Posts Tagged With: laura hampton

Six Months in Seattle

Laura Hampton in America

Enjoying the American tradition of ‘football’…

Laura reflects on a double placement in TUI’s North American Division…

Moving around every 3 months is tough. Finding a new home, meeting new people, getting used to a new office… it all takes time and, just when you think you’ve cracked it, you move again.

So I guess I was ‘lucky’ when my manager asked me if I’d like to stay for a second placement here in Seattle, but it wasn’t an easy decision to do so. In this post, I’ll give an overview of what I did during my first three months, what I did during my second and the ups and downs along the way…

I arrived in Seattle last September where I was placed to take over from Debs on a project she’d started earlier in the year. Based on her business plan and research, I was tasked with setting up a new department for two of the North American brands; my brief was to have it launched and running before I left.

Luckily for me, Debs had left some great foundations and that meant getting my head around the project was the easy part (thanks Debs!). But, as is often the case in these placements, understanding the project is not the big job. The bigger piece of work lies in understanding the business, the requirements and the politics which can all impact on how the project moves forward and the best direction to take it in.

I was able to move through the complications by identifying the requirements and the problems, and carving out my own role where I could help steer the project forward and utilise my own skills to add some real value. During that three month period, I successfully wireframed and wrote the content for a new website, employed a designer and managed the development team from project brief to launch to create a site that everyone was happy with and that could grow with the project (and I wrote a full content management guide to help this along). I wrote a full marketing plan, including tone of voice and SEO guidelines, which was accepted by all key stakeholders and even made it into the hands of the head of TUI Group! And I came up with a marketing idea which, when launched, brought in 9 booking requests within its first week.

I had lots I was proud of – plus I’d been really working on my own personal development to be less ‘fiery red’ and more ‘sunshine yellow’ (Insights) and felt I’d done a good job of softening my approach on the whole. But all of this made my decision to extend my placement a difficult one – could I keep up the ‘good work’ and continue to impress or was I just good at 3 month placements? Would I have enough work to do? And with another grad on her way out to Seattle, was it even fair for me to stay?

I thought about it long and hard (after all, I’d been away from home for 3 months and missed my friends and family a lot) but the opportunity I had here to extend my learning and work on some new and exciting projects was too much to pass up. So I stayed for another placement, during which I handed over my project to Jen who took over from me, and worked on various Divisional level projects including a review of how we work with travel agents and how that can be improved, the identification and subsequent employment of a ‘preferred supplier’ list of web design agencies for the Division, and various competitor analyses and training programmes for one of our brands.

It’s certainly been a busy 6 months and I’ve really enjoyed being here. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve been able to get some travel in too – I’ve seen Vancouver, Idaho, Portland and Las Vegas during my time here, as well as plenty of skiing up in the nearby mountains! But it’s been a challenge – on a personal level more than anything – and only time will tell if spending so long in the US has affected my networks back home.

Categories: Laura | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

All the Small Things

Employee Treats

A birthday treat for Quark Expeditions employees

Laura thinks about how the small things we do can have a big impact…

Whilst walking to work this morning, I was met by a group of library workers who are on strike due to conflicts over pay. I feel sorry for them; to feel so undervalued that you choose to display your discontent in such a public manner must make your working day really difficult.

But this isn’t a post about politics, nor is it about pay. It’s about the small things we do that make employees and customers alike feel valued and appreciated.

Here at Quark, there are a few traditions which really add to the family atmosphere of the office. One example is the weekly Friday afternoon drinks and nibbles, where we finish what we’re doing around 4-4.30pm and stroll into Hans (the MD)’s office for a bit of relaxation and a chance to chat and unwind together. It’s a really nice opportunity to get to know people on a social level and has certainly been a benefit to me in particular as a newbie in the office.

Then there’s the coffee machine. A small addition, it’s really not much and can’t have been too much of an investment for the office either, but everyone loves taking advantage of the array of different coffees, teas and hot chocolates it makes – and it’s so much quicker than waiting around for the kettle to boil!

We also have a good supply of fruit and a regular supply of treats that everyone in the office gets to share. There’s really nothing nicer on a nice sunny day than getting the office wide email telling us strawberries and fruit bread are waiting for us in the kitchen and it gives a real boost to the day. And with my body struggling to cope with the changing temperatures here in Toronto, I’m loving the fact that there are Kleenex issues supplied for every employee!

All of these things are only very small and don’t require a big investment from the business. Though Quark is a business doing well, it seems to me that there is no reason that even businesses struggling in the current climate can’t set aside a small pot each week to provide these little things for their employees that can really make a big difference. If we can provide small treats that make people feel special and encourage relaxation and chatting at an appropriate time, I believe we can create a nicer working atmosphere and a culture of communication and collaboration which can only help the business in the long run. Add this to the regular team meetings held at Quark and, in my opinion, you’ve got a recipe for a really satisfied workforce.

And it’s not just employees who benefit from small additions. I know from speaking to fellow grad Ben Cook that TCS Starquest offer small add ons for their customers on luxury trips, including pre-paid postcards at every destination and ‘spending money’ in the local currency. By adding these little treats and bringing an element of personalisation to the experience, I believe we can really add a lot of value for the customer without a great deal of investment on our part.

The experiences we have are not all about the money. They’re about the little things that make us feel extra special. I really hope I can carry that philosophy throughout my career and hopefully encourage the use of some of Quark’s little treats in the other placements I undertake.

Categories: Laura | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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