A FORCE FOR GOOD hub | Jayson Westbury’s Inspiring Story, The value of the CHECKERBOARD career
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Jayson Westbury’s Inspiring Story, The value of the CHECKERBOARD career

Jayson Westbury – CEO – AFTA

Jayson Westbury’s story is one that truly resonates with Jito who knows the value of a “checkerboard” career. Armed with the diversity and knowledge his varied career has provided him with, he has become an inspiring leader who has done things a different way – by following his passions along his own path.

Learn the rules LIKE A PRO so you can break them LIKE AN ARTIST

Jayson always wanted to be a bus driver but growing up above his father’s pub set him on his way very early in life. So early that when the staff went on strike Jayson was pouring beers to his first customers in the public bar at the age of just six years old. “Of course, the laws were very different back then,” says Jayson. His main work there was as a paid kitchen hand, doing dishes and peeling spuds. “It was a great grounding,” he recalls. After he finished school, he went to study a hotel course and spent his weekends working in the functions area of the family business.

“I MC’d over 1000 weddings so I guess that is how I became such a good public speaker,” he tells Jito.

Jayson believes you are a product of your environment. “I did want to become a military lawyer but that never happened but I did always have a lean towards law which I get involved with at AFTA,” he reveals.

Eventually, Jayson broke ranks and headed for the snow where he did a few seasons working in the ski resorts doing stints working in the bars, then as a ski instructor and then front office manager for Thredbo Alpine when he started to get serious about his hotel career. “Then I transferred to Canberra with the Hyatt Canberra with the front office,” he reminisces. “Part of my pre-opening role was to go and source memorabilia for the hotel and it is still on display there today.” Jayson then decided he would learn more about computers so he did another course before installing some machines into his dad’s hotel. “The computer guy gave me a job and I started installing front office computer systems in Asia working in places like Brunei, Singapore, Penang and so on,” he says.


Jayson interfaced computer systems, soldered wires and connected the old technology with the new using old dial-up modems. He would physically install the hardware then train the staff on using it. “At this stage I was detaching from frontline service and looking for something else,” he says. “I ended up with my own business in IT consulting for the hotel industry for a couple of years – accessing computer systems for hotel groups and recommending the path they should take.” It was through this consulting work that he landed a job with Unilodges as National Operations Manager. “I gave them a paper on their technology for the future and off the back of that, they offered me a job to join them in Sydney,” he says.

Jayson describes Unilodge as “before its time” because it offered long term accommodation for students which, during the school holidays, became hotel accommodation.

“It was a concept similar to that of today’s Airbnb except the technology wasn’t there then to do what it can today with the consumer,” he says.


Next Jayson went and ran AHS Hospitality Group as Group General Manager for three years. It was the 11th fastest growing private company in the country at the time. It was a great and diverse experience, according to Jayson.

Jayson has always been a part of industry associations in the hotel sector with an interest in law and reform, so when a job came up as CEO of the Australia Liquor Store Association with the task of significantly reforming licencing, Jayson jumped at the chance.  This role gave him experience he would need later to run AFTA.

He left that role to run a company called Directions, a business events and corporate travel management company, for 18 months before joining AFTA as CEO where he has been for the last 10 years.


During that time Jayson has learnt patience and when you have to stand up and say when you do something wrong and own it. He is a strong advocate for constant self-education and so completed his MBA recently.

He said when you are on a 22-hour flight it is a great time to study. It took him 14 months to complete.

Jayson says it has brought a sense of academia around his work knowledge and allowed his brain to think a little more strategically. “You can never stop learning,” he says. “I wanted a qualification that I could be proud of.”

Here’s Jayson’s advice for anyone looking at their career:

Don’t be frightened to change into different jobs. A lot of people say you need tenure but I think different companies, different cultures and diversity can be a benefit if you can tell the story well rather than just looking like you have an eclectic bunch of experiences. Learning to tell the story well is key!

If you are working for someone who is a pig that you don’t like or respect then leave. I have stayed in this role for 10 years because I have respect for the board. It doesn’t matter if you are the big boss, the little boss   or the middle boss, if you don’t have respect, get out. Find somewhere that wants and values you.

Don’t be frightened to ask questions when you don’t know. If you are in a management position surround yourself with people who know more than you and who are better than you. Don’t be threatened because you can learn from them – it’s all about managing that person and getting the most out of them.

Keep up with changing technology and be aware what your digital signature looks like. Anything you post on social media is there permanently and the first thing a future employer will do is Google your name and look at your social media footprint. I recommend that you Google your own name and check.

Don’t be frightened to switch industries. I have been a fringe dweller to the tourism and hospitality industries. Sometimes when you can’t advance then contemplate a fringed or linked industry. The tourism & hospitality industry is a collective family of micro industries – sometimes you need to think outside the circle to get ahead.



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