Something happened when Noelani Schilling-Wheeler enrolled at the University of Hawaii over two decades ago that's often happens when outsiders discover the beauty of Hawaii and its people for the first time: she didn't want to leave.
Originally from Malaysia, Schilling-Wheeler, who studied finance and marketing before switching over to marketing and tourism management exclusively, hasn't looked back since. "Where better to get into that industry than here in Hawaii?" she says.
As the Senior Director of Sales and Marketing for the O'ahu Visitors Bureau, Schilling-Wheeler and her staff are responsible for test-driving some of the island's most desirable offerings, vetting them for prospective visitors from all over the world.
"To do my job well, I definitely need to be able to walk the talk," she says. "I've got to go out and experience the destinations."
Still, while the opportunities her job affords her to take advantage of a place she calls "paradise," Schilling-Wheeler says the most fulfilling part of her job is building bonds with the community and leveraging her connections to craft vacation experiences that are pleasing to visitors as well as respectful of the island's rich traditions.
"It's hard not to love a job like this," she says.