The head of training and development at the New World Trading Company talks to Katherine Price about the myriad opportunities a career in hospitality can offer and making industry friends for life.
Did you do any work experience in the industry at a young age?
I did work experience at Pizza Hut. I enjoyed it and did well, and they offered me a part-time job. I ended up working there right through GCSEs and A-levels.
What initially attracted you to working in hospitality?
Initially it was just the placement, and then it was the only job I knew. It wasn't until my A-level years and being faced with the decision of what to do next that I started to consider how much I enjoyed it. It's always been the people factor for me: being able to deliver experiences that can make a guest's day, getting to know regulars and working closely with the rest of the team.
Who was your first mentor/role model in hospitality?
The big one that comes to mind is Mike Stocks from Carluccio's. I learned a lot from him, often without realising, and he helped provide loads of great opportunities for me to develop.
How did you decide on your career direction?
I'd been involved in training since my Pizza Hut days, taking on store trainer and area trainer roles. At Carluccio's I was given the opportunity to go and train a whole new floor team for an opening in Chichester – that really set me on the path I ended up pursuing. I went to 40-plus openings, including international ones, which really cemented my love of the job.
Mike was a big part of that journey, but I also had great mentorship and development from Aileen Moodie, the HR and training director, who set me up with the skills to move into a training manager role.
What industry networks have you been part of that have supported you in your career progression?
Most of the networks I'm in are informal – I wouldn't necessarily consider some of them as networks, simply friendships. Along your journey you meet people who you know will support you. I still have a group of friends from Carluccio's, and we often reach out to each other for advice and ideas.
You end up seeing lots of the same faces at industry events, especially if you're lucky enough to go to any awards. There are also the more obscure groups... have you ever heard of the Springboard hospitality pantomime?
What are the biggest challenges you've faced working in hospitality?
I'm sure everyone is aware of the late nights and long hours, but I've never minded them too much – I'm a bit of a night owl. In my roles travel has been a big thing – generally I love it and I enjoy seeing new places, plus it's helped me to get where I am in my career. But it can sometimes be tough to juggle a personal life and make plans around all the travel.
Do you have any regrets/things you wish you'd done differently?
Beyond a few dodgy shifts, clunky training sessions and some openings that didn't go exactly to plan, not really. If I could go back and redo some things, I'm sure I'd be able to do it better, but that's part of the journey of development. Making those mistakes allowed me to gain the knowledge I have today. Saying that, I'd probably try and do it all again with fewer hangovers…
What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
It can be as fun, dynamic and interesting as you want it to be. Navigate your way around the challenges and make it work for you – you'll get out as much as you put in. The options for growth and development are numerous. The industry gets an unfair rep and we need to change that.
What are your career goals?
For now, continuing to establish the L&D department and team at NWTC. We've got some ambitious things we'd like to achieve in the coming years. In the future I think I'll be aiming to gain a bit more generalist HR knowledge and aim for a people director role.
Would you recommend a career in hospitality to your friends?
Of course! Even if you've never worked in hospitality before, if you have the right attitude and you like people, you can have a flying career in no time. We can teach you the skills.
Who inspires you in the industry?
Nisha Katona jumps to mind: I love Mowgli and it's great to see it growing, but it still looks after its people and the brand. Tom Byng, founder of Byron, stands out too. And my boss, Natasha Waterfield, our chief operating officer. I'm not just saying that for brownie points, the amount she's achieved in her career is impressive and I'm grateful to have her guidance and support.
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