Each month, we introduce a member of the Connections Luxury team through a number of elaborate questions, while highlighting their talent and passion for the travel industry.
However, this month, we’ve pivoted in order to share a fond farewell message from Alex Roca, Connection’s Head of Buyer Relations, who will be jetting off into the next phase of his life and is sadly leaving Connections to return to the world of academia.
Alex has had a long, fruitful and exciting career during his time at Connections and the Jacobs Media Group, so it is only fitting that he share his experience through his own words…
Tell us a bit about your role and your journey before becoming the Head of Buyer Relations at Connections Luxury.
I was first introduced to Connections via David Benitez, who was my teacher at university back in Spain. It is thanks to him that I secured an internship and joined Connections back in April 2015.
The first day in the office was rather stressful and I remember quite clearly how Evangeline [Thorn] walked me around the office to introduce me to everyone. My English wasn’t that great back then and I remember not understanding much of what was going on in the beginning, but after a couple of weeks I managed to settle in.
That summer was full-on as the team were getting Connections off the ground, so everyone was extremely busy, yet it was a very good experience. I managed to secure a role as Events Assistant, working alongside operations guru, Evangeline, from who I learned loads!
For the first couple of years as we were growing as a business, we had that kind of “start-up mentality,” where everyone did a bit of everything, so I learned a lot – from logistics to HTML language to budgets.
When a former colleague left back in 2017 to join another business, I put myself forward for the buyer management role. I used to sit next to this person and listen to him carefully, so I thought I was ready to take on a more senior role. I was lucky enough to be promoted to Buyer Manager in September 2017, which was a huge step forward for me as well – as a challenge – as no one could really fill the shoes within that role. But I tried my best anyway.
I’ve handled buyer recruitment over the last few years until the beginning of this year. This is when I started working closely with the Tourist Boards that we produce bespoke events for on a project management role including Visit California, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB) and Seoul Metropolitan Government. The last few months have been super rewarding and the perfect ending to my journey at Connections.
What is one interesting thing people may have not have known about you during your time at Connections?
Many people know this story already, but I play the bagpipes which is a bit random for a Spanish person. But they are actually the national instrument in the Spanish region where I come from, also known as Galicia (which is the best place in the world to me)!
I love exercising and running is one of my favourite things in the world to destress. Last weekend, I did a 5K run in 17 minutes and 22 seconds smashing my personal best time. I’d like to start training more regularly to keep improving. I also used to be a chess player and played in the Spanish nationals a few times!
Work wise, I’ve been the one behind all the meeting matching and seating plans for the last 20 events or so, so if you have ever attended one of our events and maybe didn’t like your agenda, you know who to blame!
What would you say was the most satisfying element of working with the Connections Community as Head of Buyer Relations?
When I was in university, I thought it’d be really cool to have a job where you just don’t sit in front of your computer for 8 hours but you actually get to see and enjoy the finished product of your work. That’s what Connections has given me. I do enjoy having some quiet time in the office but the most satisfying element of the job is when I get to jump on a plane and travel somewhere exotic for an event to meet all the people and partners we have brought onboard who have contributed in making the show a success.
What has been your biggest accomplishment during your time at Connections Luxury?
My biggest achievement has undoubtedly been the delivery of the inaugural Connections Luxury Seoul event. I moved the project along since the beginning and lined up all the key partners together with the team and our partners on the ground.
As you can imagine, due to language barriers, cultural differences, time gaps and the fact we are based in the UK, it wasn’t an easy task. But we pulled it off in style and the finished product was brilliant! I loved every minute of it – from the opening to the impromptu night out in Itaewon with the team and some of our clients on the final day.
What’s next for you? Where can we expect to see Alex Roca this time next year?
Hopefully not sleeping under a bridge 🙂
I will be enrolling a Masters of the Arts degree early next month and I’ll be looking to do a PhD once I graduate. My masters will allow me to work while I study and I would still love to be around in the luxury travel industry, so hopefully that happens. Then, I can embark on a project where I have a quieter lifestyle!
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you started working at Connections, what would it have been?
There’s so many! But if I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, I’d ask him to take things seriously, but not too much. I’ve had a strong sense of responsibility since I was a kid and I hate letting people down. So as a consequence sometimes, I would obsess and stress about the smallest thing not going the way that I wanted to.
Another piece of advice I’d give myself is to not let others define who I am. Having started my Connections journey at the age of 23, I’ve always hugely respected and admire all the senior executives and colleagues I have worked with by default and sometimes I’ve sought their validation on the quality of my work and even on who I am as a person. If a client or a colleague had something good to say about me, that’d take over the moon. But if it was the other way around, that’d bring me down, and that’s just wrong. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but do not let it shape your personality or affect your self-awareness.
Do you have a farewell message that you would like to give to Connections Luxury Leaders?
I’ve been incredibly lucky to be surrounded by business owners, CEOs and company directors since I was 23 years old, which is absolutely amazing but can also be a bit daunting at times. However, I must admit people in the travel industry are super lovely and 99 percent of them have always made me feel welcome. So, I guess all I can say is thank you for all the warmth, lessons and advice that all of you have given me all these years. We’ve built a big network of thousands of leaders and it’ll be difficult to keep in touch with all of you, but I hope I get to keep following a fair amount of you.
To the top Connections team, it’s been an honour to work, travel and share life experiences with you all: Adam, Alissia, Amanda, Angelo, Beatriz, David, Evangeline, Gemma, Greg, Hannah, Jess, Laura, Saadia, Sam and Silvia.
I will be following you closely and will always waive the Connections flag wherever I go.
Editor’s Note: As a valued member of our team, Alex has been an incredible leader, colleague and friend who brought joy to both the team and our wonderful community leaders. On behalf of Connections Luxury and Jacobs Media Group, Alex Roca will truly be missed. We wish him all the happiness and success on the journey into his next chapter!