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Welcome to 2024, fellow airline digital marketers!
At Diggintravel, we’ve spent countless hours delving into the nuances of airline marketing, exploring the digital and ecommerce realms, and discussing the skills shaping our industry’s future.
We’ve navigated through the trends, dissected the roles, and predicted the jobs of tomorrow. But here’s something we haven’t addressed yet: how do you actually land one of these coveted future-forward airline digital roles?
As we step into a new year, with the digital landscape constantly shifting and artificial intelligence (AI) rapidly advancing, understanding which skills to acquire, what to learn, and where to focus to propel your airline digital career forward has become more challenging than ever.
This is precisely why we sought the insights of an expert who excels in assisting airlines and professionals like you in navigating these challenges. In our latest podcast chat, we connected with Arpad Szakal, a seasoned recruiter and executive search consultant with extensive global airline experience.
Arpad shared a wealth of valuable insights, offering practical advice on advancing your career and seizing those opportunities you’ve been aiming for in the airline digital marketing world.
Listen to the new episode of the Diggintravel Podcast to learn all you need to know about airline digital careers in 2024, or read on for key highlights from our talk with Arpad:
And don’t forget to subscribe to the Diggintravel Podcast in your preferred podcast app to stay on top of the latest airline digital analytics, marketing, data science and AI trends!
We began our discussion with Arpad Szakal by gaining a broad industry perspective. As we step into 2024, he observes the airline industry with a lens of cautious optimism:
I think cautious optimism would be the best way to describe it. Traffic levels are back in most parts of the world. Even Asia has opened up. China is I think still the only one that is lagging a little bit behind, but carriers are back to profitability, especially in North America and here in Europe as well. As you can see, what has been happening over the past few days and weeks, it hasn’t been plain sailing. But I think most organizations, especially the big ones, big carriers, are very confident. If you have a look at the IATA projections for this year and next year, I think it’s all pointing in the right direction.
As we continue to face rapid advancements in technology, especially in AI, understanding the dynamics of airline digital marketing becomes more crucial than ever. Arpad sheds light on this critical aspect, highlighting a key trend for the year ahead. He emphasizes the industry’s growing investment in ecommerce and the escalating importance of digital acumen:
I think the 2024 year is going to be the year of ecommerce investment. I think a lot of carriers, especially in Europe, are taking it very seriously. I think a lot of them are investing both in terms of the technology but also in terms of talent. What we are seeing, Iztok, is a very clear focus on leaders with digital acumen as well. Even if you’re a C-suite executive, you really need at least an appreciation of the major trends. You need to be digitally literate, and you need to bring this acumen, basically. You have to have the ability to navigate the technological advancements such as AI, data analytics. These are really critical to organizations today.
So basically, executive recruiters like us focus on digital and tech literacy along with the more traditional leadership skills and experience.
To effectively navigate these evolving demands in ecommerce and digital literacy, airlines are also rethinking their recruitment strategies. Arpad points out that to keep pace with the rapid changes and the emergence of new skills, airlines are increasingly looking beyond the traditional talent pools. He elaborates on this shift in perspective:
A lot of carriers realize that this skillset doesn’t really exist in the industry. But I think giving the opportunity for people who are coming from a different sector – maybe they are not yet the finished product – a lot of these digital roles that we are talking about are very new. They may not even exist at all. These are being created as we go along. I think a lot of clients are needing help with defining what it all means, what an AI heavy, a data analytics heavy role entails, what are the sorts of skillsets we should be looking for, where should we look.
As you navigate the path to elevate your airline digital career, it’s crucial to realize that just browsing job boards might not cut it. Arpad shares a key insight for those of you aiming high in this field by pointing out some less obvious yet highly effective strategies to get noticed:
I think especially when it comes to leadership jobs, very little if any are advertised. If they would be advertised, then my role or search would not exist. I think it’s really important to tap into the hidden job market, to really do something above and beyond that just hitting the job boards. I think especially when it comes to leadership roles, you really need to make sure that you are networking with search firms, and you establish contact with people who are either currently working in the target organization that you are trying to get in or previously worked in the organization so that you are best placed to understand the trends, the issues they are going through at the moment. Then when you are sending your CV or sending your cover letter or you send an email, you are very targeted in your approach and you really hit the nail on the head.
Arpad’s approach underscores the importance of being proactive in your airline digital career journey. He advises not simply waiting until you’re actively seeking a job, but starting your preparation and networking well in advance. He explains the value of this foresight:
Do the due diligence and understand the pain points that they’re having at the moment, and really target those in your email or your phone call if you call them up so that they understand how you fit into the picture. I think doing the due diligence would be the number one tip that I would give. And it’s not just looking at websites, but talking to people who are actually doing the job today or did it previously.
