What advice would you give your younger self starting out in the industry?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Work in Switzerland and Japan at the start of your career. Learn other languages fluently.I have had a rich career with many opportunities and suffer no regrets. Nevertheless, I would have loved for someone to share those pointers. It would have made for possibly an easier ride.
I want to tell my younger self “Do not worry and enjoy the moment”. For first several years, I was so impatient because I wanted to fill the gap between “ideal me” and myself and it was not easy. And what was more, colleagues and friends seemed doing well. But now I know several years are no big difference and nothing is waste as hotel business and asset management needs wide range of knowledge and experience. If you are prepared, chance will come. What is important is to take the chance. Don’t hesitate. It’s OK if you cannot do it well. People do not care. So, I want her to relax and enjoy preparing it before then.
Your job is what you do, not who you are. Also, not to be so serious and to make more of an effort to know people better. I tended to have my ‘serious self’ at work and kept my amazing wit well hidden. Now I tend to be more authentic and open about myself and like to have some light-hearted fun at work which is a bit late now since people expect a certain level of decorum from the CPO.
Stay curious and true to yourself, the things you stand for and don’t be afraid to push for it. The hospitality industry is very conventional and formatted in its way of functioning. It works in silos: designers are the creative ones, feasibility are the numbers ones, developers are the negotiation ones. I was very lucky at Four Seasons to have the opportunity to step outside of the box of my development role to work with Global Operations. I worked on the brand global strategy for F&B, wellness, I was involved in new developments, renovations, pre-openings. I am very grateful for that opportunity that truly opened myself to the field and work on my passions which are F&B and Wellness. And stay kind, to yourself and others, no matter what.
Choose carefully your first employer and always seek a mentor from whom you can learn and look up to. Never underestimate your potential and never doubt your ability to succeed. You will undoubtedly be faced with setbacks along the way but it is how you overcome these that forge the way to make yourself more resilient and stronger in the future.
All people in the world have the exact same need to feel valued, appreciated, recognized and respected. When you can understand that, you can handle any guest complaint, avoid cultural misunderstandings, have better relationships with your peers, and ultimately be a better leader/mentor for others.
My advice for my younger self and for the new joiners in this industry would be to love hospitality and work for your guests and your experience not for money. Trust your abilities and have confidence in your skill set and always learn from great leaders. Every day is a learning day, a chance to become a better version of yourself and to improve your skills, no matter how high you think you have reached, there will always be something you can learn.
I would do it all over again in the same order- Love what you do, experiment and challenge yourself and never get too comfortable. There is so much out there, educate yourself, stay humble and surround yourself with people and opportunities that grow your inner you.
I think it would have to be “stop and smell the roses”. In my early career I worked incredibly long hours, traveled extensively and was always ready to take the next career step which typically meant I would be relocating to another city or country. When I was building my career, I was willing to take on any assignment but as you get a little older and wiser you need to be sure that the position meets your own personal needs as well.
Take risks in the first 15 years of your career. Pursue job opportunities outside your country. Work in operations. Identify your short list of mentors and/or people that would take a chance on you.
Work hard and be open to opportunities. My success is down to work ethic and sticktoitiveness. I’ve noticed a growing tendency to want to hop on to the next thing, but persisting with your aspirations, while sometimes the slower path, is ultimately rewarding. When I first started off in the industry, I saw it more as a stop gap to gain experience, but I realized that by really applying myself a whole field opened up that I had never previously considered.
Take risks, stay true to your core values, embrace fear and stop saying sorry! You need to take risks to achieve the best rewards – join a company that supports innovation and encourages new ways of thinking. Don’t let fear stop you – embrace it and step up for every opportunity that aligns with your values. Women are particularly fond of saying sorry for things when they are not actually at fault. It’s easy to apologise if you feel insecure or uncomfortable and aren’t sure what else to say, but actually we don’t need to say sorry to be liked or because we feel insecure. This is particularly relevant for the amazing mums who balance their careers with bringing up their children. Family is important and you should never apologise because you have an important commitment for your children. In the corporate world there is often ‘urgent tasks’ that conflict with family moments. We need to be more comfortable in saying “I want to give this my full attention; however, I have a commitment right now which cannot be changed – I will look at this with fresh eyes tomorrow morning and give you my thoughts”. We live in a world where too many people are measuring themselves on how busy there are – I sincerely hope that COVID-19 is setting a new normal to move away from this.
