Travel designer instead of travel agent: this is why I work for Voya
18. April, 2017
Both of them successfully completed their apprenticeships to work as a travel agent. Both are on their way into one of the established, global travel companies. Still, they chose Voya. Here’s why Anne Bente and Alice decided to go down this road – and are happy with their rather unusual decision.
Right around the same time summer had finally arrived in Hamburg, Anne Bente applied for a position in a renowned logistic enterprise. She also sent an application to Voya. Although Anne Bente wasn’t exactly looking for a new job, she felt intrigued by both employment ads. Two very different ones at that.
Half a decade earlier, she packed her bags to go on a journey that would later on determine her career aspiration. As a tourist guide, Anne Bente travels to Spain and subsequently enters an apprenticeship to become an agent for private and corporate travel.
After having worked for the business travel service “LCC Globetrotter” by Lufthansa, she studied international travel and tourism management. Suddenly, her CV was extensive and coherent. Her upcoming choice of job not so much – some thought.
Contrasts do mix and match well
It has become March. Another summer in Hamburg awaited around the corner, while Anne Bente entered the Voya office. “I don’t scare easily”, she says when asked about her future. “Back then I used to think: if not now, when?”
“Now”, at that point, meant October 2016. The 27-year-old joined Voya as team lead operations. Meaning, that she guides the team responsible for Voya’s customers and their booking requests. Alice, too, had become part of this very team.
Just a couple of months earlier, Alice read “Wanted: travel designer” in an employment ad, smiled and applied. “It’s only a fancy title”, she remembered herself in that instant. But everything about it felt new and exciting. New with regards to a trained travel agent, who had already worked within a corporate travel company for one decade. Eight years of which for the American Express business travel service.
Her application for a start up marked a transition in Alice’s CV. Travel designer at 32. She wasn’t the youngest in the office anymore, but the oldest. In fact, changes, which perfectly matched her often unexpected career path.
“I never wanted to leave the South of Germany and move to the North. And never did I want to enter the business travel world”, she remembers. Just a couple of years later, Alice lived and loved Hamburg and felt like she finally arrived. Working at Voya. “It took Max and Florian, these two young creative minds who had nothing to do with the travel industry, to get me excited for the travel industry again.”
At that point, her mind had already stepped out the door of the industry. She reentered because the two entrepreneurs gave her the feeling that there’s still something new to discover.
From travel agent to designer: It’s all about teamwork
Half a year later, Anne Bente (on the left) and Alice (right) are long into co-shaping the startup. “We are able to contribute to everything. We actually have to. After all, success, here, is understood as a team effort. Everybody contributes on one and the same level”, Anne Bente reports. Simultaneously, she states the main reason why she doesn’t sit at the desk next door, within that big shipping company. But right here, at Voya. According to her, hierarchies here are as flat as the countryside around Hamburg. “I’ve seriously never experienced a work environment with this degree of harmony, collaboration and productivity.”
She enjoys that every customer is attended to individually. There are no standard schemes forced onto incoming requests. “And they are increasing every day”, Alice mentions along the way. “Every time a new travel agent is hired, we ask ourselves how we actually managed to get all the work down before – when our team still consisted of merely four or five agents. It gets more and more unimaginable.”
Today, her team operations counts six employees. Still, it gets busy every day. If any, it’s their team who’s missing at internal meetings. “To cancel with this very excuse…”, Alice starts her sentence and smirks.
Digital service – still a professional business
Anne Bente traveled to Berlin with a friend a couple of weeks ago. Just prior to departing they enjoyed a breakfast in the district of Schöneberg, near the train station Südkreuz. “I remember that moment really well when I noticed that it would be way more convenient to catch our ICE at Südkreuz. However, I wasn’t sure if this station was actually part of the train’s route.” Since she works for Voya, these kinds of situations would stick in her mind. Situations, in which one chat message suffices – since Voya.
Alice reports that many business travel services charge a fee per check-in. “Lots of travelers tell themselves then, that it’s not a hustle at all to get this done themselves. It only takes a couple of minutes, right?” In the process, they might miss the fact that even small to-do’s like these pile up. “Sitting in a meeting and remembering that you failed to book your preferred plane seat, is more distracting than you might think.”
With these statements, Anne Bente and Alice respond to a common attitude. Why should I pay money for a travel service? “Naturally, I think hard about hiring a costly service”, Alice reckons. According to her opinion, this process of “thinking” should be embodied by the free trial phase, which is offered by Voya. After all, Alice further says, “Sometimes you don’t realize your needs unless you try new things”.
That said, only if I’ve experienced the feeling of being one message away from my preferred seat, an overall booking, a flight cancellation etc., one comes to understand and know. Anne Bente concludes the matter in one simple question. “When do I ever claim a service and don’t pay money?”
A new era of travel agents…?
Especially if employees describe themselves as “incredibly passionate service providers”. At least, Alice does. Jobs like these, she states, are not all about money. “It’s more about taking care about customers, taking over their burdens.” Voya, in her eyes, in a totally novel way. Sooner or later, every travel service, enterprise or start up, would have to adapt to these new standards, she claims.
The 32-year-old Swabian is glad to have become a travel designer. And by that, she also means moving north. “There’s nothing more rewarding than grabbing a cold Fritz Cola after work and sitting on the office’s balcony watching boats driving in and out the harbor”, she says half a year later. Her old job at Amex led her to Nice. Instead of the turquoise Mediterranean Sea, she now looks down on the brown-ish green basin. Instead of a fixed work schedule, every day means a new challenge. After all, Alice nominated “Don’t stop me now” by Queen as Voya’s very own theme song…
…You want to know more about working at Voya? Here you’ll find the remaining interview with Anne Bente and Alice.