A FORCE FOR GOOD hub | Jacqui Timmins Inspiring Story and life lessons.
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Jacqui Timmins Inspiring Story and life lessons.

Jacqui Timmins, General Manager Australia & South east Asia, Travelzoo

If one had to describe Jacqui Timmins’ life it would be anything but boring.

From growing up in the bustling city of Manilla to the flat dusty landscapes of Tamworth, Jacqui’s travels started young and never stopped. From picking staples out of flight coupons to juggling kids and a highly successful career, Jacqui has held long standing jobs at some of the world’s leading travel brands.

For the past 12 months Jacqui has been making her mark as the General Manager of Australia and South East Asia Travelzoo, a NASDAQ listed, digital media company that negotiates and publishes only the strongest holiday, cruise, hotel, restaurant, spa and entertainment deals from high-quality companies, and boasts over 28 million members in 25 countries globally.

Jacqui manages offices representing seven countries in the Asia Pacific region, raises two children, balances a full-time career, travel, assisting her eldest daughters HSC studies and somewhere still manages time to have hobbies. Jacqui says there’s no secret or formula, explaining “life is full of challenges and hurdles both professionally and personally, it’s about balancing and knowing when to fight and when to let go.”

“… it’s about balancing and knowing when to fight and when to let go.”

 Born in Melbourne, Jacqui and her family moved to Manilla, Philippines when she was just two years old. Manila was an interesting place for a girl to spend her young life she says, “learning to appreciate culture and human differences from such a young age definitely sparked in me a passion to explore.”

Attending a Montessori School in Manilla prepared Jacqui for more than just further education and a life of travel, “the Montessori way of teaching is very much around the values of the human spirt and the development of the whole child – physical, social, emotional and cognitive.” Jacqui says she knows that unique teaching method and growing up in a culture as unique as the Philippines influenced her life “I remember really enjoying my time there and I know it has influenced the person I am today, making me more culturally aware, and definitely sparking a love of exploring the globe.”

No one is going to pick you, you’ve got to pick yourself

Jacqui finished her schooling in the dusty country landscapes of Tamworth, before moving to Sydney to find a job to help her through the University Degree she’d recently deferred. After a year of employment at a bank, University education was far from her mind as she found herself booking her first holiday, a cruise around the Pacific onboard the Alexandr Pushkin.

“After that, I got the travel bug and joined Qantas because I wanted to be a flight attendant – I was lucky enough to get a job!” she says, “I knew I wanted to work in the industry, and so I thought, ’what company would I like to work for?’ and it was Qantas.”

Not quite the job she’d originally envisaged, Jacqui managed to secure a job she’d found advertised in the newspaper, a role in the revenue accounting department pulling staples from flight coupons. After 12 months of hard work and ink-covered fingertips, she moved into reservations, then again to QIC and industry sales where she says she “enjoyed some incredible times and experiences”.

Jacqui doesn’t often regret not finishing her university degree saying that she knows her choices have all lead her to where she is today, “Sometimes in my, staple pulling days,” she laughs, “I wondered if I was making the right decision, but ultimately my education has come through many internal and external courses.” She says the companies that she has worked for have helped grow her career and her education, “Never underestimate the value of courses that companies can offer you, it’s so important to invest in people. I’m also a strong believe that it is never too late to go back to studying.”

“After that, I got the travel bug and joined Qantas…”

Jacqui enjoyed 21 years at Qantas, but say’s she would never say that opportunities come easily, saying “Qantas was a tremendous company to work for that provided me a career for 21 years where I have over 10 jobs in that time and the opportunities were created because people believed in me.”

Jacqui says she’s thankful for the opportunities she has been given in the industry, saying “I was so fortunate to be given opportunities from people like, Simon Bernardi when he gave me the job of NSW Sales Executive and later as a National Account Manager, Gai Tyrell who supported and recommend me for the role of National Sales Manager at Qantas Holidays and then finally John Borghetti, when he asked me to be the GM of Industry Sales – this was the best and yet hardest job I did at Qantas.”

During her time at Qantas Jacqui was responsible for commercial partnerships within the travel industry, including corporate and leisure travel agents, wholesalers and OTA’s, leading sales account management and commercial contract negotiations, which she jokes, “was always fun!”. Having worked within many roles, teams and businesses, Jacqui says one particular achievement still stands out, the Commission reduction initiative that Qantas implemented was one of my biggest achievements. “By reducing airline commissions, service fees were then introduced to the Industry. Whilst it was unpopular within some parts of the industry, it provided the opportunity for travel agents to be in control of their own services and how they charged for those, by way of service fees. It was a significant win for the airline to reduce costs in a very challenging time as well playing a large role in transforming the industry to where it is today”.

Opportunities come by pushing for them, believing in yourself and having a good support network, she says, though agreeing that a strong personality helps. “There are consequences that come with the personality you have, I remember someone told me I had the nickname of “Toughly Timmins.”

