Thursday, March 21, 2013

Time well spent at Ensemble

... Hello Again! :)

Who would have thought that a seven week externship would go by so quickly? I was more than lucky enough to have the placement extended and to have the opportunity to do some awesome things independently that helped out everyone. I hear all these horror stories and comments of others having to do these internships or placements as part of their post-secondary program about them having to do basically "b****-work for free". Which is why I am so thankful to be given responsibilities of conducting my own marketing research project, while helping out in many other ways with the rest of the marketing team and their own projects.

Here are some of the highlights:

Creating libraries/databases.
Simple data entry that I had past experience with. The first one was conducting an online destination wedding contest. The contest: YOU COULD WIN YOUR WEDDING CONTEST was an online promotion for entrants a chance to win a destination wedding in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba. Given all the entries from the webmaster, I had to organize all the data into a spreadsheet with all the information given (around 400 entries in the 10 weeks).

Another project related to this was to create a library database for the Ensemble Vacations Magazine. This is Ensemble's national, consumer travel and lifestyle magazine published by Ensemble Travel® Group for its member agencies designed to inspire the readers' passion for travel. With 16 issues in the past 4 years (4 issues a year), it featured many articles featuring destinations. My goal was to create a library of all the topics, destinations that were covered with keywords and a quick synopsis for each article. The result? Quick retrieval of data for staff of what topics or destinations have already been published and being able to access the articles efficiently. A total of 165 entries.

Content writing for DestinationVows
This was one of my favourites, mainly because I got to do what I enjoy doing, albeit with some researching required and image searching. Armed with a couple of Caribbean destinations: St Lucia and Turks and Caicos Islands, along with some prominent resorts to feature, I set out to write about what makes the destination ideal for the perfect destination wedding, including wedding and honeymoon packages. Started off with my own little blog to develop the content here, then sending it to Ensemble's web developer to place on their website for St Lucia and Turks and Caicos Islands here. Having never been to any of these destinations, I had to research about them, but after working on it, it really makes me want to visit them personally in the future.

Surveying Ensemble agency members
This project was to help Ensemble learn more about their agency members and to better reach their members with more focused marketing programs. I created a survey with the use of Google Form, allowing me to easily enter and track responses and was used mainly by myself. I called up each agency to speak with the manager/owner of each one representing Ensemble's marketing team to learn more about their agency and how their agency is currently marketing their services to the public, the GDS systems they used, and their past/current participation in the Ensemble marketing programs: Ensemble Vacations Magazine, DestinationVows, Bon Vivant, Luxe & Direct Mail campaigns.

Analyzing the primary data from survey and presentations
The next part of this project was to take the data I gathered from conducting the survey and develop a presentation for the marketing team and the co-president of Ensemble Travel. It found resounding results based on the level of participation by the agencies, their lack of use for GDS systems, and their own marketing initiatives. Given the resounding results, I was given another project in conjunction with this. I was then to take the data and results of the survey especially their participation of the various marketing programs with Ensemble, and breakdown the data based on the agencies' annual revenue to find any relationship between the two factors. Another presentation of the findings and breakdown of participation levels based on agency revenues was developed by myself.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stepping Stones to the Future

Hello there again! I've had a busy four months of college and finally a bit of downtime during this holiday season. First off, I would like to wish everyone a happy and warm holiday seasons, hope everyone is able to spend it with the ones they love, family, and friends.

I finally feel like I'm starting to get my life together professionally. I finally feel like I have a vision and goal that I am working towards now and what I want to accomplish in the next few years.

The first step: Get a job in a reputable, well-recognized organization.

I have started working at Porter Airlines in November working part-time as I finish off my college diploma at George Brown College. Believe it or not, but Porter Airlines' brand recognition is one of the highest in the airline/aviation industry known for their service, speed, and convenience; ultimately redefining the flying experience for passengers. The company is great through and through, and also can't forget about the perks and benefits as well.

The second step: Get an externship/internship that inspires my passion for tourism.

As part of my program at George Brown College, the fourth and final semester of the diploma program includes a 7 week, minimum 24 hour per week externship/internship we need to complete and to gain valuable industry experience. I first had my hopes set on getting one at a tourism board, specifically Tourism Toronto, but they did not reply back at all. I was disappointed, but continued applying various tourism companies from travel agencies, travel managing consultants, tour operators, and hotels.

I was so lucky to have found an once unknown company to me, Ensemble Travel Group. After meeting with a couple of companies and comparing to my experience meeting with Ensemble, I was so flattered and welcomed immediately. That first meeting left a lasting impression with me, it got my creative juices flowing, excitement building with the various challenging projects and tasks I would be undertaking during my time with the company.

I will be able to learn about the tourism industry on multiple levels. First by touring a couple of travel agencies (their clients/customers) in the city of Toronto, to learn how they operate on a daily basis. Then work with the director of marketing and magazine editor at Ensemble to create new marketing plans and initiatives to drive their magazine efficiency and maybe even publish my own article! Lastly, after meeting with them for lunch, another fascinating and intriguing project would be to create marketing plans that target tourism boards, YES, tourism boards for countries around the world and create networks with them in encouraging them to use Ensemble Travel Groups products and services for them.

