In conversation with Hema Odedra about her successful career with Virgin Holidays.
Project researcher, Louise Dixey, was fortunate enough to meet Hema at an ABTA workshop on Apprenticeships in Tourism and Hospitality. Hema is an apprenticeship success story and shares her journey from Business & Administration apprentice to World-wide Destination Manager.
Why did you decide to start your career through an apprenticeship programme instead of going into higher education or full-time work?
I started looking for an apprenticeship at the age of 17 years old, at the time I was in sixth form and knew that going to university just wasn’t for me. Although I was quite academic, I hated studying and could never decide on a chosen career path. I knew that I’d be better suited to going straight into the workplace.
Though going into full-time work was my intention, I knew that getting my foot in the door to a company I could see myself with long term, as well as in a field I was passionate about, would be hard. Especially with my lack of qualifications and experience.
Why did you choose to do a Business Administration apprenticeship in the tourism industry in 2012/3?
At the time of looking for an apprenticeship; I wasn’t targeting any particular industry and was completely unaware of the different opportunities available in travel. I’ve had a passion for travel since my first family holiday in 2007.
I had applied to various different apprenticeships in different fields but as soon as I saw the Business & Administration opportunity in tourism, I knew it was the right fit for me.
What skills did you develop during your apprenticeship with Virgin Holidays?
Not only had I gained a qualification in Business administration, but I had also gained invaluable experience in the workplace and in the tourism industry, which I could then use to get myself a permanent position either at the same company or another.
The apprenticeship was my foot in the door to an industry I didn’t know existed. They’ve progressed me and given me so many life and work experiences. I’m now able to confidently move on into another business and feel as though I have the same experience as any other employee who may have attended university.
Since you completed the apprenticeship five years ago you have been promoted to World-wide Destination Manager. Congratulations! Tell us about your responsibilities and what you enjoy most about the job.
Thank you! My role as Destination Manager has quite a wide range of responsibilities, from choosing the hotels we sell, getting the best possible hotel rates for our customers all year round, helping and training our wonderful sales teams, making sure we have the best holiday packages possible and ensuring our customers are looked after whilst on holiday.
Every day is different and presents a new challenge. Which I love! Of course, I also love the travelling involved too!
What are your future ambitions?
I’d like to continue to progress in my role and hone my skills as a Destination Manager. Who knows, in a few years’ time I may be ready for the next step up or find myself living in a completely different country! For now, I’d like to see where this role takes me…