Your professional and personal life is always a juggling process and sacrifices happen, ultimately, you have to back yourself. “You have to own your decisions, there is no place or time for regret. To be happy and successful is all about how YOU measure it. No one else. It took me many years to understand that and believe in it. Being head strong, you have to back yourself and be firm in your belief.” Jacqui says.

Jacqui says she spent 10 years of her life travelling and working and then added being a mum to the mix, and the juggle between her professional and personal life intensified.

“I’ll never forget, receiving a call from John Borghetti of Qantas, I was at home with a 3-year-old and a 4-month-old when he called me and asked me to return to work. It was a dream opportunity, but I said to John things at home needed to be sorted out before I could return to work. It took some serious negotiations, but I went back when Hannah was 10 months old.”

“Family time suffered for sure, missed events, not being as present as I should have been at home. I am a lot better at it now, but there have been casualties along the way. My daughter is in the middle of her HSC year now, so this has bought us to a whole other level of hurdle, but nothing we can’t get through together… right?” she laughs nervously.

“If you had asked me 4 years ago what I would be doing now, this certainly wouldn’t have ever entered my mind.”

After a hugely successful 21-year career, it was time to jump the fence and launch herself into a new career. Known as ‘Jacqui from Qantas” she says that period of reinvention was difficult, “I had to build a new network and also demonstrate to many that I was not “just” an airline employee anymore.”

Jacqui moved on to Stella Travel Services, now Helloworld Travel, and again she moved within the company into a number of GM roles, each time taking on different skills and learning how agile you must be to adapt to change, before finally landing herself in what she describes as possibly the best roles she’s had. Looking back fondly, Jacqui says “the role of GM Travelscene American Express was probably one of the best jobs I have had!” A big believer in the importance of culture in a workplace, Jacqui attributes a lot of her happiness in the role to her team, saying “The team I had to work with were so dedicated to our franchisees and our member network were just so wonderful.”

The restructure of the Stella Travel Service brand was a sad time for Jacqui, who looks back fondly on her time there, “I must say I shed a wee tear when the brand was put to bed under the restructure and creation of the now Helloworld Travel…. Progress is important I suppose!”

After Travelscene Jacqui moved through roles in events and sales spaces, these provided new skills and opened doors to other opportunities, giving Jacqui an understanding of the importance of strong leadership and adaptability. The many different roles and learnings along the way gave Jacqui an opportunity to diversify, “and to know that I can continue to diversify – I don’t put myself in a box.” She says.

“Some of my proudest moments have been helping people grow and seeing them succeed. I love watching the people who have worked for me grow and be successful, that’s the mother side of me coming out.”

After an inspiring career, Jacqui shows that agility, determination and a little adaptability go a long way in both the professional world and motherhood. When asked what her next big step is, her first thought is getting over the HSC hurdle, then, laughing she says she’s focusing on doing the job I was employed to do at Travelzoo, working toward increasing brand awareness within the industry as well as consumer branding. “We’re simply telling people what Travelzoo actually is – we are not a travel agent or a wholesaler of any description. We are a deals provider, that has spent the last 20 years building partnerships with more than 2,000 top travel suppliers—our long-standing relationships allow us access to the very best deals.” She says.

“I am now working for an online media company! If you had asked me 4 years ago what I would be doing now, this certainly wouldn’t have ever entered my mind” she says, “I lead a team of highly skilled and dedicated people that deliver outstanding travel, entertainment and lifestyle experiences. Each deal is personally reviewed by one of our deal experts in one of our 25 offices around the globe.”

Travelzoo is undergoing a significant change in terms of growth in Australia and other markets worldwide, direct and consumer brand awareness, and creating a culture of passionate staff, Jacqui says she’s enjoying the challenge, “I look forward to coming to work and seeing what we can accomplish that week. I look forward to crafting a supportive culture where people feel safe admitting you don’t have all the answers. It’s about taking risks and supporting the team while we navigate through.”

Businesses need to create opportunities while seeing the bigger picture, and that’s what Jacqui is there to do at Travelzoo, “’Test and Learn’ has been something that I have adopted in my thinking, especially where I am now, it’s a dynamite agile business. It doesn’t have to be 100% right, just get on and try it, if it doesn’t work then we have learnt from it. It’s something I encourage my team to do each day!”

Jacqui recognises that there’s no easy way around it, it’s about adapting, learning and never being afraid to admit you don’t know. “You know you’ve nailed success when it’s not just a job, it’s a passion. When you’re constantly inspired by the people around you and stop dreading Sunday nights.

Jacqui’s words of wisdom
  • Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know, always ask.
  • Never stop learning, and asking questions from everyone around you, both senior and junior.
  • Be pragmatic, not dramatic.
  • If not now than when.