Q&A with Travel MBA student Merry-Jennifer Markham

This week, we would like to highlight a member of our most recent June Travel MBA cohort Merry-Jennifer Markham

Merry-Jennifer is not only a Travel MBA student, but she is also a mother, a wife, and a successful Oncologist. You may be wondering why exactly she decided to start a career in travel? Or maybe you’re wondering what the correlation between being an oncologist and a travel advisor have in common? 

Before deep diving into the Q & A below, I want you to take a second and reflect. During this reflection, do not focus on your experiences or current job but on the skills these experiences and various careers have helped you learn, mold or master.

What skills do you currently possess that would make you a successful travel entrepreneur? As you start to think about this, I bet you will realize you have more transferable skills than you thought. 

Question: You are new to the Travel Industry while having a very successful career in Oncology- are there any parallels in skill sets?

Answer: As an oncologist, my focus is always on the patient in front of me and their family or caregivers. I strive to communicate with them clearly and compassionately, recognizing that each patient has different needs, hopes, and goals. As a parallel, my work as a travel advisor is also singularly focused, except this time, on a client rather than a patient. My goal in both settings is to be an astute listener and to provide highly personalized and exceptional service. Expertise in a subject matter is essential, as we all know, but communication skills are perhaps equally as critical to establishing trust in a client-advisor (or patient-physician) relationship. 

Service to others is less of a skill set and more of a life approach. Serving others has always been of utmost importance to me in my career as a physician, and I take the same approach in the care of clients of MMarkham Travel. I can’t think of a better gift than to be of service to someone who needs my help. 

Question: How do you balance two careers that can be very stressful? Are there any tips or efficiencies in the process that you’ve found?

Answer: My career as an oncologist is incredibly fulfilling, and I have found that being a travel advisor is also fulfilling but in a different way. The challenge is managing time. We all wear many hats in our roles as business owners, entrepreneurs, parents or caregivers, adult children, spouses or life partners, household managers, and more. Balancing time is always the challenge. 

I use a variety of tools to help keep me focused and on track, but my calendar is my anchor for each day. I block out time to accomplish tasks and to get projects done; sometimes, I will even block out an entire day based on the month to catch up and get organized. Since I do much of my work as a travel advisor in the early mornings, evenings, and weekends, I must be as efficient as possible to be available and present for my family…and myself! One of the reasons I love working with European DMCs is that I can email them at 6:30 am, and I don’t feel silently criticized for emailing too early. I use TravelJoy as my CRM and constantly refine my workflows for efficiency. I’m always a work in progress.

Question: What was the driving force for creating MMarkham Travel?

Answer: Travel has been important to me since I was a kid, but when I began traveling with my children, the value of experiencing new places with them became even more apparent. There is nothing as eye-opening (and mind- and heart-opening) as visiting different cultures, spending time with people different from us, and learning about all the world has to offer. When the world shut down due to the pandemic, I experienced grief over not being able to travel. I also witnessed the grief of many of my patients, especially those facing a short prognosis, at losing their ability to travel and make important final memories with their loved ones forever. I decided that I would create MMarkham Travel as a way to help others travel well, travel with stress taken off their shoulders, and make those incredible memories that last a lifetime. 

Anything else you’d like to share?

It’s been such a joy to be part of Gifted Travel Network and the Travel MBA Program. I’m grateful to constantly learn from the GTN team, my March TMBA cohort, and my fellow advisors. We are all better at serving our clients and each other by working together.

We thank Merry-Jennifer for taking the time to provide answers to our questions. 

At Gifted Travel Network, we believe in you. We have the industry knowledge backed by our Magellan award-winning Travel MBA program to help you get to where you want to be. So take the risk, make the jump and join our Travel MBA program. Click here to apply.