Let's talk with Michelle Barker
Photo by YCM Photography
1. In a few words tell us about your current role.
This year is a big anniversary year for me, it’s my 10th year as the Managing Director at Jayes Travel. I’m not a behind the scenes type of person though, I love consulting and the part of my role I enjoy most is working with my clients to create their dream holidays and an amazing experience.
2. How have you reached this point in your professional life?
Once upon a time I was supposed to start studying forensic law at Newcastle Uni, but after realising I was probably watching a little bit too much CSI I decided to take a gap year and fell into a traineeship position in travel. I honestly loved the job from day one and never looked back. I’d only worked for two other travel agencies before opening the doors to my own agency in 2006. It was a big step at 22 years old, but I knew I could offer a different experience to what people generally expected from a travel agency. We were extremely fortunate to have been able to operate under the Jayes Travel name and it was a huge part of our early success. 10 years on, as most small business owners would attest there have been many hurdles – but I wouldn’t change a thing or want to do anything other than Jayes Travel.
3. When you’re not at work, where can we find you?
Most people who know me will say I’m a workaholic but I love what I do! I do work long hours but it means I get to travel the world multiple times each year. So perhaps you will find me on the other side of the world! But away from travel, I love to spend quality time with friends & family, enjoy a nice glass of red wine and (shamefully) I love a little reality TV.
4. Where do you find inspiration?
There are many people that inspire and motivate me. On a larger scale, I respect the ‘hustle’, ‘work hard’ and ‘own what you do’ messages of people like Sophia Amoruso and Roxy Jacenko. On an everyday basis I am motivated by my current staff, whose energy and enthusiasm at such a young age have made me want to be a better teacher and boss. I find inspiration everywhere – it’s hard not to be inspired when you are constantly talking about amazing destinations and parts of the world; but I also draw inspiration from the people I am lucky enough to call friends that encourage me to think outside the square and try new things at Jayes – they know who they are!
5. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in your field?
There is so much to share but my top three pieces of advice would be
• You can’t always know everything but you need to be willing to learn.
• You can’t expect to be an expert in your field by working 9-5, you need to be passionate enough to invest your own time in developing your knowledge and skills.
• It’s not as glamorous as you might think and you will spend more time in the office planning everyone else’s amazing holidays than travelling yourself!
6. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
As much as my favourite place to travel to is Africa, I’m petrified of monkeys. I’ve had many experiences that only reinforce that they have a secret mission to scare me to death!
7. How would you like to see the Hunter evolve over the next decade?
Having moved Jayes Travel back into Hunter Street Mall last year, we love seeing the area bringing back a great energy with more dining, entertainment and shopping. There’s still a long way to go so further development in this East End and city centre, both commercially and residentially would be great to see over the next decade. As part of this, I would love to see a better, more welcoming cruise terminal in the heart of Newcastle. A facility that encourages the cruise lines to bring back departures from Newcastle and offers the option for more cruise lines to stop in our city as a port of call. Bringing thousands of passengers to experience our city and spend their money with local businesses!
8. What’s your favourite Hunter restaurant/café/bar?
I love ‘The Basement’, conveniently just around the corner from the office on a Friday afternoon!
9. Are you reading anything at the moment?
Sheryl Sandberg ‘Lean in’ and Paula Hawkins ‘The Girl on the Train’
10. Do you have a favourite sport or team?
Not necessarily but the best sporting experience I’ve had is seeing La Boca play a football match in Buenos Aires – atmosphere was electric and something I’ll never forget!
11. What’s the best line from a film you’ve ever heard?
‘’Why so serious’’ – The Dark Knight