Navigating Career Change: How I Switched from Dentistry to Travel Tech
For Bhavna Mittal, Senior Manager for Supplier Experience, embracing change takes open-mindedness and resolve. She describes her career path to date, and how a supportive environment helped her realize growth.
As Senior Manager for Supplier Experience at GetYourGuide, I head up a global team focused on providing scalable support to our local partners to enable them to deliver unforgettable experiences to modern explorers. I love working with a large team and multiple stakeholders to drive impact and efficiency: every team member brings a unique and valuable perspective, and it’s fascinating to see multiple points of view coming together to solve problems at a company level.
My path to GetYourGuide has been unconventional: I’m a former dentist, who moonlighted as a business analyst, content writer, and voice-over artist before finding my footing in travel e-commerce. My journey has seen me move to the UK to do my Master’s at the University of Oxford, before a stint in the US. I have been in Dubai for the last six years and am excited to soon relocate to Berlin. However, at my core I will always be an Indian girl with middle-class values.
My Path to Management
In my three-and-a-half years at GetYourGuide, I’ve had three different positions across two departments, transitioning from an individual contributor role to my current position managing a large team.
During the pandemic, as sales slowed down, I became involved in project management. Steering one particular project led me to my current role. Most importantly, this move was realized with the support of my sponsors and stakeholders. I was willing to learn; they were willing to make time for me. That time, combined with their trust, made everything possible.
In my current position, the goal is to ensure that every one of our global 20,000-plus suppliers feels supported and enabled to provide world-class experiences to our mutual customers. At the same time, we also work with internal stakeholders like the Sales and Supply teams on the company’s aspiration to become the global leader in travel experiences through scale and defensibility.
Championing Others: ERG
With that in mind, and after serving as Chair a couple of years back, I recently took on the role of People Team Liaison for the 2022 – 2023 cohort of GetYourGuide’s Employee Representatives Group (ERG). Comprising nine individuals elected from across the organization, the ERG advocates for colleagues on a range of cross-company topics, including company culture, employee compensation and benefits, career growth, and diversity and inclusion.
My goal is to develop more proactive alignment with the People team and act as the voice of our colleagues in a more wide-reaching manner. I am deeply interested in People team policies and believe that as our company is employee based, our policies and principles on topics will drive culture and the ERG can play a vital role here.
Growth Takes Self Awareness
It's a privilege to represent, advocate for, and bridge the gap between executives and the wider employee base. In terms of my personal career growth, I’m a big believer in five core principles:
- Understand yourself.
- Identify your strengths.
- Align these strengths with career possibilities and company/business needs.
- Create your own space.
- Respect the space of others.
Quite simply, success comes through self-awareness. And although the first two of these principles are a constant journey, they’re also the most rewarding.
Tips for Managing Change
From switching careers to moving countries, my biggest learning from embracing and chasing change has been that change is effective when it is backed up by open-mindedness, resilience, and resolve. Looking back at my journey to date, I see that these are the qualities I’ve applied to everything from preparing for boarding school entrance exams as a child, to studying and practicing dentistry — and of course, taking the decision to move away from that particular direction. I’d been sure I wanted to pursue a career in medicine; what followed was a period of rethinking, realigning, and reassessing my life and a career that seemed to have stopped just as it started. Looking back, I can say that I was engulfed in doubt, but had no fear.
To anyone contemplating a career change, my advice is to listen to their gut but also plan for the needed growth and change:
- This can mean investing time in a new course/training, doing a joint project in the new area of interest, or even expanding the scope of one’s current role.
- Timing is key. How does a career change align with your personal life? Change is chaotic and it's important to ensure that you have the mental bandwidth to endure it.
- We often talk about creating boundaries and the value of saying NO. I prefer to flip that and recommend — say YES but with care and deliberate thought. Once you say YES, use that opportunity to explore, experiment, learn, lean in (if you like what are doing), or let go (if you realize, this is not actually what interests you)
- Ask your stakeholders/peers for career advice. Not feedback, but advice. Ask them: ‘Based on how you perceive my strengths and weaknesses, where do you visualize me fitting best?’ Take that advice and align it with your self-awareness and interests
- Seek sponsors and advocates and not just mentors. Connect and build relationships on the back of your work and not just your charm.
- At the same time, It is important to recognize and value your champions but we must also be ready to champion ourselves. People can push you but you have to be ready to run – physically and mentally.
Don’t wait for anyone to tell you that you are ready for a career change. It's nobody’s business but yours. And don’t wait for too long.
That advice applies to everyone, but to fellow women in the workplace I’d add this: Recognizing that you are ready for change takes strength. Take the time to recognize your strength. Be proud of it. You are not ‘not ready.’ You are not too ambitious. You are not an imposter.
Look in the mirror, the person looking back is your biggest champion and your biggest blocker. Before any change, you get to choose how you will show up for yourself.
Other articles from this series
My Career Growth: How I Transitioned from Care to People Operations
How One Team Facilitates Our Workplace Experience GETYOURGUIDE
Suddenly Working Remote: 10 Ways We’ve Adjusted to Staying Productive at Home
How We Launched our New Candidate Feedback Survey
How the Coordination Team Keeps Recruitment Flowing