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

How to cure hiccups (and become workplace hero!)

1) Wait for the opportune moment
You know the one. Your poor colleague has been hiccuping for the last 5 minutes, he’s getting frustrated (so is the rest of the team). Now is your chance to step up.

2) Ask the simple question
What did you have for dinner last Saturday? (Important to choose 2-4 days ago. Last night is too fresh and any longer than 4 days is too long).

3) Hold your own as you are mocked by your team
They will mock, they will question your curious method. But it’s only a matter of time now…

4) Assume ‘hero’ status
Hiccups will disappear and your team will be astounded. True story. Happened to me last week. (Don’t forget to act modestly. No one likes a show off!)

Try this at home; you’ll be surprised how well it actually works! Apparently this type of question causes the hiccupper to change his breathing pattern which, in turn, vanquishes the hiccups!!

With skills like these, who wouldn’t give us grads a job?! 🙂

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All Go, and some Snow!

Debs reflects on a busy few months…


Boarding in Les Menuires

So it’s been a while since my last blog entry and while I’d like to blame this on limited internet connectivity, the truth is I was probably out on the slopes! Let’s back up a little. Following on from my placement with JCA, I was offered the incredible opportunity to do a resort-based operations and customer service placement with SkiBound France, in the Alps!! Fast forward a few days (literally!) and a mad panic buy of ski gear and I find myself in the 1850m ski haven of Les Menuires. With 160km of pistes, doorstep skiing and 3m snowfall in the first week alone it was very easy to forget that I was actually there to do some work! Skiing aside though, this was actually my most rewarding placement so far as I was able to see for myself how all the work put in in the UK office translates for the customer in resort. It also allowed me to see where we might be able to improve working relationships between staff in the UK and our resort-based teams.

In February, the grads all regrouped back in Crawley for our last Learning & Development week on the Grad Program. As with each L&D week, Ed and Jen were on hand to offer some helpful training and advice to set us up for our final few months as grads and to assist in our career planning following the program. We also retook our Insights Test, and though none of us have changed very dramatically (disappointing) we did get some shiny new lego blocks (result!).

I am now based back in Port Solent, this time with the Marine Division, working in a Project Management role as part of a division-wide business strategy project. I have been tasked with looking after 19 projects in the online improvement workstream – arguably one of the key workstreams in the overall scope of the project!

The job hunt is on!

Thankfully I have a great team around me to offer support and to help get me quickly up to speed on the project. I am also working on the testing stages of a new website launch for one of our brands as I specifically wanted to develop my skills in ecommerce.

When I somehow find a spare minute, I am busy updating my CV and applying for jobs so that I can hopefully transition from my final placement into a project management or business development role. Wish me luck!

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Condover Up Close

Deborah’s getting in touch with her inner child and exploring her creative side…

I really do not feel I have the stamina (or the free time) to compete with BCo’s latest blog post – interesting though it was! Instead, I thought I’d follow up with a brief update on my current placement with JCA based in sunny Port Solent.

JCA are part of the TUI Education Division and specialise in adventure residential trips for both school and non-school groups at one of their 13 UK-based activity centres. They offer a range of activities and courses aiming to promote education, personal development, team-building and of course, fun! Their flagship activity centre Condover Hall, (which you may remember from the TUI Sport Weekend blog post) offers a fantastic range of both indoor and outdoor activities as well as sporting events and corporate team-building. A few weeks back I was lucky enough to visit the centre and get in touch with my inner child, taking part in many of the activities – my colleague Emily and I rocked the laser maze and Grid of Stones but sadly we didn’t scale the heights of the high ropes course!

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Disclaimer: these images are not of myself, sorry!

Having worked at Divisional or Sector level for my past 3 placements I am finding it very refreshing to now be working at brand level and I’m really enjoying the increased autonomy and responsibility that comes with this type of placement. Working with the marketing department, I am very much embracing my creative side, developing new skills and gaining a better understanding of the difficulties in marketing a product where the end customer actually differs to the product’s target market.

A key focus of my placement here is to look at how we can more efficiently market our business to school teachers and other party leaders. School teachers (especially primary school teachers) are notoriously difficult to market to due to the fact that they are either teaching a class or on some form of school holiday! And even if they do happen to be available, you need to first succeed in getting past the gate-keeper (a.k.a. school secretary) which is not an easy task I can assure you! In this market, even more so than in other parts of the travel industry, word of mouth can really make or break your business. Teachers talk. Ensuring that our product remains innovative and of a high quality, while maintaining a high level of service will be key to the continuing success of the business.

A large part of my project here involves analysing how we track and reward our loyal customers. In such a highly competitive market and with many schools restricted by budget and rules against using the same provider year on year, this is proving to be a far more difficult task than I had first anticipated. I find myself regularly drawing on the acquisition/retention learning of my university days while evaluating the customer retention success in other businesses in the market.

