Thanks to technology, the world is getting smaller and smaller, and yet, sometimes you need to be there in person, which is the case for Olinda Hassan, a partner on the Strategy & Innovation team at Twitter. Now based in San Francisco, this boss babe helps drive Twitter’s customer experience strategy and regularly travels around the world to meet with and learn from various groups.
In order to maintain her hustle both on the job and while taking 20-plus-hour flights, Hassan is well versed on everything from reducing travel stress to being meeting-ready right off the tarmac. Advising on policy for millions of global users doesn’t leave her with extensive time for packing, either, so she has created a streamlined packing strategy. She also maintains an effective fitness and health regimen that she has adapted to fit her buzzing schedule.
Want to maintain your own hustle on the job and while traveling?Here, this tech strategist — who grew up between Bangladesh and Japan, received her MPA from Cornell University and was a Fulbright Fellow — shares her philosophy on travel and her insider tips. This is helpful advice that anyone can use, whether you’re already a boss babe or you’re still working your way up the corporate ladder.
Olinda Hassan’s Philosophy
On travel: I am a genuinely curious person with an international background, and I believe that travel helps alleviate misconceptions, which can happen when you live in America. Between work and personal travel, I take at least one to two trips a month. I’ve been to over 30 countries, and last year alone I went on international trips to Lagos, Nigeria; Paris; London (my husband and I were there for work at the same time); Montreal; Peru; Tokyo; Manila; Philippines; Delhi and Bangalore, India; Mexico City (a girl’s trip); Guadalajara, Mexico; Dubai; Bangladesh; and Santorini and Athens (for our wedding anniversary). Domestically, I traveled to Phoenix to visit family about once every other month; Los Angeles and Palm Springs; Washington D.C.; Seattle; and Ithaca, New York (to speak on a panel).
On having a global point of view: As someone who works in a global company, it’s important to travel to understand how different users view your service and products. People are not monolithic and it gives you a chance to experience cultures and understand where differences come from, and how they can actually improve your relationships.
On the downsides of travel: I hate flight delays (I’m notorious for tweeting about this). I have a love/hate relationship with itineraries. I am more OCD than my husband — I need to research places and make every trip amazing — but I have learned to relax and realize not everything will be perfect. And nothing bothers me more than ignorant travelers who are shocked that Mexico City is cosmopolitan; people who can’t believe they didn’t get sick overseas; people who are astonished when locals speak “such good English” and people who get annoyed that they can’t understand other people: You are visiting their country!
Olinda Hassan’s Travel Tips
1. Consider where you stay: When traveling for work, I stay at hotels exclusively. I try to stay in Airbnbs when I’m on vacation in countries that are easy to navigate: I think this is a neat way to explore the city and understand the culture. Airbnbs are also preferred when I’m with friends because they tend to be more advantageous for group itineraries. Plus, it’s usually a better bargain for an Airbnb than trying to squeeze into a block of hotel rooms or one or two suites.
2. Perfect your packing strategy: I rarely check a bag — that adds up to an hour of travel time that can be spent at the hotel or in a lounge. And I have one bag that can carry my laptop and essentials. My go-to is a Longchamp tote because it looks professional for a business meeting but also works to carry everything I need during my travels.
3. Prepare a travel kit: You don’t know what could happen between security and your destination, or how your body will react. I like to be prepared for everything. I have Advil for back or muscle pain or headaches, tissues for last minute sneeze-attacks (or to hand out if there’s a snotty toddler next to me) and an eye mask and ear plugs, in case I’m unable to quiet my mind and need to focus and get some sleep. (The airlines don’t always give out blackout sleeping masks, and if you’re stuck for eight hours next to someone who won’t turn their laptop off, you’ll have a much harder time falling asleep.)
4. Don’t forget these essentials: Always bring cleansing pads to clean your face on the flight and when you travel to places with very different weather (i.e. humid climates). Pack lavender oil and turmeric powder. Turmeric is my go-to for health and wellness, from stress and nausea to digestive issues. Lavender helps me sleep during long flights and the aroma is comforting and soothing. Bring vitamins, since your diet will be all over the place (vitamin C tablets are a great to keep the energy up). Probiotics help the immune system and lower the risks of getting sick (if you can, take them one week prior). Also bring hydrating face serum and cooling products (like those with aloe vera or jade roller) to wake feeling fresh-faced.
5. Pack the right clothing: I always bring a sweater for layering, since airplanes are cold and you don’t know what the weather will be like in your host country. It’s key to invest in one nice blazer for a trip: A blazer can make an outfit formal or go business casual with jeans. Black flats work for work and walking around, and they’re light to pack. Always bring extra undergarments: You never know when you can do laundry or if your company policy allows you to. And think ahead: Bring a bathing suit, in case you decide to use the hotel pool, for example.
6. Keep a neutral palette: Pack light colors and neutrals, which can be mixed and matched. But avoid white, which can stain easily.
7. Bring small bills: I bring foreign currency in smaller bills for service tips as soon as I land.
8. Bring gifts for a business trip abroad: Chocolates, savory snacks and anything food-related is ideal. It shows that you are thankful, but did not get something over-the-top that could offend or embarrass. (Of course, make sure to check your company policy for business travel guidelines, if any.)
9. Leave these things at home: Forget the extra pairs of heels — shoes are heavy. Handbags are also heavy. Pick one that can be functional, chic and can work for day and night (so, usually black). Don’t bring your entire beauty routine. And leave behind the expensive jewelry: It isn’t worth the risk of getting stolen and can make you a target for pickpockets and thieves.
