Erika De Santi

Inspirational Woman: Erika De Santi | Co-Founder & International Expansion Director, WeRoad

Meet Erika De Santi, Co-Founder & International Expansion Director, WeRoad

Travel expert Erika De Santi is Co-Founder and International Expansion Director at WeRoad, where she is currently focused on the launch of the adventure travel firm’s UK operations, based in London.

Last year Erika was recognised in Fortune Italy’s 40 under 40 alongside other entrepreneurs, influencers, creators, and executives that have shaped the global pandemic experience.

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

I’m Erika De Santi, Co-Founder and International Expansion Director at leading adventure travel social brand, WeRoad. I’m currently leading the launch of our UK operations in London as well as our expansion to France and Germany.

I’m passionate about travel and have always wanted to work in the industry. I even studied the sector at university and graduated with a degree in Tourism Marketing from the University of Surrey.

Prior to launching WeRoad, I worked in business development at Emozione3, part of the Wish Days Group, which was acquired by Smartbox, the European leader in experience gifts, in 2016. Last year I was recognised in Fortune Italy’s 40 under 40 alongside other entrepreneurs, influencers, creators, and executives that have shaped the global pandemic experience.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t necessarily sit down and plan my career, but I had always wanted to work in travel and innovation. I’ve worked with a number of different companies in the sector and held a variety of wide-ranging roles ranging from receptionist and destination marketer, to sales and business development. In between every experience I would always reflect back on what I got out of, and what I enjoyed about each role and would plan my next move accordingly.

Therefore, my “exploration” of the travel industry and professional growth was very much geared around what I was curious about and what I still wanted to explore. In this process I found myself loving the entrepreneurial approach and path the most.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Before starting WeRoad, I launched my own startup – a business managing co-living spaces for digital nomads. However, the biggest challenge for me was having to run the day to day business and deal with everything on my own without the support of a co-founder. While this was an invaluable experience, I am grateful to have phenomenal co-founders and leaders by my side at WeRoad today.

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What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Launching a successful business which is continuing to reinvent group travel for millennials and which is one of the fastest growing travel operators in Europe today, with offices in Italy, Spain, the UK. Playing an integral role in building WeRoad to what it is now and seeing the positive impact it has on people is an experience I’ll never forget.

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

I’m a team player. I firmly believe my success wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible team we’ve built. In addition, being driven by a clear vision for the company and passion for travel, enabled me to get through the ups and downs of building a business.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Never rest on your laurels. Technology is always evolving, and if you want to develop your career in this field, it is imperative to stay up to date and never stop learning. Today, we have endless information at our fingertips, so figuring out what is most pertinent will also be key.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There are definitely still barriers for success for women working in tech. Part of the solution is breaking down the barriers at an early age. In order to attract more female talent to the sector, we need to rethink how the topic is being positioned and presented to young girls. I think it’s a matter of storytelling even during infant education, with tech careers being presented as an exciting and inclusive option to all. And of course, having role models to look up to also helps.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

As mentioned previously, technology is always evolving and therefore we need to ensure we stay up to date and educated. Digital innovation courses and updates should be made available to the whole workforce of companies where this is not there by design.

Having visible role models and senior female figures to look up to, and to learn from, can also have a huge impact on female colleagues as they progress their careers. As such it’s important we celebrate senior women in our industry and encourage them to engage and share their knowledge and experience.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Increase the number of women in leadership positions within the industry to accelerate the number of “inspirational” role models for new generations. This is critical in creating sponsorship and mentorship opportunities for young women entering the industry. In addition, engaging male allies is equally as important because it helps in building a culture that respects women and supports their professional growth.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Of course WeAreTechWomen for insight into a myriad of topics, but specifically for women in travel tech, I’d recommend following the events hosted by Women in Travel CIC – they’re a social enterprise dedicated to empowering women through employability and entrepreneurship in the travel industry and their events are excellent.

“Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men,” by Caroline Criado Perez, is a powerful book that has truly opened my eyes to the shocking gender inequality in today’s world – a must read for everybody.