Matt Truin, BA Modern Languages (Russian and Spanish) 1996
Operations Director at Diversity Travel
During his time studying a bachelors in Modern Languages, Matt developed a strong passion for travel and tourism. This led him to take on various roles working on cruise ships, after his graduation from Bradford in 1996, seeing him travel the world in both a personal and professional context. He then joined a travel management firm as a graduate trainee subsequently working his way up to senior management level. He would later take his passion to new scales in 2007 by co-founding Diversity Travel, a travel management firm in the UK. Over the last decade Matt has played a key role in Diversity Travel's development as an award-winning specialist travel management company providing a unique and comprehensive travel service to charity, academic and not-for-profit organisations globally.
Where are you now? Tell us about what you are currently doing and what you find most enjoyable about your line of work.
I’m Operations Director at Diversity Travel. We specialise in arranging travel for many of the well-known and not so well-known charities sending humanitarian staff around the world to help people in need. We also help academic institutions arrange and manage their travel.
My team and I ensure we not only maintain Diversity’s focus on customer service but also stay ahead of the pack in terms of technology, which is an increasingly important area of travel management. Many of our clients travel to quite difficult locations and for high-pressure reasons. It’s important they can trust us and know that we’re there to help, whenever needed – that’s my job!
I get great satisfaction in seeing our clients involved in all kinds of humanitarian projects around the world and knowing that we’ve had a part in helping them help others.
I’ve always had a passion for travel and have worked in the industry since university. The difference with Diversity is the sheer variety of destinations we send people to; these aren’t just regular destinations, they can be war zones, medical hotspots or disaster areas, and the corresponding demands on our staff to be able to assist in emergency situations are high – it takes a great deal of dedication to make things work in often time-critical situations.
When we first started Diversity Travel, I was part of the 24hr team; I remember working around the clock when an earthquake hit; it was a fast-paced environment where I needed to make decisions and act quickly. I’m still very closely linked to that aspect of what we do now, although thankfully I’m not up at 3am taking calls anymore!
We’ve grown from 4 staff to 120 and we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary this year; as a board member, I’m naturally delighted at our progress and looking forward to seeing what the future will bring.
How did you get into the travel industry?
When I finished at the University of Bradford, I spent around 3-4 years travelling – working on cruise ships, so I was lucky enough to visit some amazing places. Towards the end of that period, I was very much focused on the ships visiting the Baltic, so I spent a lot of time based out of St Petersburg purchasing for a number of ships visiting the city.
After that I joined a graduate scheme at a travel management company in Manchester and spent several years there in a variety of different roles, progressing from Reservations Consultant to Team Manager to Account Manager to finally establishing and heading up an office in Brussels, Belgium.
In 2007 I returned to the UK and started talking to Harish, Chris and Sarah (fellow Directors at Diversity Travel) about starting our own travel management company – that’s when Diversity Travel was born!
Why did you decide to come to study at Bradford? What were the highlights of your experience at University?
Well, at the time I wanted to be an interpreter, but I didn’t want to do a traditional language course which focused on literature and purely academic areas. The course at the University of Bradford was designed to be more vocational and more relevant to the working world once graduated.
I studied French and Spanish to A-Level and I knew I wanted to do Spanish but wanted to learn another challenging language. I ended up deciding between Spanish and Japanese at Cardiff or Spanish and Russian at Bradford. Having visited Bradford and seeing how relevant the course and the facilities were, it was easy to choose it as my first choice.
The course lived up to everything I was hoping for – it was very relevant to commerce and really fired my passion for languages. My first time in an Interpreting Booth was a daunting experience but gradually grew into my favourite part of my four years at the University of Bradford.
My personal highlight was a great 6-month experience in Yaroslavl’, Russia, living with a Russian family. At the time, I was nowhere near as fluent in Russian as I was in Spanish, so it was a big challenge, but was an experience I will never forget. During my stay in Russia I travelled on the Trans-Siberian Express from Moscow to Irkutsk (Lake Baikal), an experience I’ll never forget.
You obviously lead a very busy professional life. How do you unwind and relax?
Travel of course has to be my main escape. This is the time when I truly relax and switch off. I’m heading to Tanzania in June with time on safari followed by time on the beach in Zanzibar so I’m really looking forward to that.
More recently, I’ve also started volunteering for a homeless charity in Manchester, providing support via food stations for the homeless and those struggling financially. This helps me disconnect from everyday life and my “perceived pressures” and focus on those that do truly have pressures in life that hopefully few of us ever have to experience.
Tell us a little more about yourself, your motivations, inspiration and personal ambitions.
Relationships are so important to me – both professionally and personally. Having studied at Bradford, I then went on to have a professional relationship with them in one role, and now a relationship with the University again at Diversity Travel. I really appreciate that legacy and maintaining bonds with trusted individuals and organisations.
In business, as in life, things don’t always go as planned and having that honest relationship with a customer helps when those hiccoughs do happen.
I think people joining together and working as a team can have a huge positive impact. It’s something I see day in, day out with the amazing charities we work with, and it’s something I witness and encourage every day with the great group of travel professionals we have here at Diversity Travel. We’re greater than the sum of our parts when we pull together.
What advice would you give current or future students hoping to work in your profession to make the most of their time at Bradford?
Be flexible and prepared to open your mind to different opportunities. When I started at Bradford I had no idea I would do some of the things I’ve since done. Seize the moment and don’t hesitate if an interesting opportunity arises, even if it’s something you never thought of. For a lot of people, teaching seemed an obvious choice but there are so many things you can get involved with, especially with Bradford having a more vocational approach.
Travel is a great industry to work in, you’ll meet some amazing people and although the opportunity to travel isn’t as extensive as it used to be, you’ll still get to see some great places. Try to get into a niche sector within the industry. I could never see myself working in financial sectors now doing the same trip for the same passengers all day long. At Diversity the best thing is that the day is so varied; the morning could be an academic travelling to San Francisco for a conference, an emergency evacuation of an aid worker from South Sudan, a flying visit to New York for a meeting with the World Bank, and a departmental field trip to Ghana. That’s all before lunch!
Published July 2017