Anyways, I said I’d keep this short and sweet so I’ll save my extra-curricular adventures for next time. Jennifer O’Gorman and I shall be taking on Paris with our TUI staff deals next weekend so I’m sure we’ll have some great customer experience stories to share with you – we all know how the French are for customer service!


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Seattle becomes a Staple Destination for SAS Grads

Following in the footsteps of ‘The Bens’ (and Jon) I now find myself 4,500 miles and 8 time zones away from home. Despite the distance, Seattle is remarkably similar to Scotland; when it rains you want to get as far away as you possibly can but when it’s sunny, there’s nowhere else you’d rather be! And I’ve been particularly lucky to have come to Seattle at “the best time of year”.

In a city that is surrounded by mountains and water and that is notorious for its changeable weather, I am regularly amazed that every single Seattle citizen can accurately tell you the weather forecast for the next full week, right down to the hour – “What a beautiful morning”, “Yes but it’s going to rain at 2pm” or “If you go running on Saturday you should wait till the afternoon, the temperature will drop 15 degrees and it’ll be way more pleasant”… How do they know?! In Scotland we can barely predict what the weather will be like 30 minutes from now!

My office here in Seattle is amazing. Having just moved into this office in December, this is everyone’s first summer here and so we are all making the most of our large seafront terrace and grill! Indoors however there is still an atmosphere of three businesses (TUI, TCS & Starquest and Zegrahm Expeditions) sharing an office, which can at times be difficult as I am tasked with a project that concerns both TCS & Starquest and Zegrahm. I’m working on a product-based project looking to expand the part of our business that offers tailor-made luxury trips to destinations around the world. At the moment there is a lot of research involved as I put together a business case. In a few weeks’ time I will present my business case and hopefully begin to implement some of the ideas before the end of the placement.

Out of work I have been hitting up the usual tourist spots and getting involved in as many outdoor activities as my currently unfit body can handle – boot camp starts next week! I also took part in a local 5 mile charity run – ‘Beat the bridge’ – so called because the University Bridge is raised during the race and the aim is to ‘beat’ the raising of the bridge.

Last weekend my roommate and I took a road trip up north to her hometown of Bellingham for the annual Memorial Weekend Ski-to-Sea race – a 93.5 mile, 7 sport relay Race from Mount Baker down to Bellingham Bay. Thankfully we did not take part in this race, rather the street party at the finish line where we watched the final leg of the race over a nice cold drink!

Well that’s all for now guys…it’s almost lunchtime here and there are bbq left overs to be had!

Categories: Deborah | 1 Comment

Change is good…right?

Let’s face it, no one really likes change…particularly when that change involves relocating from sunny Clearwater to a rather, well miserable, Crawley. However, once settled in my new South London flatshare, armed with a new winter coat, an abundance of scarves and an umbrella I felt more than ready to embrace the tail-end of the Great British winter.

I’m currently working on an operational efficiency project; evaluating the current booking terms and conditions of our Sector businesses, recognising that these are a means to protecting our revenue by ensuring correct cancellations fees and amendment charges are collected, ensuring that our Ts&Cs are fair to our customers, are in line with those of our competitors and are easy for our teams to understand and apply.

As someone who had never previously read a full set of terms and conditions – really who does? – I had no idea of the complexities that a business needs to consider (particularly some of our North American Education businesses!). And although it is a bit of a dry project, I am learning a lot about our portfolio of brands and the opportunities to ‘clean up’ some of our Ts&Cs and maximise our revenue in the process.

In more general terms, it has been really interesting to experience working at Sector level; torn between the financial demands of the TUI Group and the resource requirements of our Divisions and businesses is no plain sailing! Detachment from the brands, our products and most importantly our customers makes difficult decisions all the more challenging.

So it has been a bit of a culture shock to say the least but I am now settling into my new role in TTH and my new life in London (and I must admit my waistline has definitely benefited from being back in the UK!)

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Know the Ropes…

Deborah reflects on her first placement…

And so my time at TUI Marine in sunny Florida is sadly coming to an end. I guess a spot of reflection is in order; what have I learned during my time at Marine?

In a business sense I cannot begin to describe the wealth of information that I have taken in over the past 3 months. I have been thrown into a business area, in which I have no previous experience, and was not only asked to perform, but was in fact expected to perform. The TUI Marine office out here has now had a steady stream of graduates, each raising the standards for the next. Fortunately, I have received some really positive feedback about my performance here and so I’m really happy that I have added value to the business as well as developing my personal skills and knowledge of this business division.

I consider it a great personal achievement to have come in to the business at the beginning of a project and to leave as the product is actually being launched. It has been great to have experienced the highs and the lows as the project has developed from a long list of business requirements to a product that will bring additional revenue into the business, while also simplifying and eventually standardizing business processes at Marine bases across the globe.