The third step: Harness my education, experience and skills to create a business idea to upstart my entrepreneurship aspirations.

I have something in mind already, as it does relate to my experiences in traveling abroad, but I don't have the necessary skills in programming, web development, etc., to make this happen right now. But I do wish to be able to find other people with related skills in creating a new travel experience for ordinary people like you and me. But in the meantime, I'm going to have to keep this a little secret for the rest of you.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Love of Puzzles

Ravensburger Underwater Tranquility -5000Pieces

Isn't it weird how there are some things in life that you enjoy doing like a hobby that others don't feel the same admiration for. Well personally for me, my love for building puzzles often baffles others. I hear "It's so hard", "It takes so long" etc. over and over again. Sure, I understand that, but I find the finished product is always worth the time taken to build it.

Ravensburger African Animals- 3000Pieces

I think it was because I started young. How young exactly? Probably around the age of one I had begun playing with the children jigsaw puzzles with the large pieces. I remember playing it also while in pre-school too before kindergarten. I guess it might have been also in my genes, considering both my mom and dad enjoyed building jigsaw puzzles together before I was born. As I grew older, I also became fascinated with the Wrebbit 3D Puzzles and would always ask for them as birthday and Christmas gifts. Today, there are no more 3D puzzles available unfortunately, but I have become a huge fan of the Ravensburger series of jigsaw puzzles. The quality of the pieces are the best standards I have come across through twenty years of building puzzles.

Wrebbit 3D San Francisco- 1500Pieces
Wrebbit 3D Venice- 1500Pieces

Finally, I am glad I have this as my interest and passion because it has helped me become a more patient person. Building large scale puzzles of 3,000 and even 5,000 pieces takes a lot of time and patience. I no longer become easily frustrated with problems, am able to step back, and look at the problem from a distance, a new perspective. And that is something not many interests can help an individual like myself learn. It simply is priceless. It also gives me some alone time, where I am in a calm, clean slate state of mind where any problems I may have, just simply no longer matters and I am at peace with myself in building this puzzle.

Wrebbit 3D Puzzle New York, New York- 3000Pieces

If you're interested in undertaking this interest, feel free to check out a blog post I wrote previously: How to Build a 5000 Piece Ravensburger Jigsaw Puzzle where I outline some simple steps in completing any jigsaw puzzle.

Ravensburger Oceanic Wonders- 3000Pieces

My proudest accomplishments: Building the 5,000 piece Underwater Tranquility, the New York 3,000+ piece 3D puzzle.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Home From a 7week Adventure

Hi there, if you haven't noticed, I have not posted anything for the last two months, partly because I have been out of the country without a computer. I went to live in Seoul, South Korea for five weeks and ended with a two week stay with my relatives in California, USA.  

It's somewhat good to be home, but I really enjoyed the experience, being able to live like a local while travelling was more relaxing and rewarding than I had anticipated. I will be looking to update my Travel Adventures Blog in the coming days and weeks of all the places I have visited. The weather was great in Korea, and only average in California (surprisingly). I had originally budgeted $5,000 for this trip, but I ended up using only around $3,400 because of my frugal spending, really affordable yet delicious food, and not much shopping to do. Now, maybe use that leftover money for one more trip before school starts in  September?

Monday, April 23, 2012

George Brown College: Centre for Hospitality & Culinary Arts Awards

The highlight of this post is to highlight the wonderful Awards Night that was planned by the support staff from the Centre for Hospitality & Culinary Arts: Maria Felisa Torres-Hives and Cindy Nguyen-Do. Not expecting much from it, I was blown away by the preparation and running of the awards night from rehearsing, to the reception, and to the actual awards receiving as well. It all took place at the Sheraton Centre in Downtown Toronto which was a very convenient location for all. We also had a keynote speaker from Tourism Toronto, their president and chief executive officer, David Whitaker.

Each award winner was to prepare a thank-you card to the donor, in my case, the former Dean of the CHCA School, John Walker, and a photo of themselves with a quote. It took me awhile to decide on a quote but I decided on this one:
"Aim not for what you are, but for what you could be." 
- Lucas Hellmer

I was delighted to have won an award for my hard work during the semester, more specifically the John Walker Scholarship for "academic excellence, interest and commitment in their area of study. This student has demonstrated job related social skills including positive attitude, enthusiasm and respect." Thank you John Walker for your generosity, and your continual support of George Brown College students like myself in reaching my goals and for your contribution to the school and city as a whole.

Still awaiting the more formal photos taken by the photographers at the awards night. Just updated with the photos taken by the photographers. Overall, it was a really enjoyable evening with my wonderful friends as guests. Looking forward to more memorable moments at the school and hopefully more awards in the future too!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

George Brown College Chef School: The Marriage of Food & Wine

This past Friday March 23 was The Chef School's Marriage of Food & Wine event at George Brown College where second-year culinary management students showcase their knowledge and expertise in preparing delicious food to pair with some of Ontario's finest wines from the likes of Henry of Pelham Family Estate, Magnotta, and Lailey. It was a perfect event for the chef students to showcase their own culinary masterpieces to friends and family at this event which has been running since 2001.

