WINiT Case Study: Holly Warner

Seasoned Travel Industry Professional Builds Leadership Skills and Confidence through Involvement in WINiT

Holly Warner
Global Director
American Express Global Business Travel (GBT)


Holly Warner is an experienced business travel program manager who has spent the last 20+ years creating and executing strategic global business travel programs across a variety of industry verticals on both the buyer and supplier sides of the business.

In 2014, Holly Warner was a Vice President at Citigroup where she worked in the Global Travel Department with Michelle (Mick) Lee, Founder of WINiT. When Mick returned from a travel industry conference at which no women were speakers on the main stage, Mick shared – with Holly and other colleagues – her commitment to shifting the paradigm for women in the travel industry. Holly felt that if a well-known female industry executive, one who often served as a speaker at industry events, was passionate about catalyzing change, she should get behind the cause. Holly was immediately on board. She became a founding leader of WINiT and helped launch the organization in order to create opportunities for women to grow and advance their careers. There was another reason for Holly’s enthusiasm: she wanted to set an example for her then four-year old daughter and show her the importance of standing up, building confidence, and taking action in order to make a difference.

How WINiT Helped: Leading by Example, Realizing Professional Growth

Being one of the founding leaders of a small start-up non-profit offered Holly the opportunity to not only take on a variety of roles within WINiT but also to interact with senior executive level professionals from across the travel industry. Holly volunteered to serve as the co-chair for WINiT’s Conference and Event Planning committee, one of 10 volunteer-run committees that leads and delivers key elements of WINiT’s programs. In this role, Holly was integral in the planning and organizing of WINiT’s first Annual Summit in 2014. This event gave her a chance to work directly with travel industry executives, building her confidence as well as further developing her personal and professional brand. This exposure and visibility with key industry players helped to support her career growth and movement into a Global Director role with American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) in late 2014. It was also around the same time that GBT became a Premier donor to WINiT, a role the company has maintained for the last two years.

Committed to WINiT’s mission, Holly maintained her committee leadership role and also took on more informal roles with the organization, including coaching and mentoring other professionals within her network both inside and outside of WINiT. As a result of her increasing confidence, particularly gained through public speaking opportunities, Holly shared a personal story at the 2015 ACTE conference about mentoring her daughter by allowing her to “shadow” her during certain aspects of her workday. Following the session at ACTE, a member of the audience and WINiT Developing Talent Committee Member, Diane Lundeen-Smith, approached Holly to tell her how much the story resonated with her. Holly and Diane then developed a professional relationship built on common interests and goals. One year later, Holly was approached by her leadership team to consider a new, highly-visible global role within her organization. This role would have her supporting the client team, of which Diane was one of the team members. After hearing of Holly’s interest, Diane provided her endorsement of Holly in the role and subsequently, in April 2016, Holly secured the role of Global Consulting Director supporting a global team of outsourced Travel Managers.

Holly took advantage of the leverage she gained in her new role to expand her professional network even further as well as mentor a new colleague and fellow WINiT Member, Laura Pyles. When an exciting opportunity was announced in her organization, Holly recommended the “stretch” role to Laura and essentially took on the role of Laura’s sponsor. She presented Laura to leadership for consideration and, ultimately, played a significant role in helping her secure the position. Holly continues to sponsor and mentor to Laura while she learns and grows in her new role and, as a result, has supported a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

Benefits Realized

Holly continues to serve in a leadership role for WINiT and has become an iconic Member of the WINiT community. Her dedication to WINiT –its mission, programs, and Members – earned her the WINiT 2014 Leadership Award which is given to one WINiT Member annually who shows unwavering dedication to WINiT through her time, support, and effort every day. When WINiT announced the dates for the WINiT Annual Summit 2016, Holly was disappointed that a personal conflict made it unable for her to attend. In response, she worked with WINiT Leadership to organize a sponsored opportunity for WINiT Leaders and Donors to meet and celebrate during the July 2016 GBTA conference in Denver. Holly donated her time and personal resources to attend the event and manage the décor, set-up, and photos. She was nominated by Danielle McMahan, Vice President, Global Talent Development at GBT, to be the AMEX GBT Ambassador to WINiT and was, subsequently, awarded this honorary position in 2016. This role includes involvement in the WINiT Mentor program as well as sharing her experiences via GBT’s internal communication and social media outlets in an effort to generate discussion and offer leadership development support to GBT employees. Holly is often contacted by industry colleagues for recommendations on talent management, benchmarking, and innovation due to her vast network and experiences.

When recently asked about her deep commitment and connection to WINiT, Holly responded: “I don’t believe in waiting around for change to happen. I take risks now knowing that sometimes I am going to fail. I’ve heard people state that they don’t know if they’re qualified or they’re not sure if they will get the role. I just ask them – what if it’s the alternative? What if you are successful, how cool would that be? I don’t know that I was comfortable with all of this before 2014 and for the ability to gain this confidence, I will be forever grateful to WINiT. As stated by WINiT leaders, we have come so far yet we have so far to go and because of that, WINiT can count on me for the long-haul.”