Travelstart’s Maija de Rijk-Uys’ Career Takes Her on a Voyage of Discovery

By Skills Junction

The Head of International Markets for South Africa’s largest online booking agency explains why planning and spontaneity are a good mix for both work and vacations:

ABR: Where were you born?

MDR: I am Maija, a short, curly red(ish) head, born and bred in Cape Town, South Africa

ABR: Where were you educated and what qualifications do you have?

MDR: School education in Cape Town – attended the International German School (my mother is German) where I also completed my South African, as well as, German school leaving certificate.

I studied at the University of Stellenbosch where I graduated with an Honors in B.Com (Financial Accounting). Furthermore, I completed my B.Compt Honours (Certified Theory in Accounting) with the University of South Africa.

I qualified as a Chartered Accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (articled with PricewaterhouseCoopers in London).

ABR: Tell us about your career and how you got to your current position?

MDR: I come from the traditional Big Four background where I completed my CA articles and continued with the firm in their Advisory division.

I ended up staying a total of five years and five months after which I joined Travelstart as the International Business Development Manager. I now head up the International Markets for Travelstart

ABR: How did you get involved in the travel business?

MDR: By joining Travelstart. I love travel: the industry as well as the “action” of travel (work and personal)

ABR: Who in your career has been your biggest influence?

MDR: Oh wow, I don’t have an exciting answer here. Several people have influenced me. Now I am going to sound really clichéd, several people: most notable are my husband, a few people I have worked with in the past and a few close friends

ABR: What do you love most about your job?

MDR: A good few things: the fact that we are expanding into emerging markets (never a dull moment), the work travel aspect, the dynamic nature of the travel industry, ecommerce and the people I work with.

ABR: What motivates you?

MDR: Getting a team to work together towards a common goal. Seeing results.

ABR: What do you consider are the main ingredients for business success?

MDR: Discipline, transparency, persistence, people and integrity.

ABR: What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

MDR: When something that seems bad at the time happens, to think “will it matter in a year.”

ABR: What was the worst?

MDR: Not sure I have received bad advice, at least I can’t think of anything obvious now. I usually consider several pieces of advice and evaluate them against each other. If something was really bad I would hope I discarded it.

ABR: What do you do in your free time?

MDR: A lot! Spend time with my family, run (with hubby, baby, dog and all), spend a lot of time outdoors hiking, on beach, exploring new places, a lot of weekends away in the countryside, international  travel, lots of wine drinking!

ABR: What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?

MDR: Good question, seeing I am not an entrepreneur myself. Probably something along the lines of persevere, believe in yourself, ensure you get the right support and advice, and also funding. Never lose sight of what you want to do.

ABR: What was the biggest mistake you ever made?

MDR:  Not listening to my gut

ABR: What is your favorite place in world to visit and why?

MDR: Generally I love visiting the Far East: Bali, Malaysia, Vietnam andThailand. I love the culture, the food, the weather, the vibe and the people.

ABR: As someone who works within the travel industry what are your top three tips for ensuring your vacation is exactly what you want it to be?

MDR: Well, first you got to know what you want, then start planning. Use review sites to ensure that where you want to go and stay is as good as you think. Set up a rough travel plan but leave some time to be to be spontaneous. Be open to exploring.


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