And I got to see the students' creativity first hand because I volunteered for this special event with the Dean's Recognition Program.

I would like to share some of the pictures I took along with my friend who accompanied me in volunteering. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Speaking of the Dean

As I concluded my previous post regarding the John Walker Scholarship, I had the opportunity to volunteer for the event surrounding his retirement party with other industry experts and faculty members of the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts. I had the responsibility of greeting guests and offering them the choice of red, white, and sparkling wine for this special occasion.

Prior to the event, I had no prior knowledge about this mysterious man, Mr Walker, only that he was the Dean, and a highly respected individual in the Hospitality and Culinary Arts industry in the city of Toronto and Canada as a whole. Being there at the reception event and hearing his peers make speeches about the wonderful things he has not only done for the school and the city, but for the entire industry as well. He appeared to be such an influential person and had inspired many others with his innovations and even someone I would look up to in terms of being successful and accomplishments.

Innovation. That brings me back to my Ryerson days completing my Entrepreneurship and Innovation Studies Minor to go along with my Marketing Management Major. I have always had a dream, a goal to run my own business, and I still intend to do so in the future. But back to the Dean and innovation, one of it being the Dean`s Recognition Program, which I am a proud member of. The program gives us an exciting opportunity to gain additional industry experience, help out fellow students, and contribute to the continued growth of George Brown College. I have had the opportunity to volunteer at the student orientation for the January intake of new students; and other industry events at the school and look forward to many more, including the upcoming event, The Marriage of Food and Wine... exciting!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Transition From University Graduate to Today

I never had any idea on what to do with this new blog I had created after graduation other than it being used as part of my personal website: However, that failed to materialize due to the unforeseen difficulties with the hosting site and now I am thinking of using this to showcase myself to you. That means a weekly post about me or my current status, or my previous experiences and projects that I would love to share with you as well.
I don't know how it all began but I have always had the travel bug in me. I wonder if it's from all the family road trips as a kid my parents would take me and my sister around the North-Eastern parts of the States. I was well accustomed and trained for sitting in a car for long periods of time without much fuss. Even if most of our adventures were just across the border, I felt lucky to visit new places and try different things out while there; whereas some of my friends never really got the chance to leave our country.

As I got older, and air travel was becoming more common for myself for travel, the excitement of flying never really does get old. Being 35,000ft in the sky, soaring to your destination in a blink of an eye, it's magical. No matter how many times I have flown, the most exciting part is when I'm sitting in my seat, the plane lined up with the runway, and the engines begin to full thrust for takeoff. The roar, the sheer power from the engines, as the plane raced towards the end of the runway as the wheels slowly rise above the ground. That moment, when you're in the air. It never gets old.

After finishing university, I had the opportunity to travel with my cousin to Asia; particularly Hong Kong and Seoul, S. Korea. It was his first time travelling abroad, but that didn't phase me as I thought of myself as a well-season tourist of HK (visiting 2 times in the previous 3 years). Through our exciting and fun adventures as well as encountering a dismal food poisoning (the both of us), traveling in a foreign country can't really be replaced or taught without experiencing it first hand.

Coming back to Toronto from vacation, I was having job interviews with illustrious companies such as CB Richard Ellis, Deloitte, P&G to name a few; but in the end, nothing really clicked whether on their end, or on my end. Yes, I could have been hired and been working full time within a week behind a desk and computer, but there was something in me calling out. The passion to travel and to see the world.
I searched whatever options I could think of:
  1. Teach English in Korea
  2. Work Abroad
  3. Hospitality/Tourism College
  4. Go Travel More
  5. Get a Job
The teaching English in Korea was enticing, I had even planned my previous trip to include Korea so I could see around and experience the Korean culture. However the language barrier and the complications of applying on my own or through a recruiting agency was extremely difficult. 
The working abroad idea came to my head when I was 18 or 19 at the time when I first heard of SWAP Canada and their work abroad programs, I was extremely excited about. 

The Hospitality/Tourism field had interested me during my time at Ryerson, even at times questioning myself whether or not I made the right decision in doing my business program; and even took the introductory Hospitality Tourism course as an elective. I had friends doing the program from different schools and they all had great things to say about the industry, their program, and their jobs.
The travel more idea? Being a recent grad with a ton of student debts and already coming back from a trip to Asia, very unlikely. Disappointing but true.

All this leads to now. After completing my first semester at George Brown College studying in their Hospitality, Tourism, Leisure Diploma Program, I have already learned a ton from my instructors and peers, and involved myself with school events and clubs. Just recently, I was selected as the recipient of the John Walker Scholarship for academic excellence and involvement in the community and school. John Walker being the Dean for the Centre of Hospitality and Culinary Arts, I feel extremely honoured to win this prestigious award.