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Joanne Chimenti, director of sales, participated in a global management-training program at EF Educational Tours.Provided

Joanne Chimenti had travelled the world as a wine buyer and sommelier. Due to her passion for travel, she began to sell vacation tours. “Travel really opened me up,” says Chimenti, now director of sales at EF Educational Tours. “I wanted to share that passion, but I wanted to do something that felt more meaningful to me.”

Chimenti had been impressed when she worked with EF president Alison Hickey in the past. She did some research on the company, interviewed and then considered if it was a good fit. She’s older than many of her colleagues, but EF embraced her experience and what she calls her beginner’s curious mind.

“I love being part of a mission that allows young people to be exposed to all the pleasure, discomfort and crazy moments of travel,” says Chimenti.

With roots in language learning and cultural exchange, EF designs tours to help educators teach and provide immersive, life-changing education through travel.

“The world is a better place when people understand each other across borders,” says Hickey. “EF employees believe in the impact of experiential travel on students. It can be as small as experiencing the first time they order a meal in another language, or as large as being influenced on their choice of career.”

Chimenti began at EF as a tour consultant. She worked hard to keep in touch with teachers and principals, even when tours could not run due to the pandemic. She was able to tap into her teaching and coaching skills when she was promoted to team lead. A year and a half later, she became director of sales.

Right away, Chimenti was able to take part in a year-long EF management-training program with people from all over the world. “I had the opportunity to hear from some of the great minds in the company,” she says. EF also has an Emerging Leaders Cohort for people with potential who lack experience.

Hickey says that another great development opportunity at EF is travel itself. “Every year, each team member has a chance to go out with a student group,” she says. “And because EF Educational Tours is part of a global family of companies that create education programs, our employees can participate in some exciting global experiences.”

One such experience is to watch the final presentation by students at the Hult Prize, which challenges students from universities around the world to solve the most pressing global issues through social entrepreneurship. They vie for an opportunity to receive US$1-million in funding to make their idea a reality. This year, the Hult Prize took place in Paris, and four Canadian recipients of EF’s Core Value Awards were in attendance to watch, network and converse with leaders and students from around the world.

Hickey finds that people have placed even more value on experiential learning since the pandemic. Employees recently took part in a team-building retreat at Blue Mountain. They listened to a parenting expert, Alyson Schafer, who emphasized the importance of EF’s work in supporting the well-rounded development of young people. Amazing Race-style challenges, such as rope climbing and an après-ski-inspired party, gave the group an opportunity to have fun, collaborate and work as a team.

“I’ve been asked, ‘When you hire people, do you give a fun test?’” says Hickey. “We nurture our community of students and educators, and it all starts with happy employees.”

Though EF is an international company, each office is entrepreneurial in nature. “We call it staying small while growing big,” says Hickey.

“This company has been such an amazing fit for me,” says Chimenti. “It’s positive, solutions-focused, meaningful and exciting!”

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