Inspiring Women in HospitalityJul 20, 2022
#142 Isabell Fuss: People associate hotel real estate with emotions, with a story and vision and that is what makes it special
On this episode we hear from Isabell. Based in Munich, she is leading Ruby's expansion efforts. As you will hear from her story, she was destined to work in hospitality. She gravitated towards hospitality real estate because she wanted to be part of the space that is creating memories and moments for the guests. Her first role in hospitality after graduating was within development in Accor where she stayed for one and half year. When she started looking for a new role, she connected with the Founder of Ruby, at the start of its journey and believed in its vision to come on board as employee number four. Where she has now been for 10 years, so clearly it was a good match. She shares how it was all new at the beginning to where her role has evolved now to be more strategic, leading the team, being there for the team, troubleshooting and getting involved in the new products lines for the brand and asset management.
#141 Chef Ahu :I think you have to have a little faith in your dream if you like to be successful in life
On this episode we hear from Chef Ahu. Originally from Turkey, but now runs a restaurant in Hawaii. She shares with us her journey to becoming a restaurant owner. She first came to the US for her education and unfortunately, she faced several immigration challenges, which led her down a path of depression. It was her mother and her home cooking that revived her, and then inspire her to open a restaurant. I love how she describes food as being the connection to her heritage. I have always believed the best way to know a culture is through the food. After testing the market with at a farmer's market, together with her family and a bank loan, they put all their investments into opening a restaurant. Now when she looks back on her period of suffering, she looks at it with gratitude, as it got her to where she is today. When it comes to confidence and belief in herself, which she believes to be the secret recipe of her success, she says the most valuable ingredient is time.
#140 Federica Bruzzone: Don't let perfectionism get into the way
On this episode we hear from Federica. Her passion for hospitality started quite young being exposed to the various B&B's of her home country of Italy. What she experienced was feeling of home, belonging and warmth and she knew she wanted to re-create this for all her future guests. After graduating from EHL, she started an Airbnb business with her mother in Italy. It was right during the pandemic and not a lot of jobs were going around, however the family identified this opportunity and Federica was able to put her creative interests to work. During her education she was always drawn towards marketing, so upon her return to Switzerland she took on a social media role. She continued to upskill herself in graphic design, brandings etc and now she has set herself up as freelancer running the Creative Identity Studio. We also talked about how the Airbnb business has taken off in Italy. To discussing the importance of branding and how its evolved, from an economy of mass production to mass customisation. She defines her purpose as helping hospitality businesses support them in creating impact.
#139 Mona AlHebsi: Unique challenges being an emirati woman working in hospitality and beating the odds
On this episode we hear from Mona. The first Emirati woman I have interviewed whom, as you will hear through the episode, chose to work in hospitality, which is very rare in the UAE as a woman. One of her first roles was at the Burj Al Arab in training, where she worked with one of my previous podcast hosts, Caroline Stevens. With the desire to help people and make maximum impact, she went onto having a career in HR across various hotels in Dubai. She talks about her ambition and how she wanted to be the best. She took the time to educate herself, work on her self-development and something she invests in always is lifelong learning. One of her professional learnings is, if you want to create real impact, you have to do things out of the normal. She also real about her experiences of speaking up, you may come across people who will not appreciate it. Moments like this, turn to your internal compass and believe in what you did. She shares more of her journey in her book 'Beat the odds'.
#138 Jane Mack: Your career can change, nothing is set in stone and there is no age limit on your career
On this episode we hear from Jane Mack. A holiday-let coach and consultant, where she is sharing her knowledge of 10 years of her own experience of running a holiday let business. She always worked in hospitality throughout her school and uni years. She went onto study hospitality management with the vision to run and manager a big five-star hotels, but after her placement year in a boutique hotel she shifted her focus. Then while trying out different experiences and roles, she discovered HR, which is where she went onto develop her career. She was made redundant during her maternity and when an opportunity arose for her and her husband to buy a holiday-let business, they went for it. Being unfamiliar with the holiday let industry, I asked her to share her experiences and what changes she has seen during her time. Another point she raised was a motivation behind running her own business was to be a mother who was present for her kids’ school activities, whilst it was not an easy juggling act, she found a way to make it work.
#137 Megan Grant: You are not failing by trying many things.
On this episode we hear from Megan. She has a tour company for women with a sustainable and ethical lens on tourism and tells us the story of how she got started. When it comes to hospitality, she feels that this is all she has known, having started working in it from the age of 15. Throughout her hospitality career, she tried lots of different things, moved roles, moved to various parts of the industry, but nothing ever seemed to stick because she felt she was not contributing in a purposeful or impactful way. Having started her business 3 years ago, it is now the longest career that she has had. One of the takeaways she wants women to hear is that you are not failing by trying many things. She started her business around travel as its one of the things that she loves most and supporting women through travels. She also believes that we can all learn about ourselves through women of all ages. One of the skills she learnt from her time in hospitality is saying no in a nice way.
