Leadership / 09.20.23
Lucille Pickering Has Traveled the World to Find Her Home in Ticketing
Lucille Pickering graduated from Beckett University in Leeds, England, with a master’s degree in public relations in 2011 and then spent the next seven years close to home working at a variety of jobs in or around the city where she grew up. The life seemed to suit her, especially because she got to spend time with her mother, the person she most admires.
“I'm from a single parent family,” she says. “My father passed away when I was a baby, and there is just me and my mum. She has turned her world upside down to allow me to have the room and growth to be successful.”
But Lucille always had an itch to travel. She would love to live in Bali or, if not that Indonesian paradise, anywhere in southern France. That remains a dream, but when it comes to air miles, she probably already has more than most people would accumulate in a lifetime. It all started in 2018 when she quit her job as an agency development manager with Google and set out for what she thought would be a three-month-long tour of Southeast Asia.
“It took a lot to leave that job,” she says. “I was 30 years old, so it was a bit unorthodox to go traveling at that point. I had a good job, house, partner, friends, network, all these things. But I was not happy and I had some health problems, which probably was the catalyst [that prompted me] to look at what my life was about. To give it all up and start again from ground zero was a real moment of courage for me. I feel like that is the beginning of what has led to my true success.”
Instead of three months, it took her twice as long to make her way through Thailand, Laos, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Then she arrived in Australia for what was supposed to be a three-week stay before returning to England.
“I ended up staying for two and a half years,” she laughs. “If I was really honest with myself, I kind of knew that was going to happen. But for the state of my family, my connections and maybe for myself as a safety net, I said that I was going on a three-month trip. I might be able to extend it, but when I was leaving, I knew I was going and I knew I wasn't going back.”
Lucille in Australia as she was traveling down the east coast from Brisbane to Sydney before moving to join Protect Group.
It was in Australia where Lucille connected with her current employer, the Protect Group, which provides event cancellation and refund protection for ticket agents, events, platforms, venues, sports teams and travel companies.
“What I love most about my job is having the freedom to create relationships and business in my own fashion,” Lucille says. “My CEO often said that I'm master of my own universe and that I pull along the energy and the drive from what I create, which is within the boundaries of total freedom.
She continues, “[Regarding] the ticketing industry in general, what I love the most is that it is a friendly and accessible bunch of people who are willing to share thoughts and ideas and help people like me grow. The ticketing industry is the most open, honest, authentic and nicest bunch of people I have had the pleasure of working with … just lovely people who I thoroughly enjoy spending time with in and outside of work.”
That CEO, by the way, is James Hastie, the founder of the Protect Group. Lucille says he is a mentor and one of the most inspiring people she has ever known.
“I am so fortunate to have him because he is, to me, such an inspiration for many different reasons. He is totally authentic in who he is. He is also not afraid to fail. He has failed, and he has picked himself back up. That, to me, is inspirational. Even though he is running a successful international business, he still cares about the human side of things. He always wants to understand if something is going on for a team member, what we can do to support them and how we can be their friend through hard times and difficult times. And to me, to maintain that human element when you're running a team of 170, I think, is truly inspirational.”
Protect Group’s Middle East and Africa team.
Eager to continue learning from her company’s top leader, a year later, in 2020, she was again on her way to the airport.
“[James] was opening an office [for Protect Group] in Istanbul,” she says. “I asked if I could join him because I wanted to get involved in the strategic management of the business and growth of the company on a wider scale … When I arrived in Istanbul, he promoted me to be head of the Middle East and Africa, which was a huge moment in my development, and it was a reflection of what he thought of me, that I could manage this difficult region in a place that I didn't know, with a team I didn't know. It was all because I had asked for it. He always says that if somebody says to you, ‘Please, can I have this in the team,’ you give them a chance because it takes a lot of guts to do that and push yourself forward and to be able to know that is what your ambition is in the business. Why wouldn't I give you a chance? But for me, it was a real career-defining moment because I had put myself in a position where I was challenging myself, and the team around me supported that. That transition of moving from Australia to Istanbul and leveling up into senior management would probably be my most memorable career moment thus far.”
Lucille in Istanbul.
Lucille stayed in Turkey for just 16 months and then was off once again, this time on another long-distance flight across the Atlantic and much of the continental United States to open a new office for the Protect Group in North America.
“This time, it was totally my decision where I went, how I did it, who I employed, the relationships that I chose to develop, the tactics that I chose in being able to increase our presence here,” she says. “That is what I love the most, being able to create something that is authentic to myself, that is serving the business. And I get to travel all the time.”
Lucille in Dubai.
She could have chosen New York or LA or any other big city in between. Instead, she picked San Antonio, Texas.
