Self-Made Success: Advice From 3 of the Industry’s Best
Left to Right: Justine Baker, CEO, Solotel / Jan McKenzie of Cafe Sydney / Lisa Hobbs, CEO, Criniti Group
Self-made success: advice from 3 of the industry’s best
We’ve spoken about the value of mentorship plenty of times at Women in Hospitality– its importance really can’t be underestimated. Here, three of the hospitality industry’s most accomplished business leaders – women who many would consider to be brilliant mentors – share pointers on how young women can take control of their own career progression.
Justine Baker, CEO, Solotel
While forging your career path, it’s so important to be open to possibilities and explore as many facets of the industry as you can. I have worked in areas I never expected to, I built my career by zig-zagging my way up, giving me invaluable cross functional experience. Additionally, it’s helped me learn to understand other people’s perspectives and intentions and develop my own leadership style. So, I guess my advice is that you take your time, master your craft in your current role, then look for opportunities that may not necessarily be a step up but will instead round out your experience, knowledge and skill set.
At the same time, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over my career in hospitality is to forge you own path. There is no script or well-worn path you have to follow; it’s up to you. I created my opportunities by identifying a need within the business and pitching in my skill-set to fill the gap. You don’t have to wait for these opportunities to come to you, for the tap on the shoulder. Go out and make them yourself. I pitched in my first job at Solotel, they believed in me and we’ve never looked back.
And finally, make education a priority, regardless of your experience or position. It might be a refresher course or embarking on something completely new, but for me, continuously focusing on my education has given me confidence and broadened my mindset. In my current role, I have found short senior executive courses to be the most valuable, particularly those focussed on strategy, leadership and problem solving.
It’s important to remember that education doesn’t just mean TAFE or courses or other forms of formal education. I’ve found that spending time with people from outside of the industry – through networking groups – challenges my thinking, inspires me and sparks creativity. During my career, I’ve also found that having a mentor or coach is extremely beneficial. They’re able to offer a different perspective, shed light on your blind spots and are a great sounding board for your ideas. I have learned so much from the mentors and coaches I’ve had, and I’d really recommend anyone who’s serious about their career progression to consider seeking out a mentor.
Jan McKenzie, director of operations, Café Sydney
There have been so many lessons I’ve learnt throughout my time in this industry. And it’s not always the big, obvious lessons that are most significant; the subtle, small ones can have equal impact and value. For me, the skill of mastering self-motivation and self-empowerment is important. Setting your personal and professional values enables you to have a solid connection with what’s really important to you. This is the beginning of self-empowerment.
I think it’s essential that anyone who truly wants to create success in this industry is passionate about hospitality, and is generally a passionate person overall, with a relentless hunger to learn broadly and evolve. A true and genuine interest in people is a prerequisite. Being passionate and motivated, and surrounding yourself with similar people in the workplace, can make all the difference. I have been fortunate enough to work with many amazing and inspiring individuals, all who have contributed to my journey. Many have nurturing, sharing and very generous.
Like Justine, I believe an unwavering focus on education and professional development is vital. Over time I have developed many mantras that I live by. One in particular is ‘knowledge is confidence’. Self-educate, seek mentors, read broadly, listen actively, be present and always be open-minded. Ensure your curiosity pushes further; don’t accept compromise. Be strategic in your career moves. Always consider all options, however working in the right culture, with people who share similar professional values is inspiring. Set goals, but remain flexible.
Read extensively and laterally – it all offers innovation and ideas. Working in an environment with a dynamic team of individuals certainly offers learning! At Café Sydney we are committed to using both internal and external trainers for product and operational areas. Develop and maintain interests outside hospitality, and engage broadly; hospitality can become obsessive, so reach further. And perhaps most importantly, confident to move outside your comfort zone – you wont regret it.
Lisa Hobbs, CEO, Criniti Group
I am glad I entered hospitality over 8 years ago. It has broadened my experience, creativity and business acumen in many ways and in subtle ways I could not have imagined. It is such a dynamic, fast paced industry where you can create a path for yourself by identifying areas where you can add value. I have always found the industry to have a real ‘get in and get it done’ type of culture, hence if you have a ‘can do’ attitude mixed with a curiosity to know how things work, your career will flourish.
In my own career, leadership has been the cornerstone of how I have developed within the industry. People work for people and this is a people business, so leadership and emotional intelligence have been a focus of mine. More and more in the hospitality industry, management roles will belong to those who have these skills, on top of the technical knowledge and experience required to do specific roles.
They say only 25 percent of your success will come from your intelligence and education. The other 75 percent comes from your level of optimism, your social engagement and how you manage stress. Hospitality has helped me in all of these last three things. Firstly, to excel in hospitality you need to be hospitable by nature and if you are, your level of optimism in the industry stands out.
Secondly, given it’s a people business, your social engagement is easy. Lastly, in terms of managing stress, I have found that working with others – as is inevitable in this line of work – helps to share the stress load and if this is done effectively, a lot of the time the work feels far more fun.
On education and professional development, like Justine and Jan I believe in personal growth and continually working on self-development. In recent years, my focus has been on leadership and understanding people. After all, the largest part of my role is managing and getting the most from people. I also work with a supervisor regularly, enjoy the company of industry professionals who are like-minded and share information, and read a lot of material around these topics. I believe, in our industry this is vital for business success.