#136 Komal Darira: I don't have any limits, I just need to believe in myself.
On this episode we hear from Komal. She first became a tour guide at the age of 19, in India, where it was very uncommon for women to be tour guides. So, in many ways she was a trail blazer in her field. From the beginning of her career, she was determined to have greater diversity in her teams and at one point she had a 60% female team. In 2020, covid was the catalyst to take her drive and purpose to start her own business. She shares with us the challenges she faced in the past ten years, especially when it came to breaking stereotypes and safety. She is happy to see the progress that’s been made in the past years and that is primarily all the work she has done in talking about the industry. And when it comes to hiring, not only do you talk to the candidates you also have the convince the family in India. It’s a family affair. Even when it comes to travelling, women are expected to travel either with their family or their husbands. She shares with us how she came up with the name of her company, sitting on the banks of the Ganges. Women for world, owned by women but open to everyone.
#135 Eliane Yun Wang: We learn every single day
On this episode we hear from Eliane. She has been in the industry for 20 years and loves this industry because of the different people she gets to meet. After education in Switzerland, she started her hospitality career in the US and then love brought her to France. Where in many ways she had to start her career over while she was learning the language. She speaks four languages and shares with us her experiences of learning. Being exposed to so many cultures, she says to be yourself, take the best of each culture, blend them, and create your own culture. And then how we use it to better understand others and their cultures. Communication is key. She shares the mentors who have helped develop her career and gave her the opportunities to grow. When it comes to team development, she believes in surrounding yourself with talented people and giving them the space to learn. Her advice to women to take a chance on yourself, give yourself the opportunity, you will be surprised by your own capacity and have confidence in yourself. Don’t wait to be 100% ready, because that is not possible.
#134 Lisa Dahl: When you cook with love, you feed the soul
On this episode we hear from Lisa. Self-taught chef she is now the owner of six restaurants on Sedona and has been in the industry for 27 years. She started in the fashion industry, but after an unexpected tragedy in her life she found herself in hospitality with the opening of her first restaurant. Whilst it was not easy, she took a chance for herself and paved the path to freedom to be tje kind of chef she wanted to be and do it on her own, especially as a woman. In 2010, she wrote her book 'Elixir of Life' which helped her get recognised as a chef in her own right. We both recognise that its still a very male dominated industry and she admires many of the men she has worked with, she tries to get more balance. Today she has one third women working across her restaurant company. She sees herself as a visionary and that is where the growth of her business came from as she wanted to create and design new place, new menus and have a diversity of restaurants. Throughout the conversation she shares with us inspirating taglines/mantras to live by, the spiritual journey both her personal and professional life has taken her on and how philanthropy plays an important role in her life.
#133 Karima Lanfranco: Desire to bridge industry and academia
On this episode we hear from Karima. Through her desire to bridge industry and academia she has taken her 15 years of operational experience and taken it back to the classroom and is now a professor. My favourite part of this episode is that it was actually her husband who reached out and asked to have Karima on the show, so this is a shout out to all the 'hospitality husbands' out there advocating for the women in their lives. One of the things she loved about working at front desk during her time was being able to tie the circle with the guest from their arrival to departure. And it was actually her mom who predicted that she was going to be in hospitality. We both agreed that the management trainee programmes that the industry offers are a great way to get started and try out so many different departments and be exposed to so many different career options. When it comes to mentors, she shares that it takes a village to inspire us all. In addition to being a professor now she has her own consulting and training company to develop employees in the industry. Focus less on the guest and focus more on our people. Something that I can get on board with.
#132 Alison Hargreaves: Loyalty goes both ways
On this episode we hear from Alison. She got sucked in both into hospitality and London. She went to Cornell to study hotel management, came to London after graduating and basically never left. She was fascinated by the multi-cultural people that are drawn into this industry. She started with IHG, few years with consulting before joining ownership group Archer Hotel Capital, where she has been 16 years now. And this might have come to pass had her boss at the time not shown her some flexibility when she felt she needed to take a step back after having children. This is the positive kind of examples I hope to see more of across our industry. Throughout the rest of her career, she adjusted her role not only based on her personal circumstances but also with the cycles of the industry. We both agreed that a lot of our learnings come from time and experience, and we just must go through them.
#131 Kerry Healy: You create that destiny for yourself by believing in yourself
Coming....On this episode we hear from Kerry. Growing up her family moved and travel around a lot, which exposed her to various cultures and taught her to adapt and learn what makes people tick. After working a couple of years in operations, she moved into sales at property level before moving onto above-property positions, which then eventually led her to her commercial role that she oversees today. When it comes to growing your career Kerry says that you must show willingness and also be vocal about what it is that you want. She also talks about building relationship with people within your organisation and identify those supporters who will speak up for you, even when you are not in the room. She also shares her thoughts with how she notices that women often tend to start with 'I am sorry' and sadly it’s an overused word by women in the business. She also shares with us her journey and the mindset she had to position herself for the chief commercial role. And she says it best - ultimately it’s a fun business to be in.