“When I moved to America, I was quite keen to go to something that was at the total opposite end of where I had been,” she says. “I went to Austin where I had relatives. Then I spent a little bit of time in San Antonio, which I just found totally charming, and I happened to have a friend who lived here, Aren Murray, who you will know from INTIX. I was looking for a place to call home.”
Lucille continues, “[Aren] said to me, ‘What about San Antonio?’ I looked at it and I thought, ‘Yes, what about San Antonio?’ because it really is just a base for us to have an office and address. It is very easy to travel in and out of San Antonio. It’s got a lot of charm to it. It is very welcoming. It's also what I think is the undiscovered pearl of Texas because they are trying to develop the presence of San Antonio in so much as tourism and as a business destination. We have an awful lot of conferences that come through town. I have been part of some of them, and what San Antonio could offer is very good. So, it is a mixture of things. I have the wonderful Aren here, and the charm of the place is undeniable.”
Aren and Lucille.
Just in case you were wondering, a year and eight months after she arrived, Lucille does still call San Antonio home. From there, she oversees all of Protect Group’s business activities in North America.
“I've elevated myself into this senior manager female leader role and developed myself on a trajectory that remained consistent,” she says with undeniable pride. “I think the greatest love of my life is probably the need to succeed … That has always been something that drives me is to be successful in what I deem as my own right, and that is to develop within a company and really be at the crux of what I do. Every time I reach an achievement … when I do take a minute to reflect on what I have done, I realize then, and it is always subconscious, that I understand my next two to three goals. That is something that I am trying to fit in is to take stock for a moment of how far I have come [and] what I have done. The love of my life and the passion of my life is the need for the next step. It's the want and need to succeed.”
Lucille says success, not only for herself but for others, brings her the greatest joy in life.
“I love to see people happy,” she says. “And I love to see the ‘aha’ moment for them when they do something, they achieve something and are proud of it. Nothing brings me greater happiness than to see people step into a role, own it and build on it.”
Lucille went on to talk about her role as a leader and what she expects from herself and her colleagues.
“As a leader, there has always got to be challenge. You've got to challenge yourself and the people you are leading with an undertone of total and utter support. I would like to think the team I manage knows 100% that I've got their back. I am always keeping their best interests at heart. I want them to achieve as individuals because I have a relationship with each one of them. They are all very different relationships, and my core is that I want them to succeed.
Lucille says she also makes things quite uncomfortable at times because doing the same thing over and over again is a definition of madness. “You don't move forward in that sense. You develop, grow, pursue and achieve when you are uncomfortable. I know that because I’ve moved countries three times. That is my path to make, to add to Protect Group for success. But in other individuals, there has to be an understanding of what you will do to challenge yourself to achieve.”
Members of the Protect Group team pose for a group photo at Leadership Conference Tulum 2023.
She adds, “Know that I've got your back, but the leader of a team also really needs to understand on an individual basis what is driving that person. What is getting you out of bed in the morning? What do you want to achieve? What do you want to be? Is it a tangible thing? You want to buy a house? Let's talk about how you are going to buy a house. Or do you want my job? Is that what you want to do? It's really to understand what is motivating that person, allow them to feel supported and challenge them along the way. I think those are the three core attributes of being a successful leader.”
Lucille recently achieved another milestone in her professional journey, having been accepted in August into the Chief organization, a powerhouse platform that connects a network of exceptional women leaders. She is also an active member of INTIX, which has served as a “safety net” ever since she arrived in America.
“INTIX is the be-all and end-all of ticketing in North America. It really is. I have done a lot of research into the ticketing industry, and [everybody] I would like to learn from and partner with are all members of INTIX, senior members of INTIX and have been in INTIX a long time. Whenever I asked for their advice on how to achieve business growth within North America, within the ticketing industry, they were all very open [in sharing that] to understand, to know and to grow, you need to be part of this network.”
Lucille continues, “I have learned so much from the INTIX network and found so much security there because it is difficult to move to a different country and open up an office and not know who to talk to. INTIX has been a bit of a safety net for me in the people … that there are not any wrong questions or bad questions, and you can't ask somebody something they wouldn't answer. Maybe I'm not wording that completely right, but it's been amazing to have that background and network of people supporting me in questions that may not even relate to the ticketing industry. To have that support around me from an industry body has been amazing. I couldn't have done it without the INTIX network.”
Lucille proudly points out that Protect Group has exhibited at INTIX conferences for the past five years and will be there again in Las Vegas in 2024. In the meantime, she continues to do committee work for the organization.
“I'm on the Member Connections, Awards, Conference and Mentor committees,” she says. “That’s because I want to give back to INTIX. It has been amazing to be part of all these different groups and see the elements of all the work that people put together to make the conference happen and to keep the content and information flowing in the right direction through INTIX … With INTIX, everything feels like a two-way conversation. Every opinion is valid, every insight is recognized, and it is all shared from a central hub that allows the industry to grow and develop.”
