Being More – Rita Silva, Operations Manager

Rita Silva heads up our Operations team in Mainland Portugal and The Azores. With a background in finance, she was looking for a career change that combined her love of travel with her skills in people management, finance and planning. Operations Manager is a fairly mundane title for the people who make the magic happen, it’s their skill and efficiency behind the scenes that makes each journey so beautifully seamless.

Growing up in a small village

“I’m from a village in the North of Portugal close to Braga and Guimaraes, which are both cities with a lot of history and culture. It’s a very close community, you just say your father’s name and everyone knows you! The great thing is that we are only an hour’s drive from either the beach or the Peneda-Gerês National Park with all it’s mountains, waterfalls and lagoons. Portuguese people are very connected to nature, we have rich resources, the sea, mountains and a climate that is great for agriculture, and a strong agricultural economy.

Making discoveries through travel

I love to travel, when I was younger I’d travel around Europe, Europe is like an extended home for us, we’d go around the middle of the continent and out to other countries. From there I got the travel bug, it made me want to explore more of the world. Morocco was a great experience as the culture is so different while at the same time its not far from Portugal. I learned a lot and grew from that experience because of the culture shock, it’s one of the countries that made me grow most in terms of perspective and how we see others.

Morocco – an amazing culture shock

I’ve also been to Thailand and Indonesia. The nature is so intense in Indonesia – so beautiful and diverse, I enjoyed sea diving as they have a a lot of marine life. I’ve also been to central America – in Costa Rica you have a lot of lush vegetation, forests and wildlife, and Belize is also pretty diverse.

Exploring Belize and Indonesia

The people are really different in those countries, it’s amazing to find out how different cultures live it, it impacts our way of seeing others. For instance, in Asia people have a lot of humility while in Central America they are vibrant and happy – they like to live a full life and party. They use the term ‘pura vida’ in Costa Rica – ‘pure life’ it’s really part of them and it seems like a great way to live.

Backpacking in Guatemala

The Wonder of The Azores

Over the past 3 years we’ve been to The Azores at least once each year, we’ve done quite a bit of São Miguel which is the main Island that tourists visit (it’s still pretty calm). The nature on the Island is amazing and you can go hiking, kayaking, canyoning or try the local dish of Cozido das Furnas – a typical food that they cook on the natural vapour from the volcanos. There are a lot of opportunities to enjoy the island’s hot thermal springs too.

There are other islands where tourism isn’t as developed, like Pico, São Jorge Island and Faial (which is called the ‘triangle’) on these islands you don’t see a lot of tourists, sometimes none, they are really rural and calm.

Then Flores and Corvo in the other part of the archipelago have very beautiful waterfalls and forests; you can feel like you are in central America. In Flores the canyoning is amazing, you can go right from the top of the island and end up in the sea, great for the more adventurous! You can also take a day trip and go to Corvo, which is in the middle of the Atlantic, it’s here you can see the dolphins and whales. Suddenly the atmosphere changes, it feels really calm and then you Dolphins surround your boat, keen to do the trip with you. Corvo is also famous for the Caldeirão, a gigantic green crater with a lake in the middle, its really quiet all you can hear are the cows, the sound of the sea and the local birds.

Finding a job that I enjoy

Before I came to Epic I was a financial controller, focusing on liquidity, but I started to feel I needed some change in my life, I was questioning things, I wanted to spend more time connected to things I love and more connected to people, so I decided I needed to make a change. I had a break and met Charlie when he was starting the Portugal project, he was trying to navigate the business out of Covid at that time.

For me it was a perfect alignment as I could work in travel, but about my own country so I could feel more connected with local projects starting to grow at that time, for me it was a perfect match. Some time ago I worked in a consultancy for small businesses to see a small business growing like Epic is exciting, there has been a lot of development since I started.

What does ‘Operations’ involve?

Our job is to deliver our clients expectations. We receive the travel plan and support the travel designers in detailing the itinerary, then we execute it, making sure it all goes to plan. A big part of our work is communicating with the key partners on the ground, the people that are experts about a place, we are constantly aligning with them regarding the expectations of the client and what we really need to happen. Its important to have these close relationships, we spend a lot of time together so that we know our thinking is aligned, these relationships are really important in order to deliver the Epic promise.

I look after a team, our days can be very changeable, we have to be flexible and agile and act fast when clients are on the ground. For instance, if rain has changed the plan, then we need to look at the trip forward to see if we can adjust things later on. To work in operations you have to be able to work under pressure and stay calm.

Agile Problem Solvers

.Sometimes we have 5 different families on the ground, some of the families can also be big groups of up to say 10 people. The unforeseen can always happen and we need to solve it without seeming concerned we need always to be reassuring for the client.

There is a good relationship between the teams in Morocco and Portugal, I brought a lot of working practices created by Naima and her team in Morocco into Portugal, team calls across countries to problem solve also makes the job feel collaborative and rewarding.