#130 Emma Fraser:I got into hospitality to be able to shape the future of travel for guests
On this episode we hear from Emma. She says hospitality was in her DNA, having travelled and moved around a lot growing up, she knew this was going to be a part of her life. She made a career for herself in marketing and PR working for various brands in different parts of the world, like IHG, Starwood, Raffles, TFE and more, before she decided to start her own business. For her business she has focused on brand strategy, and we have an interesting conversation around branding, what it means and for someone who is looking into a career in branding what they should be looking into. Her one piece of advice is when it comes to marketing, dream big. She shares a fun story of a PR stunt she did on the helipad of the Burj al Arab in Dubai. The key learning that she has taken away from her career is to be present and show up.
#129 Monika Krauthahn: I follow my gut and that has led me almost around the world.
On this episode we hear from Monika. She came into hospitality because of the people and wanting to know what makes them tick. The focus of her career has been to fee and anticipate her client needs and help them find a solution for them. When it comes to her journey, she has always followed her gut, without realising it was her strategy she chose and now she allows herself the luxury to follow her happiness. When she started her own business, she looks at what she could contribute with all that she had in her rucksack. It was and is a bumpy ride, but she was always listening to her soul compass. Her latest focus is on sustainability and how to incorporate it into everything that we do.
#128 Lucia Grambalova: Working in a monopoly game of buying and selling hotels
On this episode we hear from Lucia. She started working in hotels while studying at university and when she graduated, she had the choice to stay in hotels or go down a corporate career. She chose hotels and the plan was to stay one year, 9 years later she was still there. She enjoyed the variety, new challenges, and the people she was working with. After her first GM role she realised that operations was not meant for her future and after a conversation with the asset manager, she found an opportunity in investment. She didn’t know if she was going to sink or swim, but after three months she realised she was swimming and has continued to do so for 13 years. Her operational plus investment experience allows to speak both languages and communicate each perspective clearly to bring about collaboration. She and I both agree, to advance in your career you have to express your ambitions and do the work.
#127 Gunjan Kahlon: We all need a framework of where we want to be.
On this episode we hear from Gunjan. Inspired by the history and culture of Rajasthan, she came into hospitality and tourism. She focused her career in sales and worked at several of the resort hotels in Jaipur, before moving to New Delhi. First time she was away from home, but she was in for a bigger shock a few years later when she not only moved countries but continents. She initially struggled when she arrived in Canada to find a job. What she missed the most was her financial independence. While she had to take a step back to restart her career, she realised it was the best thing that happened. But Gunjan, as you will hear in this episode was determined and ambition and she shares how she grew in her career to now a VP position within Wyndham. She also loves the coffee culture downtown Toronto lifestyle and grateful to be an immigrant success story.
#126 Naina Madan: I have learnt that at the end we are all the same
On this episode we hear from Naina. She is born and raised in Holland to Indian immigrant parents, who taught her and her three sisters to integrate. She went to the UK to study, but it wasn’t until she moved to New York that she found her vibe. She started her career in fashion, because she didn’t know what she wanted to do and just followed her father into the business. We both agreed that when we are young how are we supposed to know what we are supposed to do and we need the time to explore and figure things out. As she was discovering things she went into real estate and then also a jewellery business with her sister. Seven years ago, inspired by her mother, who had a tea for every occasion she started her own business in the tea industry and now sells them online. She believes that everyone is interesting, we all have a story to share and that we are all individuals.
#125 Marion Carpentier: Courage to speak up takes maturity
On this episode we hear from Marion. She was born into hospitality, quite literally. Her earliest memories are from the restaurant her family ran and they used to live above. She went onto have an extensive career in hospitality at many of the brands that I have grown to love and admire - Relais Chateaux, Laduree, Ping Pong, Harvey Nichols, citizenM and more. Each time she took on a new role, the business scaled with her. International expansions allowed her to experience new cultures and understand how business models needed to be adapted according to your location. She talks about how being a woman in business we need to speak up more, which takes courage and comes with maturity. Taking care of yourself and making yourself a priority, while its hard sometimes makes a big difference in her mental wellbeing. Have the courage to say no and ask yourself what do you want?
#124 Carmen Tomasic: How do I get the life I want was the theme of my career.
On this episode we hear from Carmen. She fell into hospitality accidentally, because one day she heard how much tips her friend was making working at the bar. She has worked in Australia, Croatia and now in Singapore. She always wanted to travel and knew that hospitality would be the avenue to this. She has had various roles and in different companies, but the one theme she has had throughout her career is knowing herself and what makes her happy and making the career fit around her lifestyle. Very early on in her career she had a mentor who recognised the potential in her, even when she had a long list of everything she did not know. Having someone believe in her was pivotal to her career development. When it comes to being a woman working in hospitality, her view is to embrace your authentic self and be yourself.
