My real story: Tatenda M

Age: 32

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, currently studying a Masters.

Current position: Operations Manager, Fraser Suites Sydney

Number of years at the hotel? 4 years

What does my role entail? My role is to oversee all aspects of Front Office Operations to ensure a seamless and enhanced guest service delivery. I also provide assistance, support and leadership to our Conferencing Operations team, work closely with the Yield and Reservations Manager to enhance our Reservations function, liaise with our external Food & Beverage caterer, and am involved in the Social Media Marketing of the Fraser Suites Sydney.

How I got my start in the hotel industry: From a young age, I always loved hotels – to me they were a magical place of joy. When I was 8 or 9 years old, I joined my Dad at a Holiday Inn in Zimbabwe on his work trip. I loved it so much that when we left I asked him what a person who works in hotels was called – “Hotelier” he replied, and since then I set a goal to become one.

Why do you like working in Hotels? I enjoy seeing others enjoy our service. A shared experience that is enjoyed by both parties. Whether it’s a recommendation of a restaurant or activity, being able to share this moment and hear the stories our guests share brings me great joy.

What surprised you about working in hotels? The opportunity to meet so many wonderful people who work in this industry from different lands. I have made close friends who are scattered around the world. Their stories and experiences of their world is simply wonderful.

What my career has looked like to date: I started In Food and Beverage, working in some restaurants in Darling Harbour, such as the Meat & Wine Company. As much as I enjoyed this, I wanted to be a Hotelier so I moved to working Room Service for a 5-star property in the CBD, whilst I was at university. On completion of my studies, I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the prestigious Graduate Traineeship Program with Accor. Following my training with them I was able to move into Front Office in a 5-star property starting as a Night Manager, and moving through the ranks to be Assistant Front Office Manager over a period of 4 years. I was then successful enough to join the Fraser Suites Sydney as a Front Office Manager in 2013 and faithfully worked in this role to be then promoted to Operations Manager in 2016.

During your time at this Hotel, what has been your proudest moment? My colleagues have nominated me for several internal awards, but I was honoured to receive a Highly Commended Front Office Associate at the 2015 HM Awards.

What has been your greatest professional achievement to date? Without a doubt, being awarded by the Australian Hotels Association (AHA NSW, now TAA) The Hotel Industry Rising Star Award in 2011. This served as assurance and confirmation for all the sacrifices over the years and spurred me on.

Where do you wish to go from here? When I grow up I want to be a Hotelier, whether through managing a hotel, or ownership. My goal is to keep serving and sharing in guests’ experiences.

What challenges do you face in this role? As an international student when I started my hospitality journey, I faced the challenge of having to navigate migration laws that would allow me to keep developing my career in what is one of the most competitive hotel markets in the world.

Why do you like working in the accommodation industry? Being able to provide a product (room), together with service makes this industry one which is, at the end of the day, about creating memories.

What message do you have to tell others about working in the accommodation industry? In an ever-evolving world with vast technological advancements the unique thing about our industry is that we are people serving people. This will continue to be in demand and is imperative for any hospitality professional to understand – to continually find ways to connect with our guests.

What advice would you give to people considering a career in Hotels? Be prepared to work in a multitude of areas to gain a strong understanding of Operations. Also, back this practical experience with education to will propel your career.

Have you travelled as part of your career in Hotels? Yes, I have had the privilege to be on the other side of the desk.

Have you met anyone famous during your career in Hotels? Yes, as a major rugby fan I have found myself in an elevator full of the Wallabies forwards – I have never felt so small. I have also been able to serve what felt like an endless amount of ribs to the All Blacks team.

Can you bust any Hotel career myths? Myth: Lack of Work Life Balance. When your work is fun-filled, your friends become those who you spend most time with and enjoy.

What training have you received from your employer as part of your professional development? The Fraser Suites Sydney has enrolled me in an eCornell Training Course.

Tell us about one of your best Hotel experiences? One of the best experiences was when I had the opportunity to serve an in-house group who were with the British and Irish Lions Tour. It was a fun-filled 4-day event filled with meat pies and peas, beer and a lot of singing in our bar. They encouraged us to join, and by the end of their visit they left like friends. I think that’s what good hospitality is.

Do you manage people? If yes, what is that like? Yes, leading the team is about taking care of them and personally walking alongside them. It’s about being close enough to relate to the team, but far enough ahead to motivate them.

What skills have you learnt on the job? Over time, I have learned and developed my empathy skills, both for my team who may come to work feeling a bit flat or low, but also as required to be “on show” delivering memorable experiences.

What are your working hours like? Let’s call them flexible – given the hotel is open 24/7, anything can happen.

What’s the pay like? Adequate to pay the bills. The real value is in smiles.