Media and Communication Service
Karin Althaus is an USI alumna with a Master’s degree in International Tourism (graduation year 2014). She is now Marketing Lead for Germany, Switzerland and Austria at Cvent, the global meeting, event, and travel technology leader, based in London. We met Karin on campus in Lugano, where she was invited to give a lecture at the Tourism Career Lab and to share her experience with current USI students.
What brought you to continue your studies at USI?
Being from Zurich and having always had a passion for languages I enrolled at the University of Zurich, where I obtained my Bachelor of Arts degree with three specialisations: in Spanish linguistics and literature, Business Administration, and Arabic. Having thrown my initial plan of becoming a Spanish teacher overboard, I then tried to find a Master’s program and an industry where I could use my language skills in the “real world” – the travel and events sector and the USI Master in International Tourism seemed and turned out to be perfect for that. According to the information I had, USI was the only university in Switzerland offering such a comprehensive program covering aspects of tourism and economics (and more, of course). And, last but not least, learning Italian and getting to know another part of Switzerland was another motivational factor for me to continue my studies at USI.
Tell us about your experience in Lugano, as a student but also as an intern at USI…
Not only did the MIT program give me a great overview of the tourism and travel industry with all its different areas, but it also offered plenty of opportunities (like attending the ACTE trade show, for example) to meet industry professionals and to build and grow my personal and professional network. And we did so many group projects! But not just for the sake of completing assignments, but to really gain hands-on experience and work on real cases and projects with stakeholders; so we built a tourism plan for the municipality of Giornico, for example. And what I also really loved about USI (but what also made the group projects challenging sometimes) is how international and multicultural our class was.
In October 2013, I was given the opportunity to join the USI Institute of Economics (IdEP) to manage and organise an important academic conference that was scheduled to take place in August of the following year. The International Institute of Public Finance (IIPF) had in fact chosen Lugano to host its 70th Annual Congress – an event that brought over 400 academics and researchers from all over the world to USI. The challenge was on, and I accepted it. If anything else, it gave me a unique opportunity to put into practice many of the things learned in the classroom, like the detail oriented planning and execution of an event or working with hotels for room blocks or with a DMO for putting together a leisure programme and activities for spouses. Clearly, I was not alone. I could count on the support of staff and faculty at the Institute, but once the event organization was well outlined, I had just over 6 months to put it all together. One must consider that this sort of event is normally planned at least a year in advance, after the initial concept is submitted to the organizer two years prior. Nevertheless, I eventually managed it and I am proud to show this accomplishment in my professional curriculum – and knowing an event manager’s challenges from my own personal experience has helped me a lot in driving my career and having meaningful conversations with customers and prospects at Cvent, the leading provider of technology for event planners.
How was the transition from graduate student, to event management intern, to marketing lead for a leading event management technology company? Did you see yourself working for a tech firm while you were at USI?
Certainly not! But that’s the beauty of being open-minded and curious and I realized how important it is to say “yes” to surprising opportunities life brings. During my time at USI, I realized that the corporate travel and events industry was more for me than leisure tourism – and I always wanted to work abroad for a while. But my plans didn’t go much further than that. What has been (and still is) really helpful and important for me is my professional network. Firstly, there was my mentor from the Create Talent programme I could participate in through USI, who helped me gain a better understanding of the industry with its big players, get to know my strengths, weaknesses and opportunities and learn more about best practices in regards to application and interview processes. This took away many of the fears I had of the corporate world. The ACTE Global conference was another priceless opportunity for me to establish great contacts with industry professionals. Not only did these contacts help me with advice along the way, but they also referred me in their companies – and that’s how things fell into place and I ended up working for Cvent and moving to London.