#123 Bettina Buelte: Balancing being an achiever with an empathetic view on myself
On this episode we hear from Bettina. She just knew that she was meant to be in hospitality, no question about it. She was also very single minded about going to hotel school in Lausanne. She shares her career journey that started in operations, some time in London before moving into consulting in the search of more "normal" working hours. Then returning home to Switzerland she joined PWC for 8 years. After which she took a sabbatical, spent some time with Migros before starting her own consultancy with her business partner. Some of the learnings she has shared were about learning to trust the process, not put too much pressure on herself and have a better balance between achieving and kindness to herself.
#122 Zoë Binning : Finding the gap in weddings and doing something about it, with an eco-friendly lens.
On this episode we hear from Zoe. I do not know even where to begin, but probably the best place is enthusiasm, finding the gap in the market and doing something about it. She went into retail initially, but after attending 13 weddings in one year and many more after, including her own, she realised there was a gap in the market for good wedding planners in Wales offering a well-rounded service. She did that for 10 years, before moving onto consulting and training, venues, coordinators, and other wedding planners. She started her own wedding catering business because she wanted to offer good quality, eco-friendly and dietary suitable options for the guests. She pivoted this business to focus on corporates during the pandemic and did not go back. She has also launched a plastic free. sustainable wedding favours and gifts online shop because she wants to do her part to reduce waste at weddings. You can still have a beautiful instagrammable wedding and be sustainable. She is a force to be reckoned with.
#121 Heather Byron: I am here to help the hospitality industry accelerate change.
On this episode we hear from Heather. Passion for technology and diversity are the two themes that came out for me during this conversation. She has a background in management consulting in various other industries, first working for other firms and then starting her own consultancy. She is now in hospitality technology through an opportunity where the stars aligned. She sees technology as a way of adding onto the customer and employee experience for hospitality businesses. When it comes to diversity, a real advocate for hearing different voices and believes that those businesses that can harness this will benefit the most. With her passion she is here to accelerate change in the industry.
#120 Vivien Ivanyi: Networking for me is creating and weaving groups of people I can call on for different perspectives.
On this episode we hear from Vivien. She decided to follow her father into hospitality, making her a third generation hotelier in her family. She went in and out of hospitality and dipped her toe into other industries, but they are all opportunities for learning and growth. She is curious by nature and education has always been a big part of her life, an area she also felt it important to learn from other industries. Her career journey has taken her around the globe and each move was when an opportunity presented itself, at the right time for her professionally and personally. While she has been moving around, it always brought her back to Paris, which has been her home, on and off for the past 20 years. She has weaved a network of women and male peers to stay connected with, learn from and they are the people who have supported her career journey thus far.
#119 Claire Boscq: Lead with the yang, manage with the ying.
On this episode we hear from Claire. Her Dad opened and ran a restaurant in the south of France, which meant she was going to either love or hate hospitality. Fortunately, it was love. She started her career in hospitality working the seasons across Europe and then ended up as a GM in a hotel in Jersey. When she became a single mother, she could not keep up with the hotel working hours anymore and decided to open her own mystery shopping business, after identifying a gap in the market. Post pandemic, she has reinvented herself and is now a speaker and champion for customer experience. She talks about perseverance, not giving up, not to lose faith in yourself and bring the positive energy.
#118 Khun Lak: I live a blended life - western efficiency with Thai smile and warmth
On this episode we hear from Khun Lak. Being a diplomat's daughter meant that the first 25 years of her life she was constantly moving around the world but coming back to Thailand in between. She has lived what she calls a blended life- western efficiency with Thai smile and warmth. When she became a single mother, she returned to Thailand and made a commitment to her family for a good life. So, she decided to start her own business in manufacturing crystals. Then she went into education and opened an international pre-school. She was not done yet; on property she inherited in Hua Hin she opened a boutique hotel. She did not have any experience in any of these industries, but it did not deter her. She researched, learnt, asked questions, networked and most importantly she had belief in herself that she could do it.
#117 Fiona (Bührer) von Waldenfels: No better education than culture and travelling around the world
On this episode we hear from Fiona. We both agreed that the travelling we did in our early years helped us to be adaptable and she is now doing the same with her children. They live between Berlin, South Africa, and Italy. She has had a varied career journey across various industries and countries, but she always came back to wine. Wine being in her family for three generations and now she is running the Saxenburg Wine Estate. We talked about what is like to be a woman in wine and how its slowly starting to change. She also shared while her branding and messaging stays on point, her packaging will change in different parts of the world. Which is also something she learnt from her previous career experiences. No matter what we do in life, we are learning, and we take that with us forward.
#116 Emma Pike: I was destined to do something different with my life.
On this episode we hear from Emma. She always knew from a young age that she was destined for something different. Never enjoyed school that much, and surrounded by a big entrepreneurial family she started her first business at 16. It was thanks to the help of a mentor, who spotted her early in her career, that she was able to build up her first company to sell by the age of 18. Originally from Australia she moved in Hong Kong and here she set up two business, one in website design and the other as an online butcher. She is now based in Singapore where she has now started an alcohol-free beverage supplier in Asia. She identifies gaps in the market and goes for it. She sees the potential, networks, asks for help, collaborates, identify the end game, and finds a way. Inspirational conversation for any aspiring entrepreneur.
