Boats, Beaches And Business
Everything About Sonya Schweitzer’s Life And Current Success Centers Around The Water
Sonya Schweitzer is the head of Boats.com
Once a neighbor of Paul “Crocodile Dundee” Hogan, Sonya Schweitzer has come a long way, literally and figuratively, from her native Australia to head up Dominion Enterprises’ Boats.com division from her Granby Street office in Downtown Norfolk.
With stops in England (where she met her husband, John), Hawaii, New York City and Northern Virginia (among other places) along the way before settling in Virginia Beach, Sonya had a unique opportunity to work with companies such as American Express and AOL during the tech boom of the ’90s. Those experiences helped to hone the skills necessary to become a high-energy, idea generator within one of the largest employers in Hampton Roads. (Dominion Enterprises is headquartered in Norfolk and has more than 3,300 employees in the United States, Canada, England, Sweden and Italy.)
Hampton Roads Magazine: Tell us about Dominion Enterprises and Boats.com.
Sonya Schweitzer: Dominion Enterprises is a leading marketing services company serving a wide variety of industries including real estate, apartments, vehicles, employment, auto, marine and travel. I am fortunate to work for the marine division—Dominion Marine Media—specifically overseeing the development and performance of Boats.com. The mission I’ve been given is to recreate Boats.com to embrace the global community we serve. We are currently developing new features and product enhancements to position us as the single global online resource for boat enthusiasts. We already have rich content—from boat reviews, articles, video reviews and more—and we offer access to the largest number of boat listings in the world, but we are now embracing the social phenomenon and expanding our offerings to engage with our audience. It’s a really exciting time to be working at Dominion Marine Media.
HRM: How does social media play a role in that?
SS: Social media has given us the ability to have a two-way conversation with our audience. Rather than push out our marketing message, and creating products we “think” we will need, we now have the ability to discuss our expansion ideas with those who matter most to us—our visitors. We have invested both financially and physically in supporting a social media strategy to identify people who are water enthusiasts on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. We want to connect with them to start conversations, and engage with them frequently so that we can see if they are interested in hanging out with us on our website.
HRM: Your management style has been described as “transparent.” Why is that important to you?
SS: It is important to me that those working for me feel like they’re working with me, that they hold a stake in the business or work we are doing. I feel it gives them a feeling of ownership and accountability, and tends to create a stronger, more invested team. I am not here to necessarily make friends, but it is so much more enjoyable to go to work every day and spend time with people you trust and like working with.
HRM: Dominion Enterprises has relaxed some of its policies on things like dress code over the years. Comments?
SS: I was honestly concerned about working at Dominion Enterprises a few years ago when I was first approached to work there. I’ve worked in some really creative environments, where shorts and flip-flops were acceptable attire. I also wear a nose ring and have a few tattoos. My hair has been pink on occasions. But (Dominion Enterprises CEO and President) Jack Ross and his team have done a great job of keeping up with workforce trends, and there are always new things happening at Dominion Enterprises. Creativity is embraced.
HRM: You seem to enjoy introducing your American co-workers to Australian culture and traditions. What has been the biggest hit?
SS: Probably the TimTam Slam. I could explain it to you, but it’s really something that has to be experienced to fully understand.
HRM: What is it that you most enjoy about Hampton Roads?
SS: Living in Hampton Roads gives me the access to water and the lifestyle I grew up with (although the waves are much bigger in Sydney). There is just something about looking out my office window onto the Elizabeth River that gives me calm. I live close to Sandbridge Beach, and my husband and I have a boat and pool. Everything about my life in Hampton Roads centers around water.