During my time at Marine I have also had the opportunity to sit in on meetings with different teams in the business and with the division CEO, Jonathan Grisdale. This allowed me to gain a better understanding of the range of projects that are going on at a divisional level and the benefits these will bring to the business; whether that be in the form of revenue, cost-savings, process efficiencies etc…

Of course I have also had my bad days here and in many ways the 5 Marine businesses still have a long way to go till they are really reaping the benefits of working together under the TUI brand. However, I have never experienced working with a team of people who are so passionate about their work and determined to make their business a success and for this reason I expect great things from TUI Marine in the coming years. And who knows…maybe I’ll be back!

Categories: Deborah | 3 Comments

Opportunities for growth

TUI Marine Clearwater office last week played host to the 2-day “Opportunities for Growth” conference. The conference invited Marine managers from across the globe to take part in several interactive presentations and workshops and I was lucky enough to land myself an invite! We reviewed the Marine division’s FY11 success; a result that could not have been achieved had it not been for an exceptional level of customer service. Service that allowed our base out in the Bahamas to not only survive a direct hurricane hit but to then be back open for business as usual a mere three days later. Service that dealt with hundreds of disappointed customers when a product launch of innovative new boats could not be delivered on time due to faults in third-party manufacturing. And service that generally sustained a healthy financial performance through a turbulent economic year.

We then looked at future opportunities to further develop the reputation of the Marine brands and organically grow the business. We discussed in detail the potential benefits that can be obtained through efficient use of social media. The following clip was shown during the Ecommerce presentation and I think highlights some really interesting information that you may or may not already know about social media and new technologies.

Last week we also welcomed a new Financial Director and Ecommerce Director into the business and I look forward to working with them in my remaining weeks at TUI Marine.

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New York, New York (So Good They Named it Twice)

Deborah spends Thanksgiving in the Big Apple…

As a Brit living in America, I was really keen to experience what is arguably the biggest and most extravagant holiday in the American calendar: Thanksgiving. I decided to visit a good friend and fellow Scot up in New York City, where I could really appreciate the atmosphere of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and make the most of the long weekend. By a stroke of luck, we managed to stumble our way into the VIP section, positioning ourselves nicely in the front row (look for us on the TV!). We were also invited to a
traditional thanksgiving dinner complete with a breath-taking view of the New York Skyline. Amazingly, our luck did not end there – we also managed to land 2 front row tickets to a Broadway show for a mere $26. And of course, any trip to the Big Apple would not be complete without some serious shopping!

Now back at work, it’s full steam ahead for the provisioning project which is due to launch by the end of next week. Coordinating the work of several teams has certainly tested my communication and organisational skills, while demanding that I quickly develop my knowledge of both the TUI Marine brands and products. The site is expected to generate around $2million ancillary revenue in the first year, which I think highlights the level of responsibility we graduates are given right from the start.

As for the luxury yacht project I’m currently trying to convince the Marine CEO that I need to experience the product before I can begin to make any decisions…it’s worth a try right?!

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Deborah goes Stateside

Deborah updates us on her first weeks in Clearwater…

In the last three weeks I’ve packed my life into a single (though I’ll admit rather large) suitcase; I’ve spent a week in Sussex absorbing as much knowledge as possible about TUI, the travel industry and even my ‘inner self’; I’ve relocated to Florida (my first visit to the States); and started my first ‘adult’ job in a business area in which I have no experience.

Yet somehow, writing this blog has been my most challenging task so far! How do I convey in a few short paragraphs the warm welcome I have received in joining such a fantastic company, the responsibility I have already been given and the emotions I have felt in trying to overcome the initial challenges of relocating and working abroad?

Starting in the TUI Marine office in Clearwater, Florida, I am working on two projects simultaneously. The first is focused on implementing a new online store for Sunsail and the Moorings provisioning, with the aim that we can greatly increase the revenue made from ancillary food and beverage purchases. I am also looking into the opportunities of entering the ‘Superyacht’ market (64ft-100ft yachts) through either acquisition or organic growth/new product development.

Deborah Grieve Clearwater

Deborah and Pete throw themselves into the costume competition

It has been said that American’s don’t do anything by halves and Halloween is certainly no exception! I spent my first two weeks at TUI Marine working in the ‘e-Comm Crypt’, skilfully decorated with tombstones, cobwebs and creepy crawlies and complete with zombie sound effects. And of course Pete and I threw ourselves right in to the costume competition.

I also took part in a TUI Marine community project where we worked with Habitat for Humanity building a 3 bed house in the St Petersburg area. I hope those windows are watertight!

Between Halloween dress-up, a bit of manual labour, and several American lunches (that will take more than a few gym sessions to shift) I feel like I have barely begun my Stateside adventure. In fact I still pinch myself each morning to make sure it’s all real. I mean how many people wake up at 7am with a smile on their face, looking forward to their day at work? Long may this continue!

Categories: Deborah | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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