#115 Ling Wei Tan: Do not hold back from voicing your concerns
On this episode we hear from Ling. One of her key learnings was to be able to voice out your concerns, do not hold that negative energy and be vocal of your needs to your organisation. A lesson all women, including myself can learn from. During her time at JLL she had the opportunity to move to Shanghai to set up their hotel brokerage team, which was her time to shine, come out of her shell and she was inspired by the strong female role models she came across in Shanghai. One she feels is different upon her return to Singapore and she is now actively getting involved in various initiatives to support women empowerment. We also talked about networking, which is important for our careers but how the networking culture is. Often in the evening, with drinks and not every woman or man wants to drink. To making that ok that we do not have to drink to enjoy ourselves or build our careers.
#114 Amanda Thomson: Rip up the rule book and start again
On this episode we hear from Amanda. She was always curious by nature and would ask loads of questions as a child growing up, which got her into media as a BBC broadcaster in the arts space. With the advent of social media, NDAs, publicists she started seeing a shift and decided it was time for a change. She knew that with whatever she did in life, she wanted to make a difference and rip up the rule book in that space. One of her obsessions was fine wine and champagne and so her first career change was to train in making champagne and she moved with her family to Paris to do exactly that. While she was successful with her own champagne and prosecco business, she recognised that there was not going to be much commercial success for her. Being the journalist she inherently was, she picked up on a trend of healthy drinking within leader, industry and legislation. With the same obsession for fine, she put that towards producing non-alcoholic sparkling wine that was not filled with sugar and chemicals and make a real premium alternative for those who did not want to drink. She has same great insights of what we can do to bring more women into this space, such as amplifying the female voice, visibility, speaking up, male allies, hiring women where possible, outreach programmes and much more. She is a true inspiration and was quite moved when she shared her inspiration.
#113 Tatiana Veller: Reinvent yourself every 3 to 7 years.
On this episode we hear from Tatiana. She chose hospitality because she wanted to have an international career and she sure did. She has worked at hotel brands, bagel shops, airline catering, executive search, investment consulting, asset management, ownership groups and she is still reinventing herself. She talks about how every 3 to 7 years we need redefine what our goals are and work towards it. When it comes to career change think from the positive motivation and what are we going to learn from the next experience and where the opportunities lie. She shares with us her experience when she called up Steve Rushmore to pitch to him to open an executive search business in Moscow, where she knew no one else was doing it and could make a great impact. Those of us working in hospitality know what it takes to be constantly switch on, be an extrovert and for Tatiana, she is all these things, but a liberating discovery for her in her 40s was that big conferences are exhausting for her and now she does not hesitate to leave at 6pm to recuperate her energy. We are constantly learning about ourselves, and we should never stop to take inventory regularly.
#112 Viona Zhang: I was the decision maker for my life from 9 years old.
On this episode we hear from Viona. She has been an independent thinker and making decisions for her life since the age of 9, when her parents sent her to boarding school. Her Dad would give her a budget for clothes, and she would shop for herself. At the age of 17 she was already asking herself why she was on this earth, but it’s this thinking that made her realise that she wanted to explore the world and brought her to hospitality. Her first internship was at Disneyland Paris and six internships later she knew she wanted to go into consulting. Which she did for five years in hospitality real estate. She is now the co-founder of Saijai based out of Bangkok bringing work to the informal workers who are not protected by social benefits, as is very common in Asia. She is driven by purpose and impact, and not just money and climbing the corporate ladder. Throughout the conversation she shares some great insights from her life experiences e.g. self-love comes constant reflection, we have our greatest learnings from failure, questioning whether we are doing things we want to or just because society says and so much more. I think we could have carried on for a long time. One final thought from Viona I will share is to view life like a river.
#111 Gonzalez sisters: Lee and Lauren building high end hostels
On this episode we hear from Lee and Lauren, sisters, running high end hostels. A special episode where we hear about their journey of being entrepreneurs. Travel played an important part in their lives and then eventually for this business. After careers in finance, they decided they wanted something else. Whilst travelling in Barcelona they bought their first hostel and their thoughts were now is the time to do it when they have less risk and responsibilities and great learning platform. Having stayed in several hostels whilst travelling, they knew they could do it better and they did. They opened two in fact before returning to the US, after completing their respective MBAs. Back in the US, they opened their first hostel in New York and second now in Portland. When it comes to their business, they do everything together, the sister duo, from planning, development, designing, finances etc. As they have grown, they have teams in place to run the operations, but it’s still just the two of them owning and running their business. We go into some interesting details about being a women in real estate and how learning finance speak was harder than learning Catalan. Learning the nuances that come along with it and the gender biases that come along with it. One thing they both shared whether it was dealing with investors or guests is to be honest in your communication.
#110 Felicity Black-Roberts: A person is more powerful when they have the ability to look back and reflect. Give yourself feedback.
