remove my “tickler”?!

In line with IMF and World Bank democratic practice, 1 vote costs £1. So the more money you donate the more votes (and so decision making power) you get. I will review the number of votes on Sunday and comply with whatever you decide…

Please post your votes (and donate) here: http://mobro.co/BenjaminGill.

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17th Movember: Mo Adventures

Ben talks about the highs and lows of living with a Mo…

Almost 10 days have now past since I first revealed the Mo. In that time it has developed significantly and is making more of an impression on my face every day. Living with a mo has been an emotional roller coaster so far. Some days I feel like: actually it looks pretty good! I could live with this! Other days (especially after shaving and so enhancing the outline of the mo) I feel like: oh my God I look terrible, what am I doing?!

Below are a few photos of me in some situations when I really wish I didn’t have a mo… and one impressive Mo Bro who has been growing his for 20 years!

Remember: this is for a really good cause (The Prostate Cancer Charity and The Institute of Cancer Research). Please donate generously and help me justify why I’ve decided to look ridiculous for a month. You can donate here: http://mobro.co/BenjaminGill

Categories: Ben Gill | 2 Comments

13th Movember: The Mo has taken shape.

Ben talks about revealing his mo to the world…

I tried to avoid revealing my mo for as long as I could, instead enjoying the designer stubble look (which after 7 days had turned into a tramp like beard). My excuse for this was a funeral, to which I really didn’t want to turn up to with a mo… So instead I arrived looking like a man who had recently lost his razor/job, probably looking even worse than I would’ve done a moustache.

The following day, as I had run out of excuses, it was time to shave off the stubble and finally reveal my mo. I had done some research into the Movember rules and searched for inspirational mo styles online. After experimenting with a few styles (including the classic handle bar) I settled on the mo + tickler (see the photos in my previous post for more details).

I was initially horrified at how I looked. However, after a calming cup of tea and a hearty bowl of cereal, I looked in the mirror again and managed to convince myself that I looked like a distinguished WWII RAF pilot. This dream was quickly shattered when I arrived at work and a colleague pointed immediately noticed that I look like a “musketeer”.

After another look in the mirror, I had to agree and accept my fate. Fortunately this was by far the most detailed observation that I received all day and to be honest I was actually surprised at how little people seemed to notice it… or maybe they were just laughing inside?

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“Mo Bro” Ben Features on TUI Intranet

Our very own Mo Bro Ben Gill takes pride of place atop the TUI intranet news feed today for his fantastic Movember efforts.

Ben Gill Movember

Ben features on Discover

Ben has been growing his mo since the beginning of November in order to raise money for men’s health charities. We’re hopeful that his feature on Discover will raise awareness of his cause and hopefully get some extra donations from our TUI colleagues.

You can continue to follow Ben’s efforts here on the blog and donate to him at http://mobro.co/BenjaminGill

Ben’s not the only one to be growing his mo for Movember. Here at the Real Gap and i to i office, I’ve been keen to develop the idea of fundraising and this begins with our Movember team, who also feature on Discover this month.

Real Gap and i to i Movember

The Real Gap and i to i team

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Movember: The progress so far…

2 weeks with a mo and things aren’t looking good…

(If you think this is funny/care about men’s health then please donate here: http://mobro.co/BenjaminGill)

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