Be open to unexpected opportunities and paths as they can lead you to some exciting places, the industry is evolving so quickly that the traditional route may not be the only one. I was a pioneer in my role as Area Revenue Manager in the late 1990’s which brought me new and valuable skills enabling me to grow as a strategic leader and simultaneously manage multiple businesses. Build and maintain a strong and purposeful network who can support you and bring value to your life.
Embrace hospitality, be aware of leaders in the industry and let them be your mentors directly or indirectly. Believe in yourself, be confident. You can achieve everything you put your mind to. Mindset is the game changer. Believe in yourself.
I am actually lucky enough to have worked through various departments in hotels and eventually found the area of the business (operational finance) that best fitted my ability and aspirations. This extensive mix of experience has meant that I have a good level of knowledge in many areas of the hotel environment from ground up, which has served as a great foundation for everything I have achieved in my career. I have been lucky enough to travel, teach, network and learn from each experience, so I would probably do it the same all over again.
Look at a broader segment affiliated to tourism. I come from a family of lawyers, and I would have looked at a broader career perspective but at the time there was very little career guidance so I opted for the degree that I felt I would enjoy rather than one which would have more prospects for the future. However, the advantage of being in a small island state saw me exposed to the United Nations at a very early age as a young graduate and my early training in Foreign Affairs stood me in good stead to this day where preparing Briefing Notes and Information Memorandums are an easy proposition which to some can be daunting.
Be confident and believe in yourself. Surround yourself with good mentors to help guide you along the way. Learning is a gift that you encounter daily as long as you are open and want to learn. Face challenges head on and jump at all the opportunities that come your way no matter how hard as life is ever evolving and always a learning journey.
Enjoy every second of it, even those moments that seem hard, use them as learning experiences. Don’t criticize your shortcomings and love yourself every day. Ive suffered impostor syndrome most of my life, probably still suffer it but I have managed to control it now. Feeling like you are not good enough is not a nice place to be, and if I was to start my life again, I would keep telling myself YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. I don’t regret anything in my life, except for not loving myself much sooner.
Throughout my career I have had mentors, who have been very helpful in providing a sounding board and a different perspective, both really important for self- development! I have found it especially valuable to network outside my immediate environment, as this is the best way to get different perspectives and to build up a broader view of what is happening in your business as well as how it responds to the changing external environment. Understand that you don’t need to be an expert in everything you do but have the self-belief that with hard work and commitment you will fill those gaps and excel, that along with working with the best people both peers and seniors is important.
‘’Keep looking, don’t settle’’. It’s not mine, but a short sentence that says a lot. Life is short, people say, but in that short time there is so much one can do. Each second, if not taken advantage of it, can be lost forever.
Don’t wait for hotel schools to build your personality, your attitude, your career. Today a lot of schools reach out to me for guest lecture purposes and their opening sentence is “we are unique”. Truth be told: no hotel school is unique. What is unique is what we want. For you to know that – find valuable mentors and learn as you go. In life your biggest goal is not to get a job, instead to be someone who is far more than just an employee.
I would tell my younger self to speak up more and express my opinions. I don’t believe we should shrink ourselves because we feel outnumbered or intimidated. While I recognize that there still exists challenges for women in our industry, I think that we also bring unique perspectives that are valuable to our respective businesses and we should never be afraid to voice them.
Love what you do and learn everything that you can. Be inquisitive. Travel. Be competent and confident but don’t be afraid of making mistakes or reaching out to people for help and support. Find inspiring mentors.
Find a niche early, you don't have to waste so much time trying to "test all the waters". The industry is so wide, and it's very easy to be consumed by the various career choices. Find a niche, merge it with your passion and put yourself to work.