On this episode we hear from Felicity. Her mother wanted her to be a schoolteacher, but she knew that she did not want a role that her stuck behind a desk all day. So, she trained to be a chartered surveyor. But coming into the workforce in the 90s during a recession meant a property role was hard to come by and she found herself in a company that focused on hospitality real estate. Then she spent a few years with Forte Hotels before making an odd move to charity. Maybe odd on paper, but Felicity had a specific objective in mind, to get experience of managing a team and this is how she got it. She came back into hospitality real estate representing PE owners, before switching back to brands. This experience allowed her to see things from both sides and come up with a solution when negotiating a deal. We talked about how feedback is important and how it’s played a role in her own development. Being a good manager means spending time with your team. Working in a multi-generational workplace means we learn from one another and be ready to embrace change. It took her a while to get comfortable in her own skin and she has learnt that it’s better to listen, assess the room, gather intelligence and then speak with meaningful contributions.
#109 Isabel Wong: Hotel asset class is sexy
On this episode we hear from Isabel. She was inspired be her Dad to come into real estate. It was through her rotational programme at JLL where the focus was more on investment side of real estate that she found her opportunity in hospitality and then decided to stay in it. To her hospitality is a 'sexy' asset class, more interesting than the others and she likes the social aspect of hospitality. Upon reflection on her journey thus far, she wishes she had asked more questions when she stated out as analyst. Over the years, with the support of her team and mentors, she has grown not only in her technical skills but her confidence too. As you progress in your career the focus is more on client relationship and negotiation, whilst she is still learning she feels that is in a good environment to grow her career. She has also seen the change in the sector with more gender balance and inclusion for women.
#108 Monika Moser: Build empathy towards your team, you have to know them. They are the strength of your company.
On this episode we hear from Monika. Growing up in South America, she came to Germany for her education, but it was her desire to learn French that brought her to France and where she has now been for 26 years. Impressive career across various hotels in France in front office roles, with some breaks in between for studies in Cornell and Essec. She is all about continuous learning and allowing yourself the time and space for new ideas. She never wanted to be a GM because she saw how the role was changing to be more focused on finances and away from the floor, where she wanted to be. She took all her skills she had gained in hospitality to open an interior design firm in Paris, which reminds us of our valuable transferable skills. We talked about the importance of empathy and how its needed to build a strong team. When we know our employees, trust them and care for them, they pay it back to us. Her firm she has now is run on the principals of trust and flexibility to allow everyone to do their best work.
#107 Caroline Stevens: One day the phone rang
On this episode we hear from Caroline. What an impressive career and its good thing she answered that phone call every time it rang, as you will hear that it’s a running theme throughout her career. She once wanted to be an air traffic controller, but her first role in hospitality was as a cocktail waitress and she shares her career journey in HR that took her to Chief People Officer at Minor International. She has worked in Australia, Dubai and most recently in Bangkok, before taking a sabbatical. Why she chose to follow her career in HR was the ability to change people's lives that inspired her. 'People, power, profit' is the magic formula to make any organisation soar. Two gender differences she has noticed in her career is that men network better than women, and men also negotiate better than woman. Actually, men negotiate, women do not do it at all. How do we work together to change this?
#106 Hulya Erdal: Food connects us, it is what brings us together across cultures.
On this episode we hear from Hulya. Her name in Turkish means 'daydreamer' and she has always had the biggest dreams for her life. The overarching theme of her journey thus far has been connection through food. Food brings us together, cultures together, learning from one another and respect. It helps people relax and open up and she has found ways to incorporate cooking with her coaching practise. She has been a chef, a teacher, on radio, marketing and now coach and taken different career paths based on what she needed for her life at that moment in time. She found being in hospitality gave her the flexibility she needs, and she believes than any hospitality business can offer this to their employees eg hiring two people for the same job. Growing up neither of us liked being told what to do, but we have found some areas of our lives that need structure and other areas where we do not follow the recipe.
#105 Catherine Chan: Show empathy and patience when someone asks you for help
On this episode we hear from Catherine. A newbie to the hospitality industry, but welcome with open arms. She brings her real estate experience to branded residences with Accor and bridges the communication with the owners, developers, buyers, and brands. Born in Hong Kong, she immigrated with her family to the US as the age of four, with her three other siblings and mother. Listen till the end to what an inspiration her mother was to move with her children on her own. Catherine started her career in the US, but then moved to Shanghai on the guidance of her father to understand that she would have more opportunities as an Asian woman. In fact in Shanghai, she did not feel her gender hindered her in anyway and her US experience was seen as a bonus. She shares the highs and lows of her career, what kind of leader she is and utilising kindness, patience and empathy with her team. All throughout her career she had to ask for her promotions or go elsewhere, which is a good reminder to us all women to ask for what we want and deserve, don’t wait for your company to do so.
#104 Marit Connell: We learn to adapt as we grow as leaders.
