Jackson Britton, duty and security manager at the Waldorf Hilton in London, took a circuitous route to management, with a detour for Rio de Janeiro bars and a postgraduate degree along the way. He talks to Lisa Jenkins.
Did you study a hospitality-related course at college or university?
I did a postgrad degree in international hospitality management at the University of Brighton.
Did you do any work experience in the industry at a young age?
My first taste of the hospitality industry was in a restaurant in Belfast, where I did two weeks' work experience at the age of 16. It was spent washing dishes and helping with kitchen prep, but it was a good experience, nonetheless.
What was your first job?
It was selling mobile phone contracts from a call centre in Belfast before I went to university.
What initially attracted you to working in hospitality?
The industry has appealed to me since my teenage years as I have always enjoyed working with people from diverse backgrounds.
I love how the industry brings people together, whether it is to celebrate a special occasion, for business meetings or simply for friends to catch up.
I love how the industry brings people together
How did you make the transition into a job in hospitality?
When I moved to London for my undergraduate degree, I found a part-time job in the bar at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. I got a really good feeling from the team and management, and I ended up working as a bartender there for almost three years while I completed my studies.
Who was your first mentor or role model in hospitality?
When I was a floor manager in a restaurant called the Copper Clam in Brighton, the other floor manager was Andrea Zuccarino. He had 20 years' experience in the industry and was my first mentor. He taught me an incredible amount about service, predicting guests' needs, the importance of planning, the dynamics for building a successful team and guiding guests through their experiences.
How did you decide on your career? Were there any influences, influencers or experiences that encouraged you?
I went travelling around South America in 2016 and was initially planning on opening a food truck selling West Indian food when I came back.
But before returning to the UK, I was speaking with a good friend whose parents were in the process of opening a restaurant in Brighton. They asked me to join their team and I invested some of my own money to help with refurbishments, so from there I became a floor manager and partner. While in Brighton I undertook a postgraduate degree, then applied for a graduate programme with Hilton.
What other roles have you held during your career?
After completing my postgrad degree I went to Rio de Janeiro, where I helped to run a hostel bar called Pura Vida while studying Portuguese. There we hosted parties and barbecues at the hostel and took the guests out to events such as Carnival.
When I came back, I started the 18-month management development programme with the Waldorf Hilton. The programme focused on leadership skills in F&B, front office and sales, but it was unfortunately cut short due to the pandemic. However, that led to me being promoted to duty and security manager at the Waldorf.
What industry networks have you been part of that have supported you in your career progression?
A group that I certainly feel has provided a lot of support and has been very beneficial to my progression is Be Inclusive Hospitality. It is a not-for-profit group that promotes the development of young professionals from diverse backgrounds. I am on a mentorship programme with them, and the advice that I have received, along with the networking opportunities, has been excellent.
Have you embarked on any additional personal career development?
Yes, during lockdown I did the online Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 1 and alcohol personal licence holders' courses. I also regularly do leadership skills courses on LinkedIn Learning, and I have completed the SIA door supervisor and emergency first aid at work courses.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced working in hospitality?
Finding a good work-life balance, as unfortunately the industry requires us to work most weekends and holidays. However, I do feel that the situation has improved over recent years.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in the industry?
Work hard, be proactive, don't be afraid to ask for support and constantly keep an eye out for learning and development opportunities.
What are your career goals?
I want to continue building on my experiences within hotel operations, then to move up to a head of department position in either front office or food and beverage, until I am ready to be a director of operations. From there, I would like to work towards becoming a hotel general manager.
Who inspires you in the industry?
My current mentor, Ayo Akinsete, is an inspiration for me, as he has worked his way up to be an area general manager, overseeing the openings of multiple hotels at a relatively young age. He has achieved this through networking, hard work and determination, motivating me to do the same.
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