The post IWTA speaks with Joana Button, Board Member of Australian Thai Chamber of Commerce and Director of Simple Scalable Solutions appeared first on TD (Travel Daily Media) Brand TD.
Like many Asian women, Joana Button has faced challenges in her career such as sexual harassment, bullying, and discrimination, coupled with the ever-persistent self-doubt and imposter syndrome. However, a strong woman that she is, she did not let these challenges stop her from becoming a successful entrepreneur.
As Joana said, she was bitten hard by the travel bug and her dedication to the industry led her to spearhead the inaugural Inspiring Women in Travel Asia (IWTA) Awards that honour and celebrate women in the travel industry. IWTA has spoken with Joana Button about her passion in helping small companies grow and scale their businesses and how her mother and family influenced and inspired her journey, personally and professionally.
Q: Tell us about yourself and how you came to work in the wonderful world of travel?
A: My travel career started at Globus & Cosmos as their HR/Admin Executive, a role that laid the foundation for my career journey. Guided by an incredibly supportive leader, I delved into every aspect of the business, from sales and marketing to office management and HR. This invaluable start paved the way for my role as HR Manager at Stamford Hotels and Resorts, eventually leading to the position of National HR & OHS Director at their corporate head office.
The travel bug bit me hard, and from there, I ventured into the realm of Travel Technology as the Director of HR for a group of companies and after a couple of years I was leading and overseeing operations and expansion efforts globally.
Motivated by my 15 years of intrapreneurship, I took a leap of faith and started my own entrepreneurial journey and now, I help startups and SMEs to grow and scale through Simple, Scalable (people and technology) Solutions.
Q: How do you believe your experiences as a woman have influenced your approach to travel?
A: Well, my journey in the travel sector has been shaped by my unique perspective as a young Asian woman in my earlier career and then later as a single mother. Beyond enriching the traveller’s experience, my leadership perspective has been greatly influenced by the innate empathy and attention to detail that women bring.
Travel, for me, is an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s not just about reaching a destination but immersing myself in local culture, fostering connections, understanding and contributing to the communities I visit.
From a leadership standpoint, my nurturing leadership style is defined by my travel experiences and the many challenges of motherhood such as fostering an inclusive, collaborative and supportive environment where everyone’s strengths are acknowledged and utilised. That has only been made possible because of travel, as it has opened my eyes to and appreciate the nuances of different cultures.
Q: What skills and attributes for success do you consider essential for women pursuing leadership roles in the travel sector?
A: From experience, I believe women must step outside their comfort zone and get used to embracing risks and continuous learning. After all, having a growth mindset and always being curious is crucial to leadership. The most successful leaders I know surround themselves with smarter, better people and navigate change with ease, connect with diverse stakeholders, and foster a culture of communication and collaboration.
For me, I try to encourage a culture where mistakes are viewed as opportunities for growth. I often say, “I am not always right, but I am always sure.” Which means taking ownership and accountability for your mistakes, to learn from it and move on. Often, women, and I have done this plenty of times myself, we have a tendency to want to make things “perfect” but nothing is and will ever be “perfect”. I learnt quickly in business that you have to be decisive, get used to failing and continuously iterating and finally, just be open to change. I think COVID-19 taught the industry that valuable lesson.
Q: What initiatives or projects have you been involved in that aim to preserve and support local communities?
A: My dedication to community service is ingrained in everything I do. Beyond my corporate roles, I am actively involved in both the Australian and Thai communities through my CSR work driven by my dedication and desire to give back to the industries and communities I am passionate about.
One of those passions is nurturing the next generation which is seen through the development of the newly formed NextGen Community and mentoring program we created at AustCham. It’s a vibrant community and hub that unites and inspires young professionals, young entrepreneurs and those young at heart to do business, connect and create a lasting impact.
But children’s charities hold a special place in my heart, and I am dedicated to providing education, hope and opportunities to those less fortunate because my goal is to help break the cycle of poverty from which my parents came from.
I am especially proud of our AustCham CSR efforts during COVID-19 raising THB 3 million to help Thai families with COVID-19 care and every year since then we have raised much-needed funds for our charities. This year we are focussing on 5 orphanages, in 5 hubs (Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Hua Hin) for 500 THB per box to put a smile on children’s faces this Xmas and holiday period. To learn more about it or to donate you can go to AustCham website.
Q: What challenges did you face as a female entrepreneur in the travel industry, and how did you overcome them?
A: My journey as a female entrepreneur was not without its challenges. I faced sexual harassment, bullying, and discrimination, the usual suspects…but coupled with the ever-persistent self-doubt and imposter syndrome, there were more downs then ups. There were also countless times when I had to “tone down my personality” or “change my appearance” or deemed “too pretty,” “too sexy”, “too bossy” “too funny” or even “too smart”. The office gossip, the innuendos – it all added to the challenges of being a young Asian woman in business and a single mother.
But I didn’t let it stop me, I turned every negative experience into opportunities. As simplistic as it sounds, I just took one step at a time and broke through…the barriers, the gender bias, the glass ceiling!
My advice to aspiring female entrepreneurs is, it’s not for the fainthearted so grow thick skin, learn to laugh and embrace every challenge, every knock-back and roadblock as a stepping stone to success…it’s all part of the entrepreneurial journey – trust the process! Trust and believe in yourself!
Q: What initiatives or policies do you believe are essential to ensure diversity, inclusion and equality in the workplace?
A: I am a staunch advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equality. While proactive policies are essential, I believe in fostering a culture where differences are celebrated and individuals are empowered to bring their best authentic selves to work.
My role as a Board Member for AustCham and Co-Chair of Inspiring Women in Travel Asia (IWTA) reflects my commitment to diversity initiatives. Every journey has a story, and every voice deserves to be heard.
That’s why we created the IWTA Awards, it’s to not only celebrate these amazing stories and achievements but to recognise the diverse, unique and extraordinary #womenintravel from different backgrounds, upbringing, cultures and countries.
Q: Who has been your greatest inspiration on your journey? Why?
A: Oh this is a tricky one. As cliche as it sounds, my mother is a source of inspiration for her resilience, selflessness, kindness, and dedication to a life of service. She taught me to never give up, to contribute, to give back and to help others.
From a career and professional perspective, I have had some great mentors and leaders and even those who I have personally led and mentored over the years. Each one has played a part (including the bad) in shaping my journey as a leader and who I am today.
But my greatest inspiration are my daughters and my wonderful husband, a true champion of strong women, who constantly grounds and supports me and the girls. Finding male champions, especially in life and in business, is incredibly powerful. His belief in me fuels my journey and gives me the confidence boost I need when I do not have that belief in myself. I am incredibly grateful that I am surrounded by people who encourage, lift, guide and inspire me each and every single day!
If you know of any female leaders or up and coming superstars in the Travel and Hospitality industry you would like to nominate, please visit our page and complete a nomination form!