Lucille has made professional connections and lasting friendships in the INTIX community.
“True friends really care and want to know how you are as an individual,” she says. “What I value most in my friends is the ability to see me and appreciate my vulnerability. I am really good at asking for help. I am really good at putting myself in positions to challenge myself. As I said to you before, I basically asked for a higher position from my CEO, and I've done that subsequently. I have done it one or two times over. The face of what I do and how I do it … people always say it looks like a glamorous life. In all honesty, at times, it isn't. It is super challenging to walk into a country, not really know anybody and start to build something from scratch. You build an armor about yourself to defend yourself. What I always appreciate from my friends is to be able to see the person who is behind the armor and the businessperson who I am [and] to be able to ask, ‘How are you?’”
Protect Group’s North America team at a conference in San Antonio.
While maintaining friendships and business relationships is a priority for Lucille, she also spends quite a bit of time taking care of herself by working out and keeping fit. And, when she has the time to sit and read, she said she likes books by Robert Galbraith, a pen name for J.K. Rowling.
“I never read Harry Potter, but I've read the Robert Galbraith books, and I really enjoy them,” she says. “She changed her name to Robert Galbraith to write this series of detective books. They are really fun. They are really good. The other book I am reading now is a self-help book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey. My friend recommended it, and it has been super useful … There are a lot of lessons I think you can learn from it.”
Lucille and Daria Wojtas, Head of Southeast Asia for Protect Group, on a business skiing trip.
And, although Lucille appears to be settled in San Antonio, she still likes to travel for work and pleasure.
“I love New York,” she says. “In America, that is one of the places I tend to enjoy being. But I also love going back to London. [When] I lived in the north of England, I went down to London for friends and work frequently. I remember every single time I got off the train in King's Cross, I used to get this whoosh, like, ‘Oh, I'm in London.’ It is loud and chaotic, and there is no organization to it. The streets go this way, that way, and you are never really going to find your way anywhere. You get on the tube and hope for the best. There are so many different areas of London that all have their own little kind of flavor … and there is an element of everybody is welcome there, rich, poor, whatever. There is always something for you in London with the museums and the theaters and the art galleries. London is somewhere I always love going back to.”
London is also home to Lucille’s favorite venue, or at least the one for which she has the fondest memories.
“I love theatre in London,” Lucille says. “One of my fondest memories was when I was about 14 years old, my mum and I got the train down to London, and we went to Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap,’ which is the longest-running theatre performance in the world. It has been going for about 70 years [as a tour and for almost 50] out of St. Martin’s Theatre. The theater is just like a pretty normal London theater. It is quite small … I remember looking at it and thinking it was so ‘rinky dink,’ but it was an enthralling performance. It is not an elevated story; it's a whodunit, but I remember that venue, that production and that day well.”
With that said, Lucille’s most memorable live event of all time was a performance by Muse at Wembley Stadium over a decade ago.
“The feeling of the music, being at Wembley, and they had all these amazing visuals being presented, like a huge robot on the stage. They had acrobats on what looked like giant balloons. It was just such a performance … I love Muse, but probably my favorite band ever is a band called Rüfüs Du Sol, which is an Australian band. I went to see them live [in August] in Indiana with my cousin. We had a really good time.”
As our interview wound down, Lucille became self-reflective. She shared the advice she would give herself if she could go back in time. “Trust the process. Don't worry. It is going to be fine … Don't anticipate the need to develop and grow at a pace that you are not ready for. Do what you do, allow it to happen, and it will happen.”
And when asked what she would want if given three wishes, her answer was heartwarming and humorous.
“I would love to have a conversation with my father, which I have never done. I wouldn’t wish for money. I would probably wish for more time [to] … remain a certain age but allow the world to continue (laughs). That sounds absolutely ridiculous, but I would wish for more time in certain phases of my life. I would also wish for the ability to teleport. If I could go and see my mum now for 10 minutes, that would be great, and then teleport back. So, teleportation, more time, and [the ability to] speak to the afterlife.”
And finally, even though Lucille has travelled many miles in the air in recent years (considering the 9,300 miles or 15,000 kilometers between Sydney, Australia, and Istanbul, Turkey, alone), she openly admits her lack of proficiency in dealing with numbers. It is unlikely she could tell anyone exactly how many flights she has taken or how far she has traveled. But, given her affinity for traveling, it's almost certain that number will continue to climb. When asked what her most treasured possession is, she didn’t miss a beat.
“My passport has stuck with me through thick and thin, and it has opened the gateway to many different countries,” she says. “I have been fortunate enough to have many different visas for all of these wonderful countries that I've been able to stay in, and that is because of the strength of my British passport. It is just a gateway. So, my most cherished possession is my passport.”
And for Lucille, that travel document has been the passport to an incredible career that she will undoubtedly continue to advance.
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Tags: Leadership , GTKY