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It’s hard to put all the incredulous experiences Jane Clementino has had in her life into one story. She is full of surprises at every turn.
Most of us know her as a statuesque powerhouse in the industry where she’s currently Senior Vice President and GM TRAVELSAVERS CANADA, a position she’s held since August of 2022.
But did you know she’s also a former Navy Reserve, a university basketball recruit and after adopting a child from Malawi, opened a school there named after her daughter?
“My first flight ever was in the back of a Hercules, you know, the massive ones they put tanks into and have no seats?” she tells TravelPulse Canada with a laugh. “And there’s no bathroom, so god help you if you needed one. Everybody sways together, you’re
sitting in these mesh things, and it takes about 20 minutes to take off, they move so slow through the air.”
Quite a contrast for a woman who did 150 commercial flights just in 2019 during her career with WestJet as Director of Agency Sales.
Clementino was recruited by the Navy at only 16 years old, after several of her high school teachers were in the military and recommended she go for it. She stayed until she was 21 and learned several skills, one being how to cook for 500 people versus
“I did a lot of really wacky things as a cook, like go out on a little tugboat in Halifax to try and get sailors to eat, the waves were so bad, and they were seasick. We took some duct tape, a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread. We taped it down
and I put a sign up that said, “if you can eat, congratulations, make your own lunch’.
My god it was so bad. I was so seasick. I mean, it really was terrible. But I had to stay on, we weren’t going anywhere.”
Clementino’s Navy experience is something she said helped shaped her overall work ethic and provided a solid base to learn the management skills that would eventually help her in her travel career. After being recruited by the University of Guelph for
basketball, she enrolled in their Hospitality program which she said was excellent and provided hands-on case studies to learn everything about the industry from accounting to hotel management and everything in between.
After graduating, she worked in the accounting department at the SAAB car company, then moved into travel at Rider Travel as a corporate travel manager where she worked in various management positions for ten years. Within that role, she had the opportunity
to work with the Government of Canada and was seconded as the Global Travel Manager for the Bank of Montreal's travel program, before returning back to her role as Director of Consulting Services at Rider Travel. She joined GTS (Global Travel Solutions)
as VP of Client Services, eventually also managing their sales department. When GTS was purchased by CWT, she went to Bottomline Consulting as a management consultant specializing in travel, working with companies like Sears at a board-room level
on strategy designs related to travel. After a few years of management consulting, she joined WestJet in 2014 where she remained until 2020.
(Photo Credit: Jane Clementino)
Somehow during all of that, she also had four children, one of whom is daughter Idah, who she adopted from Malawi after sponsoring her financially since she was born. After Idah came to Canada rather randomly - she was escorting two other children who
were going to die they were so ill - the organizer with them asked Clementino if she’d like to meet the little girl she had been sponsoring.
“Right then and there, we said we don't get how she's going to go back,” she exclaims. “She's going to be in Canada for a month while they get these two boys healthy, and then she’s going to get on a plane and fly to an orphanage? Does that make sense? It was the most incredible process and it was the most difficult thing we've ever done. Because meanwhile, she was here, staying with us under foster care, but we never knew how it was going to end.”
Four years and nearly twenty lawyers later in both Canada and in Malawi, Idah was officially adopted. The Clementino family held a celebration to welcome her and through the support of family and friends, they were able to raise enough money to build
a school for kids in Malawi named after Idah. They continue to pay for its teachers today.
That sense of family is something that’s always been very important to Clementino.
“I give a lot of credit to my husband Carlo, because we decided to always be close to our families, to have the grandparents involved with the kids. I was the one who always commuted, and he had a job that was more stable and finished by 3:30 so he could be
home for the kids after school. And it hasn’t changed, we’re still in the same place with our upcoming anniversary 30 years later.”
During her kids’ early years, she moved to working part-time, a structure she said worked with her employers because of her good record; people knew how hard she worked and if they were paying 60% they were getting closer to 90%.
“I would say that's probably one of my attributes, that I am a true competitor. I love setting and obtaining goals.”
In her role at TRAVELSAVERS, Clementino she has a strong impact on the direction for the company and adds her expertise on how she sees the company expanding through Canada and gaining members. In sales there are obviously quotas to meet, but the company
is very particular in who she’s bringing into the membership versus how many she’s bringing.
“It’s quality over quantity, and I think that gives me a different view from some of my previous sales positions. The TRAVELSAVERS model is putting people first; suppliers first and acting as a catalyst for growth to independent travel agency partners."
Clementino is aware that not all women are given the opportunity she has been to have an impact on the company’s direction.
“In general, I think women are challenged more than men in the boardroom. I think women need to pick their moments when they want to be heard, and then be fully prepared to back up what they’re presenting with stats and figures.
A lot of women speak through emotion, and I think it's fine. But you need to have the financial background to know the full story; you can't shy away from the numbers. That's part of the reason I did my accounting. I think when you speak of
numbers, it removes that inequality that sometimes females feel.”
Two men in her life have been very supportive mentors to her, one being Mike Simone from GTS and the other her father.
“Mike taught me how to nicely get what I wanted, without doing the hard negotiation. It was very interesting; it gave me a balanced perspective on getting what you want through a different approach.
My dad wasn’t really driven to the same business goals as I am, but after my mom passed away early in life, he had to raise me, being a mom and a dad. He had a really great sense of humour, so wherever there was an awkward situation, he'd throw in a line,
whether it be appropriate anymore or not, it didn't matter. That was his way around it. His loving support was huge for me.”
Clementino says there’s never been a better time for women to grow in the industry and they need to not shy away from new technology. Instead, figure out a way to leverage that to accelerate your growth, to make you stronger, instead of doing it the traditional way.
“My time in university basketball was good training ground for corporate society, because every year you have the new recruits coming in who want to take your spot. You need to figure out what's your lane and how can you remain good at it?
“My advice to all women in the industry is don’t run out of runway - continue to extend your own by adapting yourself and never stop learning.”
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