On this episode we hear from Marit. Originally from the Netherlands, she came to London for a five-month internship and basically never left. She stayed for 12 years working in various hotels across London in different operations roles in front desk. Each role she got through her networking and connections. She also took time for travelling in between roles for a reset. Due to her own interest in revenue management, she took the time to education herself in this field with the help of one of her colleagues. Then when a role became available, she jumped on it. When she moved to Australia, where she has now been for 15 years, she joined TFE hotels in revenue management. She and another colleague laid the foundations for revenue management in the organisation. We also discussed how her leadership has developed over the years and we both agreed that our styles adapt and change depending on who we are interacting with. She encourages her team to take time to self-reflect and also get feedback from her team on her leadership to continue to grow and develop.
#103 Pattrin (Pyn) Benyabadhana Na Ayudhya : Confidence is having the courage to try.
On this episode we hear from Pyn. She started working in hotels from the age of 15 through various internships and her interest in hospitality just grew from there. Having graduated in 2020 in the middle of covid, she took any and all opportunities for work experience, always asking questions, being willing to learn and being open. She is now in a feasibility and development role with Radisson. She does often find herself being the youngest person in the room, so that does mean she feels she has to prove herself, but at the same time she sees it as a luxury. Its ok to make mistakes and learn from them, now is the time to learn and soak up as much knowledge as possible and be inspired by the people around you. She has an incredible amount of self-awareness and confidence that I admired throughout our conversation. I love how she describes confidence. It’s about loving yourself and having the courage to try. She may be young in her experiences, but we all have a lot to learn from her.
#102 Sandunie Liyanagamage: Start thinking about sustainability tourism as a journey
On this episode we hear from Sandunie. She has taken her love of travel, hospitality, ocean conversation to find herself a career in sustainable tourism. From Sri Lanka, she knows first-hand the importance tourism has on a country's economy and the risk we can face on the environment with over tourism. One of the values that guide her is to have diversity and to have an interdisciplinary mindset towards sustainability. She is new to the hospitality industry and one thing that she noticed immediately was the lack of diversity in senior roles across the sector. We all need to do our bit by acknowledging it and by speaking up. Whenever she finds a new topic that interests her, she immerses herself into it, attending events, webinar etc and not being afraid to "cold call" ie reaching out to experts in their field and asking for their time and insights.
#101 Samantha Lauver-Marion: There are no wrong moves in your life.
On this episode we hear from Samantha. She came to Thailand for her internship and basically got stuck. She did do a pre-opening on an island in the Maldives, which she advises all her students to do, something I regret not doing, but during the conversation she reminded me that there are no wrong moves in your life. She spent some time in events, loyalty and now in education all with Minor Hotels for the past 13 years. we talked about culture and the impact on speaking up, how we have both experienced it. She encourages her students to always try asking questions because it will benefit your peers. She has great example where she gets the students involved using post it notes and practicing. Same goes with public speaking, start small before you move onto larger audiences. Find what works for you, whether in work or your personal life. Try different things till you know which techniques work for you. I also love how she approached networking with kindness and a view to paying it forward.
#100 Catherine Pucher: Be friendly to people at all times, don't stand in their way and help their path
On this episode we hear from Catherine. It’s her father who made inspired her to be a tough business women. After high school she spent a few years working across different hotels and restaurants across Europe learning the different styles of F&B. Then after completing her diploma at EHL she moved back to Barcelona, where she grew up, and after a short detour in a kindergarten she moved back into restaurants. And at the age of 27, with our common friend, opened her first restaurant, which was one of her life goals to open her own establishment by the time she was 28. After a couple of years, she moved to Thailand, where she has now been for the past 10 years. The last 7 years with event company Shloka, doing both corporate events and weddings. What has made this company work is the relationship with her business partners and how they level each other out. And relationships in general, it’s important to cultivate them, both professionally and personal and put the effort in to maintain them. This is how you build your support system.
#99 Anita Srisakulchawla: Start speaking up
On this episode we hear from Anita. On the advice of her father, she chose to be an interior designer rather than an architect as he felt that it would be easier to do business in this area as a woman, and in school she was always drawn to subjects like art so it suited her skill set as well. After completing her master she opened her own firm in Bangkok and one of her first projects was the Dream Hotel, which she then went on to win an award for. She has grown her business through word-of-mouth since then, being very practical and honest with her clients. She herself will say that there is no such thing as 100% perfection, but they will deliver on the project. We talked about the challenges that women face, and in particular Asian women face when it comes to speaking up. It’s hard, and she learnt this the hard way, but we just have to do it, to be noticed and for our own sanity. She challenges her team to criticise and accept criticism so that they are well prepared for defending their projects. And as their leaders she always reassures them that she is there to back them up.
