Mandy O'Connell was one of our most experienced relocation coordinators and in her years at the company, she has helped hundreds of pets complete their journeys to locations all over the world. Mandy's journey with PetRelocation has seen her grow into the position of managing the relocation coordinator team. With years of experience and a wealth of knowledge and patience, Mandy is doing amazing things at PetRelocation!
Read on to find out more about Mandy as we shine our employee spotlight on her!
What attracted you to PetRelocation initially?
I love animals and logistics, so this seemed like a natural fit.
At PetRelocation we love having employees from all kinds of backgrounds. Before joining our team you gained global experience by managing an overseas academic program. Can you share a little of what you did as a Walk in Europe Program leader?
I was fortunate to participate in a collegiate study abroad program called, The Walk in Europe. It was a three-month program that took roughly 20 students out of their comfort zones and on a 1,200-mile walk (about 15 miles a day) through various regions in Europe. We lived in one big tent and rotated different people each day who were called “Van Team.” This group of 2-3 people would be responsible for taking care of the group for a day (cooking, finding a place to put the tent, mapping a walking route, and so on). The intention of the walk was not to get from point A to point B, but rather to be in the moment, learning through experience, while gaining an appreciation for other cultures, people, food, geography, language, and yourself. The first walk I participated on was as an undergraduate student; it changed my life and I knew then that travel and logistics were my callings. The next Walk I did was as an assistant leader and then was named leader of two walks a few years later (I was only the second female leader in the program’s 35-year history). As leader of the walk, I organized most aspects of logistics, budget, and group facilitation, while ensuring student safety and cultural development in complex situations. Every day of every Walk was an adventure. To have spent the equivalent of a year of my life walking 5,000 miles through Europe while living in a big, white tent with a bunch of people, it was such a gift of time and I am forever grateful.
Mandy walking in the Austrian Alps.
You started your journey with PetRelocation as a relocation coordinator. During your time in that role, you took on some of the craziest and most complicated moves. When you think back, is there any move that sticks out as the most challenging or complicated, but lead to a happy family reunion in the end?
There are so many to choose from! One of the last relocations I can remember helping with, which ended up taking the better part of a year to complete, was a bird named Snuggle Bug who was going from Miami, Florida to Cape Town, South Africa. There was an avian bird flu outbreak that occurred in Tenessee and due to the import requirements for South Africa, if there is an outbreak in the origin country (regardless where in the origin country), you can’t come in for a certain period of time. I spent months working with the USDA here in the United States, the US Consulate in South Africa, and the government in South Africa trying to get special permission to get this little Cockatoo reunited with his family who had moved already. It was sweet relief and immense joy when Snuggle Bug finally made it to his new home in Cape Town.
Mandy with her son.
You’ve grown with the company and now manage the team of relocation coordinators. Would you say that it’s gratifying to manage this team? Is there anything you miss about managing relocations yourself?
It’s very gratifying to manage the relocation coordinators at PetRelocation. How couldn’t it be? They are an amazing group of smart, hard-working, and dedicated people that will do everything they can to help families reunite with their pets. They are constantly innovating how to do the role and I love being there to help when I can, give advice when needed, and really give them space and trust to do their jobs. I do miss the joy of hearing from a happy client once they are reunited with their pets. Often a lot of prep work goes into every relocation and it's not always smooth or easy, so I do miss that part. The great thing is I get to read so many wonderful client testimonials that we get for the coordinators on the team. I know how much work they put into each client’s relocation, so seeing that appreciation for the people on the team is really awesome.
When you are away from the office, how do you like to spend your free time?
In the past few years, I got into triathlons. I started training at LifeTime South Austin and joined their Tri Team. I could barely swim more than a few laps in the pool without stopping, could only run a few miles slowly, and I didn’t have a bike. But over time I got better (well, let’s be honest, I’m still slow).
In October 2019, I completed my first Half Ironman (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run). That race was hard! It took me 8 hours to complete with only about 30 minutes to spare. Needless to say, that was such a huge moment for me. The satisfaction of completing a race and getting healthy aside, the best thing that has come out of doing triathlons has been the amazing people I have met and who are now like family. They helped hold me accountable when I didn’t want to get up at 4 am or run another set of hills or didn’t want to get back on my bike after taking a spill. Shout out to Austin Tri Team and LifeTime Tri Team South Austin!
Mandy and her team after her first triathlon.
Let’s say you’re having friends in from out of town. What's one thing they absolutely need to do or see?
There is always an overabundance of eating. The food in Austin is unbelievable, and a big part of why I moved here years ago. As a vegetarian, I can eat anywhere, so when any friends are in town, we can do the rounds at all the places, including some of the best BBQ and Mexican/TexMex in the world. I also make sure they experience brunch, as it is one of the most important meals on the weekend in Austin (my favorite dish is migas, an Austin local specialty).
Hollywood is calling! Who would you say would play you in the movie adaptation of your life?
Kristen Wiig. Now there’s a woman who can laugh at herself when life is ridiculous!