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Inspiring Women: Meet Milly Colahan

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Last Updated on August 2, 2018

It’s not always easy working in the tech and travel industry as a woman, especially in management. But’s Milly Colahan tells us how she’s taking more risks and owning her success. As’s Strategic Growth Manager, Milly talks leadership, mentorship and why women need to put their hands up more often.

Hi Milly, thanks for talking to us. Firstly, can you tell us a bit about your role as’s Strategic Growth Manager?

Of course! When I first joined, my role was undefined. I had a wealth of experience in sales and had also run my own business, so I was brought in to share my knowledge to help the business grow. It soon became clear to me that I could help the business most with some senior mentorship and strategic leadership in the agents and partnerships department. This team plays an important role working with travel agents to help assist their clients with ground transportation, but growth was proving difficult and there was a need for a fresh approach and to think outside the box.

I knew that I had to make the role my own and look at ways to improve processes and frameworks so that the department could scale effectively.

I was extremely lucky that the team I inherited was incredibly qualified, very good at what they do, and had a passion to grow the business. They just needed some clear direction, which is where I came in.

Good leadership plus a values-aligned team can deliver results

You said that you were brought in to share your knowledge and experience, and that your role was undefined when you started. What advice would you give to someone who was stepping into a similar situation?

It’s very overwhelming to come into a role that isn’t defined, and it’s not for everyone, especially if you’re unsure how to navigate it.

The first step is believing in yourself, and that goes without saying in any role you take on in life. People often say ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ but I don’t agree with that. Don’t question your own skills – capitalise on what you do well, identify your strengths and apply them to the role, then everything will fall into place. Use what you know works and implement that first. Don’t be afraid to take risks, to experiment, run with ideas, try new things until they break, and don’t be afraid to say ‘that didn’t work’. Take ownership of the fails, but more importantly, take ownership of the successes. I think that’s so hard for a lot of people to do, especially in a humble way. But owning your success is extremely important.

As a leader, what are you looking for in your team?

Most importantly, I look for people who believe in themselves. Skills can be taught, so I’m looking for people who can be flexible in their way of thinking and can adapt to challenges. I find that having team members who are dedicated and passionate, results-orientated, who have a good work ethic, and care about goals, results and stakeholders are generally good people to have on board. If you combine all of those things with a strong leader who can guide them, you’ve got a winning combo. In my opinion, if you hire purely based on skill but the personality and values don’t align, then you won’t get the results.

If you adopt a team, like I did, then it’s all about finding what makes each individual tick, what drives them, and understanding how they work. Then identify their strengths, really listen to them, champion them and make them feel empowered and supported – in turn they’ll bring you the results you need. As a manager, I believe it’s about guiding people, not micromanaging them.

You recently attended an International Women’s Day conference – can you tell us about it and your key takeaways from the event?

Absolutely! The theme of the event was ‘inspiring greatness’ and it was organised by Jito Connected, which is a social platform that connects people in the travel industry. It was incredibly inspiring; there were some fantastic speakers, lots of women especially, who talked about their triumphs and their failures, and their ability to overcome adversity to achieve greatness, inspiring others to be the best that they can be. As well as speakers, there were boot camps, practical learnings and Q&As, plus a fantastic opportunity to network.

Part of the messaging was about owning your success. One of the speakers talked about Imposter Syndrome – where you feel that somehow you’re not actually good at what you do (even if you’ve been doing it for years at a senior level) and one day somebody will ‘find out’ that you’re, well, an imposter! Unfortunately, women seem to suffer from this more than men. We often have this perfectionist side to us, we like to finish things before we present them, we compare ourselves to others and we won’t put our hand up unless we’re 100 percent sure of the answer.

Women need to be putting their hands up more, says Milly

It was crazy – these incredibly successful women who are dominating their careers all got up and spoke about how they suffer from Imposter Syndrome, and how they constantly feel they’re not good enough.

Don’t get me wrong, men certainly feel it to, but it doesn’t seem to be nearly at the same level as women do. Men will put their hand up more often; for challenges, for opportunities and for answering questions, even if they don’t have the full, correct answers. I’m aware this is quite generalist; not every man and every woman fall into this box of course, but the general consensus was that men are far more likely to take a risk than women, and it makes a big difference. I know I’m guilty of this, so that was an extremely important lesson for me – learning to put my hand up, even if I don’t have the full answer just yet, and to not be afraid if I’m wrong.

How do we encourage women to put their hands up more?

We need to talk about women, celebrate women, even doing articles like this is great! Talking about women in leadership, recommending women for positions, that’s how we start to champion women and encourage each other to put our hands up. The praise of one another is what we need. We often work silently and get the job done, hoping someone will notice. But we need to be vocal about our achievements.

My advice is to put your hand up for leadership roles, take the risks needed, get a mentor and find out about their journey, engage with other female leaders – and that’s one of the reasons why I went to this event in the first place, to start engaging with other women in the travel and tech industry so we can champion each other and as a whole and make a difference.

What advice would you give to women who are looking for leadership roles?

One of the main things I’ve learned is that people get lots of criticism in management, and you need to be able to shrug it off and power through. It’s tough, for both men and women – it’s certainly not an easy ride for anybody. But women need to not take it personally. Power through any criticism, learn from your mistakes and take risks, because the rewards at the other end will make it all worthwhile.

Reaching out to mentors is a great way to help your career, but make sure you have clear goals. Photo by Farrel Nobel on Unsplash

Another important thing that I think everyone should do, for men as well as women and not just those wanting to expand into leadership, is to reach out and find a mentor. Contact people who you look up to and ask if you can catch up for a coffee and learn from them and their career path, and get their advice. Some people are intimidated to contact people who inspire them, but usually those in senior positions have so much advice that they would love to pass on, and nobody asks!

Have a clear goal of what you want to get out of a meeting though, don’t waste anyone’s time. I mentor some young women and I love to pass on knowledge, but they know my time is important.

And finally… what advice would you give to your younger self, starting out in the workforce?

There will always be challenges and things won’t always go your way. Life isn’t what you plan it to be – for instance, I was originally studying economics when I finished school! Things change, and that’s okay. Stay strong and you’ll find a way through it. Everything can feel so daunting when you’re young, and no one really prepares you for big forks in the road. Just know that they’re normal, they’re okay, and that if you stay strong you can bounce back. Don’t slow down, just keep going. You’ve got this, girl!

Milly Colahan works as the Strategic Growth Manager at’s Sydney HQ. If you have a question about working with our agents and partnerships team, please contact them on our agents page. Looking for ground transportation, transfers or airport shuttles? Check-out our website to compare thousands of airport transfers to find the right one for you.

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