“I don’t know how she does it!” This sentence has entered our vernacular more and more and it is because of women like this Inspirational Biz Gal.
Jennifer Vandekreeke, Vice President, Australia for Carnival Cruise Lines, works hard at balancing an impressive career with family life and the all too important, but oft neglected for some, time for herself. She does this with precision, grace and vivaciousness and is a role model to many.
A strong woman who leads her team supportively and with passion, Jennifer also embodies the “fun” that Carnival Cruise Lines promotes so well as a brand identifier.
Biz Gals: What is your greatest achievement?
Jennifer: In order to stay sane, I split my life into three priorities – family, wellness and career. So, I’d have to split the greatest achievements into those categories as well.
Family – Surviving the first year with our twins. Basically, if you can make it through the first year of life with twins and they are healthy and you still like your husband…that’s success. Today they are healthy and happy 11-year-olds and my heart still skips a beat when my husband holds my hand. So, I consider myself incredibly fortunate.
Wellness – Last year my husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary by competing in an 80k trail run along the Larapinta trail in the NT. It was one of the most exhilarating and challenging experiences of my life. Just making it to the starting line was a feat of endurance with all the training we had to do. Running along the ridgelines of the McDowell Mountains with sweeping views of the outback was simply unforgettable.
Career – Building the Carnival brand and business in Australia from scratch was an extraordinary opportunity to learn, grow and truly challenge myself. I certainly found the limits of my resilience and capacity for hard work. I will never forget the day I stood on the top decks as our second ship, Carnival Legend, sailed through the Heads. I am so incredibly proud of what our team has achieved. And I can’t wait to see what we do next!
Biz Gals: What is the greatest lesson you have learnt?
Jennifer: There’s always a way if you take a deep breath and approach things with perspective. Unexpected things happen and the best laid plans hit insurmountable obstacles. I used to be so driven that I just couldn’t handle setbacks. I would beat myself up if I wasn’t delivering absolute perfection on time and under budget. This drive for perfection meant I would push myself and others to the breaking point…which is simply not sustainable.
I have since learned to approach things from a more objective standpoint. I force myself to slow down and take the time to consider whether the current approach is the right one when things have shifted. By going back and looking at the original objective, you often find that unexpected changes offer the opportunity to learn a new and better way to approach the problem. So, I now make a concerted effort to take the inevitable setbacks with stride. I strive to see them as learning opportunities instead of roadblocks. I’m not going to lie and tell you I have mastered this…it’s a journey. But I’m in a much better place than I used to be!
Biz Gals: What is the best bit of advice you have been given?
Jennifer: My Dad once said “start with the people” and I’ve found out he’s absolutely right. You can have the greatest idea possible, or the most amazing technology and hardware, but in the end it’s the people that are going to make your business successful. So, start with the right people – in my case I like to hire smart subject matter experts with a good sense of humour and a willingness to roll up their sleeves and get the work done. With the right people, you can come up with the greatest idea possible and the most amazing technology…but it doesn’t work the other way around.
Biz Gals: What or who inspires you?
Jennifer: Travel. It opens the mind, engages the heart and ignites the soul. When done right, it can change your life forever. That's the reason why I've been working in the travel industry since 2000 and I have no intention of leaving any time soon.
Biz Gals: What is your biggest hope for women in the future?
That the phrase “like a girl” becomes a sincere compliment instead of a put-down.