How Covid Impacted my Travel Manager Role

by Makiko Barrett

I was no exception when business travel was hit hard by the pandemic.

Travel had completely ceased after bringing people back to their homes and implementing travel restrictions. Although we thought the situation would improve in a few weeks, matters seemed to get worse after three months. With no travel transactions, I had to let my staff go, and I felt insecure about my job. That is when my manager asked me if I would manage the procurement team.

In the past, I had worked in procurement as a buyer but my categories were limited to travel, events, and card programs. As a people pleaser, I liked the fact that travel buyers also managed day-to-day programs, which gave me the opportunity to help people.Therefore, I was totally new to other spending categories. I thought the travel industry acronyms were bad, but in the procurement world, I discovered a whole new set of acronyms; and, during meetings, I would often consult Google to look up the words, and hoped no one noticed.

Having been comfortable in the travel industry after 20 years, I was very frustrated by what I didn’t know within my new job responsibilities. I had completed many self-study courses and joined webinars in an attempt to learn everything I could about all spend categories from Engineering to IT. But it was simply not possible to learn everything I could in a short period of time and realized that I had to change my mindset to survive. I dealt with my shortcomings by hiring excellent sourcing managers who have strong subject matter expertise. A silver lining outcome is that management is now open to hiring people from outside of The Bay Area, which allowed me to cast a wider net.

To have time to strategize for both travel and procurement functions, I now coach my travel manager and delegate more. Because I come from the hospitality industry, I am good at building relationships in order to gain the trust and buy-in I need to make changes. After working for many different companies, I've learned that there is more than one way to accomplish a goal. You can't just repeat what you did in the previous company and assume that it will work here as well. You will be left behind if you are not flexible.

With Covid and the hopeful recovery, I’ve learned that change is inevitable and unpredictable - and it is critical to reassess every change as an opportunity for growth. I like to challenge and reinvent myself; and I am committed to lead SVBTA as President with the same mindset.

Makiko Barrett is currently the Director of Global Procurement & Travel for Automation Anywhere, Inc. , a leader in Robotic Process Automation, based in San Jose, CA. Makiko’s career spans over 20 years managing procurement and travel including Verizon Media, Yahoo, LSI Logic and Elan Pharmaceuticals. Makiko is currently serving the Silicon Valley Business Travel Association as their President.

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