Susan Lawson, Business Development Manager with Allianz Global Assistance

Open Jaw

With a long and varied career in the industry, here’s one exec (and proud winner of Sales Rep of the Year at TPI last year) who clearly has travel in her blood.

Where were you born? In Calgary.  

How long have you been in the business? It’s been over 40 years! I studied international business at Seneca in Toronto and my first job was with Hertz, working at the airport.

What’s the best part of the job? Working with the advisors one-on-one to help them build their business and understand travel insurance, which can be complicated.

What did you want to be as a kid? I always wanted to be in travel…but I also wanted to be a singer. Sadly I don’t sing much anymore!

What was your first job? When I was 13 I worked on the line in a Faberge factory after school and on weekends.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done? That I can talk about? Doing the trapeze at Club Med! I worked for them for 15 years in sales and national accounts.  

Any guilty pleasures? For sure, chocolate! (laughs)   

What’s your favourite airline? Air Canada. I also worked at ACV and still feel part of the family.

Favourite hotel chain? Karisma Hotels and Fairmont. 

What’s on your tablet? I listen to podcasts at least once a day. And any kind of music from Adele to country or pop or classic.

What do people not know about you? The number of different jobs that I’ve done…probably over 20.

Any hobbies or interests? Music, theatre, travel. 

When were you happiest? When my kids were born. Courtney is now 33 and Drew is 30.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self? Not to take everything so seriously. Not everything has to be perfect. Good enough is good enough.

Who do you most admire in the industry? There are so many strong women in this industry: Brenda Kyllo, Lynda Sinclair, Vanessa Lee, Sue Webb. There are so many!

What skill or talent do you admire in someone? The ability to be a good public speaker. It was a fear that I am continually working to overcome.

What’s at the top of your bucket list? A world cruise.

Ever had a brush with fame? Goldie Hawn and Michael Douglas. But not together!

What keeps you awake at night? Thinking about my kids. I want them to be happy.

How do you spend your frequent flyer points? Going to LA to visit close friends and family.

What is your greatest extravagance? I’m not really extravagant – my car is 12 years old! Probably eating at expensive restaurants. 

How do you stay fit when you travel? I try to put myself on a routine, eating properly, limiting the alcohol and walking when I can.

If you could change one thing about the industry what would it be? To improve the relationship between suppliers and retailers. Often there seems to be a gap – but we have to be united. 

If you could sit next to anyone on a long-haul flight, who would it be? Oprah. 

Do you have a favourite charity? I sat on the board of Ronald McDonald House for 15 years and still have a soft spot for them.    

What will be the biggest challenge for the industry in the next 12 months?  Automation continues to be a challenge, whether it’s a learning curve or as a threat to take away business from the retailers. We have to stay confident – the human connection will still be the most important part of the industry.

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years? Oh boy. I’m hoping to be sitting somewhere with a beautiful view of water, celebrating life and my career. 

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