It’s crucial to understand which competencies will make your application stand out in the airline digital marketing landscape. Arpad provides insightful guidance on the key digital skills and competencies most sought after by airlines today, highlighting the areas to focus on in your CV:
I think the most important, the ones I would really highlight in terms of digital skills, competencies that the organizations are looking for, especially in the space that you are involved in – anything data science related, data analytics related. Digital product management is also something that a lot of organizations, especially in the airline/airport space, are trying to fill. Programming. Web and application development. Content creation, if you’re going into digital marketing, digital product management, is absolutely critical. I think those would be the ones I would really highlight.
While these skills are more aligned with technical or expert roles, Arpad also explains what’s expected in leadership positions. He notes that while technical know-how is crucial, there’s a different set of expectations for those aiming for the C-suite. He elaborates on the depth of understanding required for such roles:
I think when it comes to leadership roles, the ability to have an appreciation of what these nuanced roles look like, that helps. This is what we are looking for. C-suite leaders who have a good grasp of what digital is. When I do interviews for Chief Digital Officer roles or CIO roles, what I find is that a lot of people have a very superficial understanding, but the moment you go into the detail and when you really start asking questions around these subsectors or subheadings, you find a lot of gaps.
As our talk shifted from the specifics of technical and expert roles to the broader competencies required for leadership, the discussion took an interesting turn. In our Diggintravel Airline Digital Academy, we’ve often emphasized the “T-shaped” model for airline digital marketing and ecommerce professionals. This model advocates building a strong foundational skillset complemented by deep expertise in a specific area. But how does this model hold up in the evolving landscape of airline digital leadership?
I think being a T-shaped leader is absolutely critical. Whether you’re talking about non-executive directors or executives, having a deep expertise in at least one or two domains is critical. But you need also the ability to effectively engage across the board. This horizontal stroke on the “T” is very important. The vertical expertise can come from a deep functional expertise, whether it’s finance, HR, whatever it is, or having managed a major line of business or having managed in a certain geographical area – Asia, wherever it is that you’ve worked previously. Or from having worked on a specific business challenge, like managing turnaround, managing an M&A.
But what is going to be really critical, whether you’re a mid-level or a senior level leader, what will set you apart is clear examples of working with an enterprise mindset and showing that you have an understanding of the various interconnections and interdependencies across the entire business.
With the T-shaped model established as a crucial framework for aspiring airline digital leaders, the next question naturally arises: how do you convincingly demonstrate these broad and deep skills, especially during the recruitment process? Arpad acknowledges that many find this challenging and offers practical advice on how to effectively showcase your capabilities:
And how do you demonstrate that, Iztok? I think a lot of people are finding it really difficult. You demonstrate it by your communication skills, your negotiation skills, your conflict resolution skills, especially at the senior levels. This is all about demonstrating that you understand the processes, the culture of the organization, the organizational structure.
I think it’s important to remember that no one is going to be perfectly T-shaped, but I think you really need to be in the top 10% if you want to land especially leadership roles, whether it’s CMO, CDO, CIO, whatever it is that you are looking to develop into.
In reflecting on my decade of experience in hiring for marketing and ecommerce roles, I’ve consistently valued two traits above all: curiosity and willingness to learn. Whether it’s transitioning from IT to ecommerce or encouraging engineers into digital marketing or other areas, these traits have proven invaluable. But beyond my perspective, I was curious to know Arpad’s view on these qualities in the context of airline digital leadership roles and airline digital careers. He highlights other crucial attributes for success at the executive level:
Those [curiosity and willingness to learn] are key, and I would add something to that. I think the ability to navigate uncertainty and see around corners, especially when it comes to C-suite – those are the key considerations when we are assessing leaders, especially at director roles and above. I think leading, very often, a remote team. That would be another one I would add to that. And I think this learning quotient is up there with the emotional intelligence.
Arpad’s invaluable insights serve as a guiding light for those of you aspiring to become airline digital leaders or advance your careers in this dynamic field. Here are some other topics we delved into that will help you progress in your airline digital career:
To explore these topics in detail and gain a comprehensive understanding, I encourage you to listen to the full podcast chat in the audio player linked above or on your preferred podcast platform.
If you want to learn from leaders like Arpad about how to advance your airline digital career or want to be the first to know when our next Airline Digital Talk will be published, please:
I am passionate about digital marketing and ecommerce, with more than 10 years of experience as a CMO and CIO in travel and multinational companies. I work as a strategic digital marketing and ecommerce consultant for global online travel brands. Constant learning is my main motivation, and this is why I launched Diggintravel.com, a content platform for travel digital marketers to obtain and share knowledge. If you want to learn or work with me check our Academy (learning with me) and Services (working with me) pages in the main menu of our website.
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