20 July 2023
Transforming LGBTQ+ travel: King's alumnus Darren Burn reflects on his career
Burn suggests new career starters should "be as open and authentic as you can be"
While studying for his degree in Business Management, King’s alumnus Darren Burn climbed the ranks at the Independent Television News, a UK-based news and journalism production company. He started as a documentary researcher, then moved into their ITV news division as an editor, graduating in 2008, eventually becoming the Head of UK Planning.
But in 2014, he decided to do something different. Inspired by an entrepreneurial competition he read in a magazine on a British Airways flight, he went and pitched his idea for OutOfOffice.com, a start-up focused on the LGBTQ+ community, which wasn't as well catered to at the time and won a small investment.
Since then, OutOfOffice.com has grown and focused on the luxury travel, as well as expanded to focus on the North American and UK market, and has since acquired TravelGay.com, the world's biggest LGBTQ+ travel website, where Darren has take over as CEO.
Darren spoke with us about his experience with his business, the evolution of LGBTQ+ acceptance in the workplace and his advice for LGBTQ+ students and those just starting their careers.
Did you encounter any challenges when attending King’s College London, as a gay man in business education?
Back then, it was not as common to openly discuss diversity and inclusion as it is now. While I wasn’t in the closet about my sexual orientation, there wasn’t much dialogue around diversity during that time. It wasn’t a topic I would openly discuss with professors or staff members. However, I believe things have changed since then, and diversity is now more championed and discussed in educational institutions.
How have you seen attitude towards LGBTQ+ people in the workplace evolve since starting your career?
The perception and acceptance of LGBTQ individuals in the workplace has improved over time. However, there is still progress to be made, as my company exists to serve the LGBTQ travel community. Ideally, we wouldn’t need to have such a business, and everyone would be fully accepted.
In the UK, diversity is now a prevalent topic, and people are beginning to understand that being inclusive and accepting makes commercial sense as well. Commercial decisions can drive positive change, and embracing diversity is crucial, especially in industries like travel and tourism.
What kind of advice would you give to an LGBTQ+ student at the beginning of their career?
Be as open and authentic as you can be. It may have taken a while for many LGBTQ+ individuals to embrace their true selves due to societal pressures, but finding your authentic tribe of people who accept and support you is important. If you can’t find that acceptance, those people are not worth your time.
Also, I recommend reading the book “The Velvet Rage” by Alan Downs, which provides insights into the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals. Having knowledge and being true to yourself can make a difference.