Mark Kirby is general manager of the luxury, 160-bedroom Armani Hotel Dubai, located within 10 floors of the world's tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa at 828 metres. He spoke to Janet Harmer
You have been living and working in Dubai for nearly 11 years. What attracted you to the location?
How did you go about finding your first job in Dubai?
The Park Tower was then part of Starwood Hotels and Resorts. My general manager at the time, Anne Scott, supported me in arranging a coffee with the general manager of Grosvenor House and Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort - that coffee changed my life for the good.
Has Dubai lived up to your expectations?
More than lived up to expectations - this is now where I call home. If you come to Dubai and work really hard you can have amazing opportunities - we are very fortunate to be able to live and work in such a thriving, cosmopolitan city. Over 11 years I have progressed up the ladder five times and worked in some of the best hotels in the city.
What are the downsides?
The main issue is that once you have lived here, it would be difficult to live anywhere else. The standard of living is extremely high with affordable home support to allow you to focus at work and enjoy downtime. Everything works - from the ultra-fast transit time in Dubai International Airport to the government services apps that allow you complete most things on the go - 24 hours a day.
Tell us about the style and setting of the Armani Hotel.
Every element of the style at the hotel, from the bespoke furniture to the restaurant menus, has been personally planned and designed by Giorgio Armani himself. The views from the bedrooms are outstanding, and we have seven restaurants, ranging from Japanese to Italian cuisine. We also have great shopping experiences, including the only place in Dubai where the Giorgio Armani Privé collection is showcased.
What does your day-to-day job entail?
When I arrive at 7.30am, I check all the daily reports from the previous day's business, catch up on emails and read the newspaper.
At 8am, I walk the hotel, checking on breakfast and the hotel assets as well as the staff areas.
At 9am, the full day begins with a morning meeting with the departmental heads. The rest of the day will be spent in various meetings, from reviewing performance to the commercial strategy of the business and quality focus as well as menu tastings and meeting and greeting guests.
At 5pm I hit the gym for an hour before showering, putting on a fresh shirt and going back to hotel operations during the fun part of the day. Our five restaurants, banqueting and Armani Privé night lounge all start to wake. Around 10pm, once dinner is well and truly settled, it's time to hit the road and head home.
What is it like working in the world's tallest building?
There is not a single day that I don't pull up outside the Burj Khalifa and think about what a truly iconic building it is.
The combination of a brand like Armani and the tallest tower in the world attracts people to stay or dine with us. Security is maintained at a very high level, which can sometimes deter people from staying - we work very closely to ensure that the arrival experience is as seamless as possible. Most people staying with us value the security - it gives them both the highest levels of safety and peace of mind.
How has working abroad enhanced your career?
It broadens your horizons in so many ways. I believe I have scaled the career ladder more quickly by working in some of the best hotels in the city. Dubai being such a multicultural city means that you socialise with people from all over the world. You can also experience a variety of religious and cultural celebrations.
What do you miss about the UK?
The UK is a very special place, especially London and Derbyshire, where I was brought up. I love watching anything to do with the Royal Family - they are an institution and really bring so much value to the UK. I miss the green fields and country lanes and especially the seasons.
2016-present General manager, Armani Hotel Dubai
2014-2016 Hotel manager, Armani Hotel Dubai
2011-2014 Hotel manager, Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai
2009-2011 Hotel manager, Grosvenor House, Dubai
2008-2009 Executive assistant manager, Grosvenor House, Dubai
2007-2008 Director of rooms operations, Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai
2005-2007 Rooms division manager, the Park Tower Knightsbridge, London
2000-2005 Front office manager, the Landmark, London
1997-2000 Reception manager, Grosvenor House, London
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