10. Bring travel-size skincare products: Sephora sells travel-size products near the counter (the place you usually like to avoid!). You’ll find everything from cleansers to dry shampoo. This helps you pack good products (versus cheap generic things), without adding weight and taking up space. Sample-size perfumes are also a necessity: I always keep one in the pocket of every coat I own.
11. Be business meeting-ready right off the tarmac : Drink a lot of water and hydrate so that your skin doesn’t show how tired you are. If you have to go to a meeting right after you land, pack an outfit and carry it in a suit bag so that it doesn’t need to be ironed and you’ll be able to change right away. (Even if you work in tech and things are casual, having fresh clothes in a suit bag helps you feel more prepared.) Dry shampoo will make your hair look like it’s been cleaned and not leaning against a seat. Have your office essentials in one bag that is ready to take with you. Have a coffee or caffeinated drink at least two hours before the meeting to keep you energized. (Some people say to avoid caffeine to fight jet lag, but if you have a meeting, you do what you need to do.)
12. Handle jet lag and dive right into the hustle: Adapt to the local meal time to get over jet lag. If you can, start eating on the local time before you get to the destination. This is especially helpful if you are traveling a long way for only a couple days.
13. Stretch between flights: You don’t always realize just how tired your muscles are between flights or stretches of your trip until you are forced to sit down for four to 12 hours at one time with little walking room. I found that stretching before sitting leaves my legs less restless on long flights.
14. Use jet lag to your advantage: If you have jet lag, working out can be a lifesaver, from boosting energy to regulating your metabolism. A study of hamsters showed that jet lag lasted only 1.6 days in the exercised hamsters vs. 5.4 days! I always go to the gym at my hotel on a business trip when I’m not able to rest. Working out can make you tired enough so that you fall asleep. I always exercise for at least 10 minutes in the morning in my hotel gym.
15. Manage the stress of traveling while balancing work: Pick flights that let you rest the most when you land at your destination. This sounds counterintuitive, but don’t sleep when you get to your destination if there is a big time difference: You want to adjust if you are there for more than three days. Instead, do relaxing activities like going to a local spa (massages differ country to country, and Asia always has more value for the price), doing a workout or taking a stroll through the city. You’ll be so exhausted you’ll be right on their schedule by the next morning.
16. Make your hotel room feel like home: Keep the clutter away, especially in a small space. If you’re traveling for work, bring office supplies and lay them out in the hotel desk. The last thing you want is not being able to find supplies to work; it’s a business trip after all. And I sometimes bring my own tea bags and snacks — something that I know will be guaranteed to bring happiness if I’m not feeling particularly adventurous with food.
17. Adapt your daily routines wherever you go: Bring one item that you use every morning. Hair straightener? A particular lotion? It will help you feel at ease and set the tone for getting ready in a new bathroom. Dry shampoo is a must — who knows when you can shower between work, food and passing out?
18. Be green: Opt to not have sheets changed daily. You don’t change your sheets at home every day, so why do you need to at the hotel?
19. Bring things from work that help you adjust: Maybe you like a certain type of pens — these are NOT a waste of space. Travel can be a hectic whirlwind and those little details will make you feel like you have control over something.
20. Read: Being on social media all the time is not easy on the eye and doesn’t make you present. Also, if you had a terrible experience between flights (missing luggage, etc.), looking at social media can make you feel worse. I always have my Kindle or a physical book to read on breaks between travels.
21. Keep in touch with family: Taking time to call a parent, relative or friend can bring down the blood pressure, especially if something stressful like missing a flight or getting a wallet stolen happens while traveling.
22. Always have an external battery and a charger: Between taking pictures, navigating and making notes for things to check out later, you use your phone way more while traveling than you normally do. While just about every bartender has a charger behind the bar, it’s great to have your own chargers and batteries on hand to take care of it yourself.
23. Set realistic business goals: When you are in meetings, it feels easy to make promises because you were sent all the way there — but that is a part of the business. You don’t have to commit to everything and it’s okay to be realistic. Make sure you know what your goals are for the week and remember to meet them versus overreaching.
24. Squeeze in sightseeing during a business trip: Take advantage of jet lag and wake up early: It’s the perfect time to visit temples in Tokyo, historical sites in India or have coffee and pastries in Paris. Opt for flights that return later: You can leave your bags at the hotel and explore in the afternoon.
25. Pick one thing you want to see and really enjoy it: There’s no point trying to see everything when you’re on a business trip (which also defeats the purpose of getting to know a host city). Airbnb Experience is a great option to squeeze an activity that is organized during a free afternoon or before a flight.
26. Eat local: I try to only eat local cuisine because it is a way to learn about the place in a short period of time. I always get the local cuisine for room service. In Manila, I ate the most amazing local mangoes for breakfast every day. While I’ve always loved to cook, this last year, I’ve become a culinary daredevil and have been bringing back spices from my travels so that I can recreate my favorite exotic dishes, even if the ingredients aren’t sold in the U.S.
27. Make sure you have social media-worthy photos, even between meetings: I like taking a pic of the view from the office window or the office itself: Every office has a unique aspect that is specific to that region. Take walks in the city after work before heading back to your hotel room: You can capture the culture of your host city. And lastly, take photos of food, especially local dishes. My family always jokes that they don’t think I work on business trips (I do, I promise!) because I take so many pictures of food. Work doesn’t send me just to eat, but if that position ever opens up, I’d love to be considered!