My real story: Daniel W

Age: 28

Education: Associate Degree in hospitality management from the International College of Management Sydney (ICMS)

Current position: Acting Executive Assistant Manager, The Star Hotel

Number of years at the hotel? 8 years

What does my role entail? Overseeing Front Office, Valet, Concierge, Housekeeping, Health Club and soon to be Executive Club (once it’s complete.)

How I got my start in the hotel industry: I always knew I wanted to be in a people facing industry but I didn’t like sales. A family member suggested hotels, so I spent one month of weekends having coffee in the different Sydney hotels to observe the operations. I have never looked back.

Why do you like working in Hotels? I love the guest interaction and that we have the ability to positively affect guest stays and experiences. I like how different every day is and the constant variety of challenges faced (both positive and negative).

What my career has looked like to date: I started on a 9-month industry placement at Four Seasons Sydney on their front desk, and I was asked to stay on casually after this period where I cross-trained and performed Front Desk and Concierge roles for the next three years. I then moved to The Star as Front Desk Agent and then progressed to Night Manager, Assistant Housekeeping Manager, Assistant Front Office Manager, Front Office Manager and now Acting Executive Assistant Manager.

What surprised you about working in hotels? Being told by my General Manager at the time, that I was the best Night Manager he had ever worked with and could sleep soundly at night knowing I was in charge. What was most satisfying was I only had two hours training before performing the role! Getting promoted to Front Office Manager was also a proud moment as that jump from Assistant Manager is quite difficult.  

During your time at this Hotel, what has been your proudest moment? Achieving Sydney’s first Forbes Five Star rating for The Darling.

Where do you wish to go from here? My immediate goal is to achieve the Operations Manager role for hotels. This will be a significant step toward my ultimate goal of becoming a group/cluster/regional manager for a number of hotels.

What challenges do you face in this role? The ongoing challenge of consistently improving the levels of service excellence within the team is the biggest ongoing challenge and my main focus.

Why do you like working in the accommodation industry? It is a robust industry which is consistently developing and expanding. With that, new challenges, guest profiles, guest demands and expectations grow, which keeps one on their toes.

What message do you have to tell others about working in the accommodation industry? I always tell people two things. First, love what you do, because the hospitality industry is not known for the money so you must get great satisfaction from helping others and creating thrilling experiences for your guests. The second is you should never know 100% of your role because it means you are not being challenged and will get complacent.

What advice would you give to people considering a career in Hotels? It’s a great industry which really explains the phrase ‘the world is your oyster’. It has great potential for growth and movement if you put your head down and do good work and deliver. A former Chief Concierge told me “it’s the world’s largest industry and the world’s smallest”. The reference meaning personal connections are everything in this industry so despite being the largest workforce in the world, it’s also the smallest because we all know each other.

Have you met anyone famous during your career in Hotels? Yes, I have had the privilege of serving world class musicians, singers, brands, authors and politicians. It is interesting to see how they compare to their public personas.

Can you bust any Hotel career myths? I think there is a myth that hospitality is a ‘line level’ profession. In actual fact, there are extraordinary possibilities for growth, development and travel. Seasoned innkeepers like Steve Wynn, among others, have enormous social and political influence.

What training have you received from your employer as part of your professional development? The Star provided fire warden training, first aid, supervisory development courses (externally accredited) and several leadership programs hosted by both internal and external leaders.

Tell us about one of your best Hotel experiences? The best hotel experience was either our Forbes journey in which we completely revamped over 200 SOPs and completely changed the way we operate. The second was probably linked to an all-time favourite celebrity guest of mine (who must remain nameless). In short, we had a great interaction on check-in and when this guest re-told the experience during a book launch, the story ended up in multiple newspapers.

Do you manage people? If yes, what is that like? Yes, I have six direct reports and 150+ associates under that. Managing people is the most rewarding and challenging part of any leadership role. I enjoy seeking out superstars within our team and helping them realise their potential and growth opportunities within the company. A good saying, which I put into practice, is: “As you climb the ladder, make sure you send it back down”. In short, bring the team along for the journey.

What skills have you learnt on the job? I learnt two things very early on which were compounded during my time as Night Manager in a casino/entertainment environment. The first was I learnt to back myself. You really learn who you are when facing challenging situations in the early hours of the morning with limited management support. The second was I needed to be very calm in all situations because stress to an already stressful situation is not a good idea.