#98 Chutima (May) Fuangkham Kennedy : Everyday my goal is to do better than yesterday
On this episode we hear from Khun May. She studied political science, international relations, computer science and English. She has worked for OTAs and Thai immigration before she came into hospitality when she joined ONYX 13 years ago. She has been in marketing and has grown her career impressively to become VP of marketing. Whilst she is humble, she was also very clear that she had to speak up and fight for what she wanted and what she believed that she deserved. Advise she has for other women when it comes to speaking up, is just do it, if you don’t speak up, they will not know what you want, no one can read your mind. We also discussed how digital marketing has evolved in hospitality, importance of branding and looking at the entire customer journey. What is also changing is the people working in hospitality in Thailand and in what positions and roles, the benefits of being a foreigner or Thai. She was very nervous doing this podcast, but it was her way of setting an example of what she advises. Do what scares you, get out of your comfort zone and be heard.
#97 Yuwadee Charoenporn: Open you mind to new opportunities
On this episode we hear from Khun Yuwadee. She wanted to be a medical student and after a work experience at a hospital she realised that it was the engaging with patients that she enjoyed more, than giving out the medicine. So, despite her parents’ reservations, she switched to hospitality, and they respected her decision. She started her career in 2002 and since then Thailand has seen many turbulent years. She started her career at a time when OTAs were coming into the market, and she was eager to learn and be useful. So she took it upon herself to educate herself and become an expert, which allowed her career to grow from sales, e-commerce and revenue management. I love the way she describes the hotel industries adoption of technology: 'we are not behind, but we have time to adapt and learn'. After a prolonged maternity leave, she joined D-Edge solutions as country manager and works closely with local hoteliers to provide support on business performance.
#96 Michelle Pascoe: Everybody's role is important in hospitality, they go together like domino
On this episode we hear from Michelle. She shares with us her incredible journey in hospitality, from working in operations to starting her own business. She started her business, not only because she had a horrific interview, but also because she was looking for flexibility and to choose the kind of life she wanted to live and deserved. She did this during a time well before zoom and social media and worked hard to become and incredible role model for her children. She believes in intentional leadership, and she brings this heart centred approach to her training and business. She loves research and set up her own software and focuses on multi-generational data. We have four generations in the workforce and six generations as customers. Michelle shares how these various groups have been impacted by life and how they behave both in the workplace and as customers. Our shared interested in women in hospitality we discussed what was needed to close the leadership gap and how we can support one another on this journey.
#95 Lada Shelkovnikova: I believe that in life we are all teachers and students
On this episode we hear from Lada. She studied to be a lawyer, but very specifically a lawyer in hospitality. At the start of her career, she spoke up about her interest an asked for every hospitality project. Her career has taken her from Ukraine to Dubai and now Singapore and now works on projects in 27 countries. She has learnt that she has resilience and courage, with every move she made, and she can be successful. We discuss the changes that we have both witnessed in the hospitality market and how she has seen negotiation change to more healthy discussion with in-depth knowledge of the market. She shares the advice her mentor gave her very early on, 'treat every project as if it were your own' and she has taken that fundamental principal throughout her journey, Another learning she shares is take the moment to reflect and recognise yourself for the effort you have put in, and when it gets tough, take the time for yourself and treat yourself. Find what gives you the energy you need.
#94 Radhika Arapally : Acting as a catalyst between sustainability and hospitality
On this episode we hear from Radhika. She is an entrepreneur with sustainable impact solutions for the hospitality and travel market. This was her intro statement, succinct, with enough information to want me to ask her more. She has been in and out of hospitality throughout her career, but she came back to it in the end, like a boomerang. Throughout her life she always had curiosity and concern in nature, alongside a love of data. So she focused her early career in econometrics and that is also how her career in hospitality developed. But then she started asking the sustainability questions and was not finding the answers she was looking for. A forced change in her career due to covid gave her the time to focus this next part of her education on environmental topics and armed with this knowledge she went on to set up her own business, The Sustainability Kiosk. It is a platform for hospitality businesses for their sustainability needs. They are the bridge and the catalyst to make change happen.
Link to website: https://sustainabilitykiosk.com/
Link to podcast: https://sustainabilitykiosk.com/podcasts/
Link to book: https://www.routledge.com/Sustainability-in-the-Hospitality-Industry-Principles-of-sustainable-operations/Legrand-Sloan-Chen/p/book/9781138915367
# 93 Kazi Maysun: Architecture and hospitality are both a form of art
On this episode we hear from Maysun. She runs an architectural firm and hospitality business in Dhaka simultaneously. For her school project she built a hotel, inspired by her family business and wanting to build something. She studied architecture in LA for seven years before returning to Bangladesh to start her own firm, her first project was a garage and through word of mouth she has gone on to designing a variety of projects, even a town. She got into hospitality through the family business when her father needed her support to run one of their hotels. She learnt the hotel business on the job and learnt that it is more than just check ins/check outs, cleaning the rooms and feeding the guests. She came to find her own leadership style and found that she enjoyed interacting with the guests to understand their needs. Inspired by her family their philosophy is to make their hotels a home away from home, they are one of the only local brands that exist in Dhaka, with plans to expand across the rest of the country. We both agreed with the challenges of having your own identity in Bangladesh and what a different working culture it is from the western world.