People & Stories

Women in leadership: celebrating four of our own

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChoosetoChallenge; a theme that is especially pertinent to all of us at Trafalgar. As a business, we are proud to be lead by a predominantly female team – in fact 83% of our executive team is made up of female leaders. Each of these women at some point in their careers, has chosen to challenge gender bias, particularly in an industry that is traditionally dominated by male leaders.

On International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating every woman who is part of the Trafalgar story, from our guests, to our teams around the world, to the great hosts and suppliers we work with. Trafalgar is a business that supports women’s development and growth into leadership roles, and this is perfectly exemplified by the career journeys of 4 of our great leading ladies.

Let us introduce you to Melissa, Dee, Jillian and Katrina…

Melissa Da Silva, President USA for Trafalgar, Costsaver, Brendan Vacations and Contiki

melissa da silva

How many years have you been with The Travel Corporation (TTC), and what was your first role within the business?

I joined TTC 8 years ago as President of Contiki (TTC’s youth travel brand). I had worked in youth travel for 20 years at that point on the travel agency side.  My first trip out of the US as a 21 year old was on a Contiki, which solidified my desire to build a career in travel.

How has TTC supported your progression from your first role, to now President USA?

TTC offered me my first role as a brand president, and I had the great benefit of learning from other leaders within our family of brands. I had outstanding mentors who provided me with transparent feedback allowing me to grow and transition into a leader, rather than a manager.

While still at Contiki I had the opportunity to work on global projects and make real contributions to help shape the business. In 2017 I was offered the opportunity to become the President of Trafalgar (the flagship brand of TTC) as well as Costsaver and Brendan Vacations, and then in 2020, we brought Contiki back into our team so we now manage all 4 amazing brands.  

RELATED CONTENT: In conversation with: Mae Cheah, Trafalgar President for Asia

What one piece of advice would you give to young women who look up to you and the journey you have had?

I actually have 3 pieces of advice: 

  1. Go for it!  There has never been a role I have been offered or applied for that I was 100% “qualified” for based on the job description.  There will always be aspects of any job or project that you may need to learn or improve on, but don’t let that stop you from taking the leap. That said, don’t fake it either – just be willing to learn, take feedback and be honest with yourself and others where you need time to get up to speed.    
  2. Support other women, and women of color. Be a mentor, offer advice, be a shoulder, encourage, and empower the women around you. This is not a platitude, it is the cornerstone to us gaining full equality in the workplace.  
  3. On a personal note, I would also say that there is no such thing as a working mom who is able to juggle all the balls all the time. We all feel stretched, strained and like we are failing both our families and our work. That is NORMAL. Give yourself grace, allow yourself to not get through your emails (they will be there tomorrow) and know that you are not alone in the struggle.  

Dee Marrocco, Chief Marketing Officer for Trafalgar and Costsaver

Dee Marrocco

How many years have you been with TTC, and what was your first role within the business? 

I joined TTC in 2010, based in Sydney as the Head of Marketing for Contiki Australia. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to work across various discipline areas and brands, and had the full support of the business to grow my career to now be in my current position, where I am now proudly the CMO of the Trafalgar and Costsaver brands based in Geneva, Switzerland.

How does it make you feel, to be the CMO of a business where 83% of the executive team, and 76% of the senior leadership team are female?

I feel so blessed to not only be part of these phenomenal industry leading brands, but one where I get to work with the most talented network of people. The women at not only a leadership level, but all levels of the business, inspire me everyday. I am grateful, and proud, to work with a business where our 83% of women in leadership is way beyond the average.

I’m energised that as a current leadership team we continue to mentor and grow new young female leaders, meaning this focus on women in leadership at TTC will only continue to grow into the future.

How do you feel supported and empowered by CEO Gavin Tollman, to achieve all that you want to achieve for you and your team? 

Gavin is a true visionary CEO that empowers not only me, but all the leadership team, to think bold and be brave. I feel completely supported to bring new ideas to the table and encourage my team to do the same. Gavin has a great way, without us even knowing it, of helping us all live and breathe our core brand value –to Build on the Best each and every day!  

