Esteemed leaders from IHG, Marriott and more shared their career learnings with industry newcomers at the inaugural Emerging Leaders Forum which took place on Tuesday, May 3 at SkyCity Adelaide.
Marriott International President for Asia Pacific excluding Greater China (APEC), Rajeev Menon, was one of the keynote speakers at the Under 35 Leadership Summit and spoke about the ups and downs bottom of a career in hospitality.
Menon admits that hospitality was not his first love. He had hoped to pursue a career in the Air Force, but less than perfect eyesight held him back and set him on a path to pursue his second love – hotels.
He recalled when he first came to Australia, during the 1992 recession, his experience of continuous rejection when looking for a job.
“It was quite difficult – the unemployment rate was very high, not like today,” he said.
“I gave 25 interviews and got kicked out of every one of them. I was basically told I had no Australian experience, so I didn’t stand a chance.
Even when he finally got a job at the Radisson Century on Victoria Street, Sydney, he knew his future in the business was very uncertain when the managing director who hired him was fired 10 days later.
“Every night for the next 50 days, the new GM would walk into someone’s office with a pink slip and say, ‘Thank you very much, you’re no longer required,'” he explained.
Staff numbers at the 300-room hotel fell from 149 to 99 before things stabilized. Menon said it taught him the importance of being fair and upfront with people.
“If you have to make a tough decision like this, do it quickly, be fair and don’t procrastinate, don’t prolong it,” he said.
Menon’s career advice to young people is to take calculated risks and get out of your comfort zone.
“If you don’t find yourself investing time in the details and having that passion, then you know you’re in the wrong place,” he said.
“And no one else needs to tell you – it’s you.” But coupled with this ability to invest time in the details, also take risks, get out of your comfort zone and embark on something that will push you, because nine times out of 10 that’s what propels you.
“We do not cure cancer”
Star Gold Coast COO Jessica Mellor spoke candidly about her professional journey, sharing memories of working and traveling on holiday in Europe, lessons learned from working in hospitality and recruitment, and her determination to succeed in construction.
Speaking about her views on a career in hospitality, she said it was important to remember it was all about entertainment.
“We don’t solve world hunger, we don’t cure cancer, we help people have a good time,” she said.
“And it’s really important to recognize that we’re not doing these really heavy tasks, so that it’s still fun and we don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Mellor shared how working in construction taught her the importance of connecting with people and being true to herself.
“I knew the details of our plans better than anyone and would push back hard when I didn’t agree with something,” she said.
“I’ve also been very accepting of being called ‘Darl’. I wore my pink socks to work with my work boots. I made sure to be at the pub at four o’clock for counterfeit drinks.
She said it was just as important as “knowing [her] shit”.
“It was by connecting with people and presenting myself as an authentic myself that I really earned the respect of those I worked with, despite my youth, gender and inexperience,” he said. she stated.
Mellor said she continues to rely heavily on her ability to build meaningful relationships to this day.
CEO of IHG Hotels and Resorts – Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa, Kenneth Macpherson, spoke about his professional journey from his beginnings as a dishwasher to becoming a waiter in a restaurant, and later the lessons learned from his work with drinks giant Diageo in the UK.
Macpherson said there are many common business principles he could apply to his hospitality career, including branding, performance management and financial discipline.
“Both Diageo and IHG are really obsessed with brands and this ability to position a brand so that it’s distinct, and be clear about how you’re going to build it so that it generates value,” he said.
“Diageo does this for distributors and joint venture partners, bringing value to them for their money through your brand, and that’s exactly what we do in hospitality… [With] joint ventures and partnerships, which transfer directly to asset ownership and models, in particular the asset light model.