Rachael Stevens AIH joined the Institute in 2016 as a student member while studying an International Hospitality Management degree at the University of Brighton. After graduating with a first, Rachael chose to continue her membership and upgrade to Associate level. Rachael shares with us why she has a passion for hospitality.
Where are you currently working and what is your role?
I am on my third rotation of my management training programme with Elite Hotels which involves working in all four hotels within the collection across all operational departments. I am currently based at Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa which is a five star luxury resort. Whilst I am here I am working between the events/sales offices, conference and banqueting operations and in event management.
Did you always want to work in hospitality when you were growing up?
Alongside my studies I was working in the leisure industry but always knew I wanted to pursue a career in hotel management. My passion for the industry only really became more evident once I started my degree in International Hospitality Management and where I also had the most incredible learning experience on my placement year at South Lodge Hotel, Horsham.
What attracted you to a career in hospitality?
I felt that the industry offers a wealth of employment opportunities and fantastic scope for career progression. I love the diverse nature of the industry and the fact that every day brings a new challenge. I think there’s an unjust negative perception around working in hospitality that I hope collectively as an industry we are able to change.
What role would you love to be doing in five years time?
In five years time I would hope to have positioned myself within the industry to enable me to achieve my 5-10 year goal of becoming a general manager of a luxury five star hotel.
What challenges do you think the industry faces over the next few years?
Recruitment is an ongoing issue heightened by Brexit, but also particularly where the option of agency work is becoming more attractive to individuals and fewer people are actually enrolling on to hospitality courses. The challenge will therefore come in enticing young talent in to the industry and developing more attractive employee packages.
The upcoming General Data Protection Regulation which concerns the multiple IT systems and data touchpoints that hoteliers operate with, will pose a challenge with regards to the level of transparency required. This could make marketing efforts for hoteliers potentially a lot more restrictive and hinder the user experience. Over the last decade in particular we’ve seen a shift in the hotel industry’s distribution model from traditional service provision to online service and the website. How hotels assert themselves against competition and utilise this platform in the future will be crucial.
What’s been your biggest achievement since you started university?
On completion of my second year I was awarded an academic scholarship. I then went on to have a very successful placement year at South Lodge Hotel. In my final year at the University of Brighton I was awarded ‘Hospitality Student of the Year’ and presented a certificate of outstanding achievement by the Council for Hospitality Management Education.
I graduated with a first class degree and was part of the 2016 winning ‘Passion for Hospitality’ debate team. Involvement in this Institute of Hospitality event was very significant for me as I used to lack confidence in public speaking. So putting myself in front of a large live audience of industry professionals, students and academics seemed the logical thing to do!
What’s been your most memorable day at work since you graduated?
Since joining the industry my experiences have been enriched by the people I have been fortunate enough to work alongside, the inspirational managers, colleagues and lifelong friends. I have had so many great and memorable days at work across all departments with a variety of different teams.
Some more memorable moments were being in the kitchens at Ashdown Park Hotel where chef left me in charge of plating up and sending out 140 desserts for a function. I was lucky enough to be working at front desk at the Grand Hotel Eastbourne during the Aegon international tennis competition where I got to meet many of my sporting heroes and most recently I was part of the operations team hosting the first ever Bridgestone challenge golf competition at Luton Hoo hotel.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in hospitality?
Plan what you want to do with your career and always set yourself goals so you don’t lose focus. Be ambitious, push outside of your comfort zone and of course be open-minded and take opportunities that come your way even if they weren’t necessarily part of ‘the plan’, but always have that end goal in sight. Take the time to reflect on every experience you have, never shy away from asking for feedback and chose a company that holds the same values that you do.
What do you think it takes to succeed in hospitality?
You’ve got to have a genuine love for what you do and the motivation and drive to want to do well but there is definitely a lot more to it than just having the technical knowledge. It’s one’s ability to see learning as a continuous process, always reflect on work and become more self-aware.
I believe you have to take everything as a learning experience particularly in an industry where there is no universally correct response to a situation and no ‘one size fits all’ model that can be learned and applied in all circumstances. Ultimately it’s how you motivate, inspire and lead a team. After all… you’re only as good as the team of people around you!
Why did you join Institute of Hospitality and which elements of the membership do you value the most?
I joined the Institute of Hospitality because it provided me with some great learning materials for my personal and professional development, opportunities to network and the chance to attend and compete in such events like the ‘Passion for Hospitality’ debate. I am now part of the IoH Sussex Branch committee and am also responsible for the @IoHSussex twitter feed (if I can encourage whoever is reading this to give us a follow!).
What I value most from my membership is the network of industry individuals that I have met across many different sectors and who have taken the time to share their amazing careers, knowledge and advice with me which only motivates and inspires me further. The Mentor Me programme is another valuable element which I have recently started and utilises the knowledge and wealth of experiences of the mentor to guide and assist individuals (like myself) to achieve their career goals.