RELATED CONTENT: Why a solo female travel experience is incredible for the soul at any age

Jillian Gattrell, Director of Operations Europe, for Trafalgar and Costsaver

Jillian Gattrell

How many years have you been with TTC, and what was your first role within the business?

I have been with TTC for 14 amazing years. I first came on board as Operations Manager for Grand European Travel, then a few months later I became Brand Manager for Trafalgar, and now 10 years later I’m Operations Director for Europe. It has been quite a journey, never a dull moment and I’ve loved every minute! 

How does TTC and Trafalgar support the women that we work with – our local hosts, Local Specialists, suppliers etc?

I believe we are an incredibly supportive organisation for empowering women in their resident destinations. We provide thorough training and support for our Hosts and Local Specialists alike, to ensure they are engaged with our brands and have all the tools to be the very best in delivering exceptional experiences and customer service. In building and nurturing these professional relationships, we are privileged to have an extended TTC network of caring and committed individuals across Europe.

We have women that started as Local Hosts and have progressed into TTC Management roles and for so many of our knowledgeable and experienced Local Specialists, we really are the Company of choice . We only have to look at some of our incredible Be My Guest or Make Travel Matter Experiences, to see the wonderful skill sets and specialised local knowledge shared with our guests from all over the world – be it with Oonagh in Ireland or Marta in Italy, we are so fortunate to collaborate with such wonderful and inspiring women.

Do you think there is still work to be done to see more women in leadership roles within the travel industry?

Absolutely, especially within Europe. I sit on the ETOA Advisory Council, which has predominantly male representation. I have also conducted interviews with female candidates keen to work for TTC and on asking why they are considering leaving established roles and organisations, the answer was the inability to progress further owing to gender. This is definitely not the case at TTC , you have only to look at the incredible women in leading roles.  

From my own perspective I have been encouraged, supported and inspired to develop both personally and professionally, to be in a position that challenges me, but one that I so love.

Katrina Barry, Managing Director Australia of Trafalgar, Costsaver and Contiki

Katrina Barry

How many years have you been with TTC, and what was your first role within the business?

I joined in January 2014, so 6 years and going strong.  My first role was Managing Director of Contiki Australia.

Which women within the business have inspired you and the journey you have had?

I am constantly inspired by the beautiful boss ladies I’ve had the privilege to work closely with other the years – gals I call my work sisters.  These include legends like Fiona Dalton, Melissa de Silva, Toni Ambler, Alex OÇonnor (ex MD of Insight Australia).  And of course lets not forget the deity that is Lorraine Sharp, a forever rebounding, forever youthful lady who has done every role there is at TTC. 

What inspires me about my work sisters is the juggle – all are Mum’s and typically operating as the primary caregiver and the primary leader in their business.  The juggle and the struggle is real, but they are so good and so dedicated, and these ladies truly excel. 

And what makes the work sisters so special is that we lift each other up, we have each other’s back in good and bad times, and are always there for each other with a pep talk or a wine.

As a mother of two young children and a successful MD, how has TTC supported you so you are able to do both – raise a family and have a successful career?

I grew up on a farm with some VERY early starts and sometime VERY odd hours, which means I don’t believe in work/life balance. It’s just life. I am realistic that work is not a 9-5pm situation. You have to fit in work, family, friends, fitness, fun, chores and all the grand and minor tasks in between and at different times you will have a different emphasis, so embrace your career as part of what makes your life great. 

So for me, that has meant a philosophy that I encourage all our staff and myself, to “make it work for you” and TTC has been hugely supportive of that. This flexibility has enabled me to (try to!) fit it all in. So if that means getting your hair done at 2pm or doing a conference call at 10pm, or squeezing in a daycare visit at 4pm because you started on calls at 6am, then so be it.

RELATED CONTENT: Travel Director Stephanie on juggling a career in travel, with being a Mum

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