15 Mar Say YES to opportunities before you’re ready… Vanessa Stavrou’s Inspiring Story
Vanessa Stavrou – Marketing Director – Contiki
Say YES to opportunities before you’re ready, have fun while you do it, be BOLD & be BRAVE, work hard and you will live a life of success
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF, WHO YOU ARE? AND WHAT YOU DO?
My name is Vanessa Stavrou, I live in an inner-city suburb of Sydney with my wonderful Fiancée Matt and my gorgeous little beagle Bella.
I joined Contiki, and the travel industry, 3 and a half years ago as the Head of Marketing. I’ve recently been promoted to Marketing Director, sharing the responsibility of Managing Director with our Sales Director Nathaly Naughton whilst our fearless leader Katrina Barry is on maternity leave.
I’ve had a rich professional career with experience in Investment Banking, Online Marketing, and Website Design, but the common thread through it all is my tenacious appetite to solve problems and lead extraordinary people to do extraordinary things.
Outside of work, like most people in our industry, I love to travel! Matt and I love hiking up mountains, and I often feel anxious if I haven’t been outdoors for a while.
If you get to know me you’ll soon learn my spirit animal is a monkey that dances like a chicken, basically I never take myself too seriously.
Matt and I not taking ourselves seriously on the W-Trek Patagonia & Bella dressed for our Australia themed Party
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD, WHERE DID YOU GROW UP, WHAT WERE YOUR CHILDHOOD DREAMS? AND WHERE DID YOU GO TO STUDY?
I grew up in the Southerland Shire of Sydney, in a loving home with 2 younger brothers. Thanks to mum’s unwavering love and dedication we were a high achieving bunch, our weeks filled with plenty of extracurricular activities. Both my brothers were exceptional athletes, but my love was dancing, mainly ballet but I did it all.
As a 5-year-old little girl, I had two dreams; either I would be a ballerina in the Australian Ballet or the first female prime minister of Australia. When Julia Gillard got the title, my dad called to double check I was ok… you can always rely on my dad for comedy!
Although I never made it as a Ballerina, performing and dancing became a huge part of my life. Through University I performed in Children’s pantomime shows with Barney, Bob the Builder, and was even the Olympic mascot Millie at the 2000 Sydney Olympic games.
Dad’s one piece of advice was ‘do yourself a favour kid, never grow up’… I may have taken that literally because after I graduated from Sydney University with a Bachelor of Economics I was an actor in Children’s TV completing a few series in both NZ and Australia. Eventually, I did have to grow up and put that degree of mine to use!
WHAT DROVE YOU TO YOUR CAREER IN CONTIKI?
I often joke that moving into the travel industry was like landing a job in Hollywood. Thanks to Katrina’s support when the opportunity came up at Contiki I was excited to join a leading millennial brand, in an industry I admired, doing the ultimate good – connecting people to life-changing travel experiences.
WHAT MISTAKES DID YOU MAKE AND DID YOU FEAR ANYTHING?
This isn’t a ground-breaking comment but let’s say my life to date has been full of learnings and not mistakes. As a marketer were conditioned to reflect and ask, ‘what would I have done differently to get a better outcome?’.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST WIN SO FAR?
Growing and developing the amazing Marketing team at Contiki. We just completed our application for the Mumbrella Travel Awards, Marketing Team of the Year, and it was a wonderful way to reflect together on all we had achieved. I’m like a proud mumma, and it brings a smile to my face when I reflect on their individual achievements and growth.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU LOVE YOUR CAREER AND WHAT YOU DO?
I know because I use the word LOVE way too much. I love my team, I love Contiki, I love that we have a profound impact on so many young people’s lives, and I love that we solve problems together. The only thing that could make work better was if my dog Bella got to come to the office!
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST CAREER MOMENT SO FAR?
We read out customer stories as a team once a month, and each month I am blown away by the amazing tales of how travelling with Contiki has changed their lives. When you say you work for Contiki people’s faces light up as they share stories of travelling on Contiki in the 70s, 80s or any year and how it changed their life. An overwhelming proud feeling wells up to know that you play a part in the work Contiki does to bring people together through travel experiences.
HOW HAS THIS CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
I want to work in travel forever!
WHAT DO MORE BUSINESSES NEED TO DO DIFFERENTLY? AND WHAT CHANGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE INDUSTRY EMBRACE?
Working in travel as an industry we shouldn’t underestimate the power we have to advocate for open boarders, open-mindedness, and human rights.
WHAT IS THE NEXT BIG THING ON THE HORIZON FOR YOU OR WHAT IS ONE UPCOMING PROJECT?
I feel honoured and blessed to be given the opportunity to step up in an Acting MD capacity for the next year. It’s great to know that The Travel Corporation can provide such an amazing development opportunity.
I’m excited by the year ahead, the opportunities and challenges that may present themselves. Working closely with Nathaly and the team I’m confident we will take Contiki to the next level and continue to make a difference in young people’s lives.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
It’s not the best but this piece of advice but it is a saying that has stuck with me for life – “to be on time is to be late and to be early is to be on time”. This quote is from an exceptional woman who use to produce the children shows I performed in. You could define her as old-school Broadway musical type, she demanded excellence and got the best out of you. What I took from this advice is that you should always arrive prepared for anything you do.
WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE LIFE GOAL?
What a question! Ultimate seems so final. This isn’t really the way I think, I set out to live a life filled with love and memories by connecting to my family and friends. Outside of that, I have a whole stack of little goals I want to achieve in my lifetime. One of those goals is take a year off and travel with Matt.
WHAT IS ON YOUR INSPIRATION BOARD RIGHT NOW?
Our next trip to the USA where we plan to hike through Yellowstone National Park.
WHAT DAILY TASKS WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO EMBRACE?
Before you check your work emails, start your day with something that energises you, and sets the tone for the rest of the day. Having positive physical and mental energy gives you the power to tackle whatever the day throws at you. For me it’s exercise, my energy comes from doing boot camp 3 days a week.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 5 TIPS FOR LIFE?
- No phone’s in the bedroom
- Remember this too shall pass
- Dance often
- Laugh often
- And remember to be kind… you never know what’s going on in someone’s life
WHAT LIFE QUOTE DO YOU LIVE BY?
This quote is in honour of my Aunty who I love to bits and is a profound mentor in my life.
“We didn’t realise we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun” – Winnie the Pooh
WHAT IS ONE THING OUTSIDE OF WORK THAT YOUR PASSIONATE ABOUT? OR IS YOUR HOBBY?
Did I mention I love hiking! Some of the highlights: I hiked to Everest Base Camp with my best friend, hiked the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu with my Mum recently, and spent Christmas with Matt on the W-Trek in Patagonia a few years back.
From left to right and down; Me in Patagonia, Me at Everest Base Camp and Mum and I at Machu Pichu.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS?
I’m no guru, I can only share what helped me with some of my successes; I was bold, I was brave, I said yes to opportunities before I was ready, and above all I worked hard and tried to have fun while I did which is what I believe got me where I am today.
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