The senior sales manager at Rosewood London speaks to Lisa Jenkins about being bold and aiming to work for the best businesses
Did you study a hospitality related course at school/college or university?
I studied law and considered going into the military.
Did you do any work experience in the industry?
I spent a week at a hotel in Manchester when I was 18. I remember the modern artwork and staff wearing jeans. It felt very cool.
What was your first job?
I washed pots at my village pub when I was 15.
What initially attracted you to working in hospitality?
Growing up near the Lake District meant a lot of jobs were in hospitality. I liked meeting new people and being part of a team.
How did you make the transition into a job in hospitality?
After graduating in 2009 law jobs were scarce and I decided to go back to my passion for hospitality. It took 18 months, but I finally got an opportunity at a hotel opening in Chester.
What was your first job in hospitality?
My first position was a mix between concierge and guest relations. I'd do things like staining itineraries with tea to make them look old for children learning about the Romans, or invite a group of guests on business from the US to try Pimm's for the first time.
Who was your first mentor/role model in hospitality?
My half-sister worked her way up to be a hotel general manager at a young age, so seeing her success was inspiring.
How did you decide on your career direction?
Colleagues would ask ‘Where is Ashton?', and I'd be found showing people the private dining room or the penthouse suites. The management team quickly moved me into sales. I also read something that said: "Whatever industry you work in, work for the best". After that, I headed to London.
What industry networks have you been part of that have supported you in your career progression?
I think hospitality/travel professionals, in general, are extremely collaborative. I could call many of my competitor counterparts to talk about challenges or ideas.
I am also a member of the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) and sit on the Young Leaders' Committee. SITE does an excellent job of promoting and educating about incentive travel.
Have you embarked on any personal career development that has supported your progression?
Via SITE, I am a certified incentive specialist. During the first lockdown, I also qualified as a wedding celebrant to immerse myself in the social segment, which is fun and different to the corporate world.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced working in hospitality?
I think to attract and retain talent, the industry needs to ensure compensation is competitive with other sectors. Burn-out is also common. We need to work smarter, not harder, and take enough time to rest.
Do you have any regrets or things you wish you'd done differently?
I believe everything happens for a reason, so not really. I just try to learn from my mistakes and remain open-minded.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Don't be afraid to explore different divisions. There are fantastic opportunities in areas such as finance, revenue management, sales, HR or procurement, which might not always get attention but play a big role in all hospitality businesses. Be proactive. If you see a brand or leader you want to work for, tell them why and how you think you could add value to their business.
What are your future career goals?
My goal is to lead a sales and marketing team for an ultra-luxury hotel brand. When people have the confidence to be creative and achieve great things together, I think that's extremely rewarding.
Who inspires you in the industry?
There are many people, however Sonia Cheng's vision for Rosewood Hotels & Resorts is at the forefront for me right now. The brand's sense of place philosophy, coupled with a culture of relationship hospitality, makes for a special combination. We say we dream big, and then we make it happen. I like that.
October 2016-present Senior sales manager, Rosewood London
November 2014-October 2016 Groups manager, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
October 2013-November 2014 Sales manager, GP Associates
October 2011-October 2013 Group sales executive, Maybourne Hotel Group
August 2010-October 2011 Sales co-ordinator, concierge and receptionist, Abode Hotels and Michael Caines Restaurants
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