Christine Loo was nominated as one of the 2018 Groups Today Top 10 Next Gens by readers for making a difference in the industry. She serves as the Marketing & Communications Manager for the Ontario Motor Coach Association (OMCA) and is an advocate of continuing education for personal and professional growth.
How did you become involved in the group travel industry, and what led you to your position as Marketing & Communications Manager with OMCA?
It was a chance encounter—but it was honestly one of the best things that ever happened to me. I was a recent graduate looking for a job when I came across OMCA, and I was hired on as an administration assistant, later becoming member care coordinator. Over time, we saw that my interests in editorial work and design would be put to better use in marketing and communications. I now oversee our digital and print publications, plus our online presence, and of course some fun design work on the side.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Hands down, the trust, freedom and ability to design promotional artwork and event materials. Regardless the size of a given project, it brings something special to my job when an opportunity comes up to design something. I've always loved art and creative expression ever since I was a kid, so I'm always looking out for my next creative outlet. It gives me a great sense of personal and professional accomplishment and joy.
Why is continuing education for personal and professional growth important to you?
I strongly believe that continuing education is absolutely essential. And it's not limited to what you learn in a school, either. I see it no differently from when we were growing up. When I was younger, my parents wanted us to do well in school but also encouraged us to take up other activities, many of which we've continued through adulthood: languages, vocal and instrumental music, sports, you name it. It's just lifelong learning and the benefits can—and do—extend into work life.
Years ago, I took up yoga for stress relief and it's been so helpful when I need to decompress. I also began cooking and baking. I challenge myself constantly to try new recipes and techniques. It's always scary in the beginning, and you doubt your abilities, but nothing beats the feeling of practicing, failing, learning from mistakes, and dong it over and over until you get it. Cooking and baking are now my go-to stress-relievers after long days: It's therapeutic and really boosts my confidence.
When I enrolled in a graphic design program last year, I already knew it was something I wanted to pursue, years ago, but never did—likely because of timing and also fear. I'm fortunate to be fulfilling a lifelong dream, which opens up a world of new possibilities to broaden my scope at work and allows me to bring a little piece of "me" to my job, as a way to combine personal creativity with professional obligations. For many of the things I learn now, I look forward to applying them at work and I'm happy to do it because this refreshes my role.
My job is evolving with me and it's truly an amazing feeling.
Continuing education on a personal level, by taking up new hobbies or rediscovering older ones, helps you grow as a person in so many ways—allowing you to push your own boundaries and expand your horizons. On a professional level, going back to school is truly empowering. As corny as it sounds, it's you taking the wheel with your future. It gives you the ability to keep learning and stay on top of this fast-changing world. It's too easy to sit back and leave your life and job on autopilot. Continuing education gets you thinking in new ways and gives you new perspectives to bring to the table. Your job is never the same again. And the overall growth and development only helps to take you further in your future endeavors. It's win-win.
What is your most prized accomplishment in your career so far?
It was probably when I put together two programs for the 2017 Ontario Transportation Expo. It was my first time taking on a project like it, from scratch. I built a 12-page program for the conference and an eight-page program for the trade show. At the time, I had very limited resources, so for a first-timer project, it was stressful and nerve-wracking. It was a real learning experience, though, and well worth the time and effort. While I've learned a lot since then, it was a big milestone for me and I still look back on that project with a lot of pride and a great sense of accomplishment.
How do you hope to make a difference in the travel and tourism industry?
I would hope that our members and other industry partners will see the promotional work that we put out, in our marketing designs and publications, and think about how much design affects their everyday lives in business.
When they're looking at ads in magazines or on transit, along the highway or on the internet, I hope they'll be inspired. A lot of thought and effort goes into each piece, and while it may seem fleeting, it got their attention—how did that happen? As I continue to learn this new world of design, I hope the industry will learn with me about the power of words and imagery, and their combined ability to guide, persuade and promote.
On top of that, we all know our industry has changed so much in recent years and this is where continuing education can really help as we evolve and adapt to these ongoing changes. Staying the same is not the answer. Whether it be learning the latest in customer relations, marketing, social media, management, events, or booking technology, there's always something new to learn. I hope that even this brief blurb will inspire someone to take that next step.
Courtesy of Groups Today.