TUI’s Marianne Stjernvall on staying connected and navigating uncertain times

Marianne Stjernvall

A Conversion Conversation with TUI’s Marianne Stjernvall

There’s no manual on how to get through an epidemic (though I’m sure a few folks are writing one at this very moment). Until one is out, all of us have had to adjust one way or another to changes; Changes to how we stay connected, how we buy food, and how we do our work?—?that is if we’re still lucky to have a job. I recently spoke to Marianne about how she has handled changes to her industry and her job, as well as how she stays connected with her team.

Rommil: Hi Marianne, I hope you’ve been healthy and been well generally speaking considering all the stuff going on.

Marianne: Rommil! Thank you, yes I’m healthy and well. I hope you are too!

Let’s start with a little bit about what you do today and a bit about how you go there.

I work at TUI, the travel agency. There I have a 50/50 split role (almost like an A/B-test). On one side I work as the CRO & UX Lead for the Nordic markets. And the other role is as CRO manager for TUI Group. That is the global function for TUI that coordinates all markets. It’s fun to have this split role since the Group role gives me the opportunity to be part of building a global CRO programme and the strategy that we want to centralize ourselves with. And the Nordic role gives me all the insights of what goes on in the markets. And is a more operative role. Which is really important to me.

Obviously these are unprecedented times. With that in mind, I wanted to take a different approach today for our conversation.

Let’s start with how has COVID-19 affected your company in general?

As you can imagine, the travel industry in the whole world is under a lot of pressure right now. One of the things people aren’t allowed to do is travel. And that’s where we get all our revenue from. You do the math 🙂 
But furthermore, most of us are furloughed right now. Meaning we cannot work the amount of time that we would like. And most of the things I have worked with are on hold for the moment. It’s a pressured state we are in and we are doing all we can to help out where it is needed.

You’ve had to go through some difficult changes to your team. Could you walk us through what happened and the emotions you were feeling as you went through that?

Because of the situation we are in right now with Corona and everyone being furloughed, my team has unfortunately decreased quite a bit. The team was very new, and we had grown quite quickly. Expanding to 8 people in lightning speed?—?and with more vacant roles coming in. We were aiming for a team of 11 people in just a couple of months. But unfortunately, TUI could not keep people who were consultants, or that were on probation periods. As a result of this?—?we now have only 3 people left in the team.

It really hurts, and it has been a very dramatic period. Seeing people have to leave because of something that they had nothing to do with, that they could do nothing about. And also seeing everything you worked so hard for the last year just go away so quickly. This has unfortunately been the destiny of too many people because of the pandemic.

I hear you. Is there anything you’d like to share with our readers to help your former colleagues find their next opportunity?

If you are in a state of hiring right now, and have the need for UX- or UI designers. Please contact me. I’m happy to say that our CRO-specialists have already found new places to go to. This team has been the best one I’ve worked with so far. We’ve shared and learned so much from each other. And these are people who not only does an amazing job do drive great results, but they also do it wholeheartedly and with great passion. I just hope I get to work with them all soon again!

How are you keeping the remaining members of your team focused and motivated through all this?

It’s very hard, since you do not have that easy communication when you meet at work. But it’s important to keep the everyday stuff. You know like saying “good morning” in Slack. Or just posting something fun and goofy once in a while. But it’s also hard since the work we used to do we actually don’t do anymore. And being furloughed takes out most hours of the week from everyone. But we have to try to make new opportunities from this. Trying to connect the people that we have, not only in my team but everywhere, to work on things together and to learn. So that you can feel that you are a part of something. I think that’s the most important thing now when everybody is working from home. That you really need to feel that you have a place in all of this. And that you’re not all alone.

Not that I’m hoping or suggesting that another global event like this will happen again?—?but what lessons have you taken away from all this that others could benefit from?

That it can happen whenever and wherever. We don’t know and we can’t prepare from it. How do you prepare for something that you have never seen before? No way that we could have done anything before Corona to better predict what was about to happen. That said, the thing we can do is to build platforms that are agile. Where you can make the changes quickly if you need to?—?and adapt to any situation the best you possibly can.

As things improve, globally, would you do anything differently in terms of building your team?

Perhaps. I think it’s a fair question. And in fact, I asked my team this just a couple of weeks ago. We can actually take this time now to figure out what we want to see moving forward. Would we change anything? Or is the vision we had before still the one to move on with? Time will tell I guess, I will let you know.

Changing gears. It’s time for the Lightning Round.

What are 3 things you’re doing to keep your spirits up during this time?

  1. Taking at least 2 walks every day (I know everyone is not able to though), but if the weather is bad I walk in my apartment so you just want to get that movement.
  2. Not putting any pressure on myself. There aren’t any rights or wrongs in this situation. It’s ok for me to watch Netflix and not speaking to anyone for an entire day.
  3. Laughing-routines! Me and a friend have put up weekly sessions when we look at the same TV show that we love together and we laugh so hard. We have agreed we will do this every week for this period. And it really helps having that to look forward to 🙂

Once this pandemic passes, what is the first thing you are planning to do?

Hug everyone I meet 😀

I’m not a huge hugger?—?but after all this, I’m warming up to the idea.

Describe Marianne in 5 words or less.

Intelligent, passionate, social, Hakuna Matata.

What a wonderful phrase!

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, Marianne. And thank you for joining the conversation.

Thank you too!

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