19 Feb Q&A with the Inspiring Sujata Raman
INSPIRING STORY BY JC INSPIRE
Sujata Raman – Regional Managing Director AUS/APAC – Abercrombie & Kent
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF, WHO YOU ARE? AND WHAT YOU DO?
I am Regional Managing Director for Abercrombie & Kent. My region includes Australia, New Zealand and China/Hong Kong. I manage three distinct business units – outbound travel, inbound travel and our cruise management business.
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 India, moving quite frequently between cities – Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta. I graduated in Economics from the American University in Cairo, Egypt
WHAT DROVE YOU TO YOUR CAREER IN ABERCROMBIE & KENT?
I was working at Sheraton hotels in Cairo when a friend told me that a travel company was building a luxury ship on the Nile and were looking for English-speakers. I rang the company (A&K) with nothing to offer other than my language fluency! The rest, as they say, is history.
WHAT MISTAKES DID YOU MAKE AND DID YOU FEAR ANYTHING?
I’ve made many mistakes along the way – who hasn’t? I learnt early on not to be deterred by mistakes and have come a long way from fearing failure which can, in itself, be paralysing. I’ve also learnt that I don’t need to know everything and that any good management team has a complimentary but not identical set of skills.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST WIN SO FAR?
The growth of the business in Australia – it’s not something I achieved on my own, but I take enormous pride in a business that has grown from a tiny niche operator, to one employing almost 100 staff and over 500 casuals.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES CAME EASY AND WHAT ONES DID YOU HAVE TO PUSH FOR?
I believe that I have been fortunate in my working life. I can’t say that career opportunities came easy and I certainly had to work hard to achieve them, but I see myself as lucky that they came my way.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST HURDLE YOU HAVE OVERCOME IN YOUR CAREER OR LIFE SO FAR? AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
I’ve come to think that women are often their own worst enemies – we are super critical of our achievements and are reticent to push forward and promote our own abilities. I’ve learnt to take on challenges even when I am not sure that I have the skills to meet them.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU LOVE YOUR CAREER AND WHAT YOU DO?
Every morning when I come to work! I can’t imagine life without loving my work.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST CAREER MOMENT SO FAR?
I work on the basis that my proudest moment is yet to come – everything I’ve done so far teaches me how to strive for the next pinnacle.
WHAT DO MORE BUSINESSES NEED TO DO DIFFERENTLY? AND WHAT CHANGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE INDUSTRY EMBRACE?
Businesses need to take a more long term view. Unfortunately, we tend to work in short timeframes and success is viewed in terms of quarterly or annual results. There’s rarely a long range 10 or 20 year strategic focus.
I’d love to see the industry really value expertise and experience. Unlike most other skilled professions, travel doesn’t charge anything for knowledge. Yet acquiring knowledge is our single largest training expense.
WHAT IS THE NEXT BIG THING ON THE HORIZON FOR YOU OR WHAT IS ONE UPCOMING PROJECT?
Our major project is to get our technology right. It’s a moving feast and a job never done, but we have to come to grips with the fact that good people alone can’t achieve success without the necessary technology.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
If you think something isn’t working, it’s not. It reminds me not to procrastinate and to make change quickly rather than letting things fester.
WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE LIFE GOAL?
I’m not sure I have an ‘ultimate’ goal. I find new ones every year which keeps life interesting and always aspirational.
WHAT IS ON YOUR INSPIRATION BOARD RIGHT NOW?
If you have the courage to begin, you have the courage to succeed.
WHAT DAILY TASKS WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO EMBRACE?
I’m a list maker and find it hard to function without a list whether at home or at work. Daily/weekly/monthly lists help me plan and writing a list somehow makes tasks more measurable and less stressful.
WHAT IS YOUR TOP 5 TIPS FOR LIFE?
We use the Fish! philosophy at A&K and I love it – only 4 tips but here they are: Choose your Attitude, Play, Make Their Day and Be There.
WHAT LIFE QUOTE DO YOU LIVE BY?
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
WHAT IS ONE THING OUTSIDE OF WORK THAT YOU’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT? OR IS YOUR HOBBY?
I love reading especially foreign language fiction writers. I also love travel, which is fortunate as life and work as so entwined.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS?
Don’t engage in anything you don’t absolutely love. Stay passionate.
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