The FTI family welcomed Anna-Lisa to the Group Support department in 2012. She came to us from Christopher Newport University where she not only studied abroad at Oxford University in England, she also served with a mission organization in Sierra Leone for 4 months. She is always up for a new adventure and has traveled to more than 18 countries across Latin America, Europe, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia.
Her keen eye for detail, adventurous spirit and compassionate heart are just a few reasons why we love having her on our team. We almost lost her last year. (Read her account of her accident below.) So, every day we see her beautiful smile we’re reminded each day is a gift – and she shows us how to make the most it!
We sat down with Anna-Lisa to talk life, travel, and everything in-between.
What’s your role at FTI?
I was hired as a Group Support Agent five years ago, and was promoted to Team Lead this past year. We had a lot of new people coming in who needed to learn the ropes. I assist with training for my department, and have become the go-to person for questions. I’ve also become the backup ticketing agent for the office.
For fun, I help organize a lot of FTI’s social events such as our annual tubing trip.
What does Group Support do?
Here at FTI we work in teams – the Group Sales Agents are the primary contacts for the clients. They send out quotes and itineraries as well as negotiating with the airline on the group contract. Group support serves as a second pair of eyes for quality control. We handle due dates for the airlines, verify prices in the system, make sure itineraries match, and ensure everything is accurate. We also help clients through the process – let them know when payments are due, update statements, keep the sales agent advised about any changes, and answer questions about: insurance, documents needed for the trip, etc.
What is your goal as a team leader?
My biggest goal in being a team lead is to be as available and accessible as possible. I always want to be encouraging and help others think though questions/problems in a positive way. I want to help keep the team on track with managing the workload. Their first thought should be that I’m a resource for them, supportive rather than managing.
Tell us about a memorable travel experience.
While I’ve traveled quite a bit, some of my most memorable have been actually been service trips. My first was to Jamaica when I was 15. We did a mission trip that was more focused on evangelism. We went into schools and did skits, talked to people about Jesus, handed out packets of school supplies – that kind of thing. That’s when when I first fell in love with traveling overseas for more than just sightseeing.
Since then, I’ve also participated in a construction project in Panama, and traveled to Zimbabwe to work in schools & offer basic healthcare. My most intense trip was when I lived in Sierra Leone for four months teaching English in one of Freetown’s major slums.
These trips taught me about having joy amidst whatever circumstance you’re in. Even though the people didn’t have a lot, they had generous hearts. That’s something a lot of Americans don’t really learn and experience until they go on a trip like that.
What’s your favorite thing about working at FTI?
The people, hands down. A job is a job. There are still going to be days (even if you think you have the best job in the world) when you won’t love to go to work. If you’re going to go out and make a living, this is the place to do it.
My coworkers are my family. I’ve loved coming to work and sharing life with them. When you spend 40+ hours a week with a team, you get to know them pretty well. Group Support is really close-knit, and I’ve been here enough years to feel comfortable and like everyone knows me. I’ve also gone through really rough times, and the people not only supported me on a professional level but a personal level as well. I think that’s something really unique about working here.
If you were trapped on a desert island with only one other employee at FTI, who would you choose?
Oh my gosh. Only one person?! Well I have different reasons for all of them … I would say Gabi. We’ve traveled together before, and we have many similarities. She makes the best of whatever situation. Gabi also really loves to hike and knows the wilderness, so if I had to be stuck with someone in nature, I’d rather it be someone who knows more than me about surviving in the wilderness. I know she’ll remember the water and the bug spray, and how to build a fire.
What’s something your customers don’t know about you?
Oh man, I’m such an open book. I feel like everyone knows me. Well … I’m a licensed skydiver. Last year, I had a bad accident though. Some of my clients know about it.
The dive was beautiful. There was nothing that went wrong with the plane. I just had a really hard landing. Part of it was me not steering correctly; part of it was the rocky winds. I ended up landing in a cement ditch, my right hip hit the side of the ditch and threw me ten feet.
Everyone thought it was a spinal injury, so I was put on a backboard and helicoptered to the emergency room. There were major fractures through the right side of my pelvis, and I had to go through emergency surgery. I was in a wheelchair for 3 months and wasn’t allowed to stand or put weight on my legs. I moved back in with my parents, and took weeks off work.
FTI was great, they brought my computers to me when I was cleared to work from home. Recovery took a total of 7 months, maybe 8. Actually, last week marks the 1 year anniversary of the accident. As of now, I’m feeling great, no other complications. I’m not sure if I’ll go back. I have this huge adrenaline-junkie attitude. I want to try it all!
What do you like to do in your free time?
Um, I love to dance – all kinds of styles – ballet, country, hip hop, salsa and Zumba. I actually did not dance as a child. I started as an adult and fell in love. If there’s a dance party, I’ll be there! If not, and there’s good music, I’ll start it. And, traveling, for sure. I want to go everywhere in the world – and I’m getting there!
And, I’m very involved in my church. I lead a small group and serve on the hospitality team. Building relationships with people, especially those who aren’t comfortable with the church but are interested, I have a really big heart for that.
I also love game nights. Board games, card games, anything.
Where was the last place you traveled?
I just got back from spending two weeks island hopping in Greece – which I highly recommend. I loved Athens more than I thought I would, something about seeing that old history the U.S. doesn’t have. We’re babies in comparison. The Acropolis – standing there looking at the pillars, so many civilizations have been there before me. The islands were beautiful. Greek people are so friendly and so proud of their heritage. They just want to introduce you to their culture and food. I’d say it was an easy place to travel.
I also spent almost two days in Istanbul. Loved it. I learned a lot about Hagia Sophia. The building’s been a church, a mosque & a government building! Fascinating. And, the Blue Mosque. It’s not the biggest, but it’s the most famous. It’s named for the beautiful blue tiles on the inside. We had to wear head scarves and take off our shoes to go inside.
One of my favorite things was touring the Basilica Cistern which stored all the water for the palace of Constantinople. I’d never been in a cistern before. [Well, who has?] It’s huge. It has the capacity to store 100,000 tons of water! It took us 10 minutes to walk through it. Amazing how old it is and everything’s still standing. The columns inside are actually carved and have decoration, even though it’s just for holding water under the ground. Fun fact: one of the James Bond movies was filmed there.
Where are you traveling next?
In March, I’m going to Ireland and Norway, with a stopover in Copenhagen and Amsterdam. My roommate and I are spending a day in Dublin, then we’ll drive through some smaller towns, really teeny towns with local pubs on the corner. And, she’s Norwegian, so we’re going to visit some of her relatives.
I’m also obsessed with the movie Frozen – yes I realize I’m an adult. Frozen takes place on the Fjords, and I want to live my little Disney Princess movie (laughing). I’ll sing “Let it Go” standing on the cliffs.
It’s a big world. Get out there!
Your FTI Team