Inspirational Woman: Danni Rush | COO, Virgin Experience Days & Virgin Incentives

Danni RushDanni’s career has spanned several industries including travel, retail and outdoor education. Her passion for team engagement, having seen the positive impact that a highly engaged and motivated team can have on business performance, led her to her role as Chief Operating Officer.

She led the customer experience, product development, partnerships and the people strategy for Virgin Experience Days and Virgin Incentives, and helped the business navigate through the challenging pandemic period to actually increase employee engagement ratings and win gold at the 2021 UK Employee Experience Awards.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background, and your current role

I chose not to enter any further education and therefore ended up entering the world of work very early. I found this was very beneficial to my career. I’ve gone on to work at some really exciting businesses and have absorbed as much information as possible at the different businesses I worked for.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’m continuously planning my career. Each year, I create a visions and goals board where I note down what I am going to achieve both personally and professionally.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Who hasn’t? There are parts of my career plan that I wasn’t fully prepared for. Things sometimes happened more quickly than I originally thought and took me by surprise. There were also plans where I took a detour.  I try to see all challenges as opportunities, I then realign my focus and work on making the most of them.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Being able to successfully balance home and work life – for a while I found it hard. My kids are amazing, well-rounded people – I’m so proud of them and myself for being able to watch them blossom into the people they are today.

Being able to support, mentor and guide people around me and then see them accomplish amazing things and achieve career milestones is always satisfying too.

Finally, the customer service and people teams at Virgin Experience Days for winning two awards for how the business looked after its customers and team throughout the global pandemic.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

Being clear on my goals and then completely committing to them. I feel it’s important to understand where you want to be in a number of weeks/months/ years and then putting practical plans in place to ensure you reach them.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I believe mentoring can take on many forms. It’s powerful learning from the people around you and observing how they navigate challenges and achieve success. Then, asking for their perspectives on a situation – you’d be surprised at how different people approach different tasks. I’ve worked with and for several inspiring leaders and have learnt so much.

Reverse mentoring – where you form “professional friendships”, regardless of seniority and exchange skills, knowledge, and understanding – is another form of mentoring and has been great for me. It’s helped me grow in ways I hadn’t thought about previously.

 I’ve also participated in more formal mentoring schemes with a focus on particular areas of development/coaching. If you have the opportunity to be part of a mentoring scheme, either as a mentor or mentee, I would grab it with both hands. I’m happy to offer up my time as a mentor as more often than not, we both will mutually benefit.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

While it’s great that nearly 40 per cent of all FTSE 100 board positions are held by women, more needs to be done. By creating more leadership positions for women, they’ll have an equal opportunity to lead more teams and businesses, thus helping to drive better workplace equality.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Always stay hungry to learn from other people.

Be really clear on what you want and commit to it.

Be yourself and be proud of it.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

More women in leadership roles. I’m on a mission to help support and develop younger women into leaders and am keen to create more leadership roles for women and encourage them to feel confident when applying for them.

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