Insights + interviews

In Conversation with Shamila Rolfe

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The Active Age had a chat with Ms. Shamila Rolfe, the General Manager for ibis Styles Singapore on MacPherson about her new role and the impact of attitude and loving what you do in making work more than just a job.

The AccorHotels group will open a new 298-room ibis Styles Macpherson hotel in the last quarter of 2015, adjacent to the upcoming MacPherson Shopping Mall. According to their new general manager, Ms. Shamila Rolfe, the hotel will seek to deliver a brand promise focused on providing “warm and cheerful service with an international guarantee of quality”.

When open, the hotel seeks to add to the vibrancy of the MacPherson area by providing an affordable accommodation option for travellers and visitors as well as dining choices for residents and people working in the  industrial, commercial area.

The hotel is looking to hire about 100 people to fill up hospitality roles in the new hotel and open to applicants from all backgrounds and ages.

The Active Age (TAA): Congratulations on the new ibis Styles Singapore Macpherson hotel. We look forward to the hotel adding to the growing vibrancy of the area. What can you share with us ahead of the opening regarding plans to service visitors to Singapore and to the growing industrial park/area there?

Ms. Shamila Rolfe (SR): ibis Styles is the first international brand hotel in MacPherson. We believe it will be the game changer for all residents and businesses in the area. The shopping will be an added highlight in the area. The hotel will also be one of the “go to places to stay” staycations in a stylish, fun and funky set-up, enjoy shopping indulgence at the nearby mall or simply to relax by the outdoor pool.

TAA: Given your background across multiple countries and operations, what are some of the development and training plans for the Singapore staff you are hiring?

SR: I have a passion for staff training and development as I enjoy seeing my team grow at different levels.

At ibis Styles Singapore on MacPherson, one of the major focus is on career progression for staff. We will be tailoring an annual training plan for each staff member who aspires to advance their career growth in the hospitality industry.

Together with e2i and STB support, ibis Styles Singapore on MacPherson will be providing everyone with proper training requirements and equip them with the essential learning skills for their roles and functions in the property.

We aim to provide a “have fun and learn while you work” culture at ibis Styles Singapore on MacPherson.

TAA: Tell us about your background growing up in Canada, what was it like and how different was Asia Pacific when you first arrived?

SR: Growing up in Canada has most certainly been the highlight of my entire life. Having to work part time and full time whilst juggling two to three jobs from time to time, I learnt survival skills.

Canada is a multicultural, advanced and liberal country. One must learn to make decisions fast and take actions immediately in order to keep up with the play. One noticeable difference between Canada and Asia is that actions are faster than words. The Canadian culture implored us to take actions and not just talk about it.  We learned empowerment at a very young age in Canada.

TAA: Having worked your way up through the hotel environment from housekeeping to General Manager, are there any observations about hard work and grit that you can share?

SR: Hard work is only hard if one thinks that way. I believe in having a “can do attitude”. There is no hard work; it is more about working smartly with an end goal in mind.

Although I have worked across various positions within the hotels over time, I had the desire to become a General Manager one day and it was rewarding as I progressed from one level to the next and even from one department to another as the sense of belonging grew from working in various departments.

Gaining and increasing knowledge in my journey through departments built my confidence and enabled me to continue climbing the corporate ladder.

My key ingredients to success including being curious with an end goal in mind, to welcome new challenges and learn different things across the business, be forthcoming and not be shy to put your hand up to take up new responsibilities and always try to get out of your comfort zone and adopt a “can do attitude”.

TAA: Are there anecdotes you can share with other active agers about working in an industry you have passion for?

SR: The hospitality industry or hotels is a place for all age groups. It is one work place where you feel as if you’re home away from home. You can work and enjoy things that you would normally do at your own home and a hotel is a ‘home’ to our guests therefore the job task is similar to that of our own home, it is just run at a different scale and more commercialised by volume.

In my younger days,  I used the hotel as my training ground to lean more skills.As a middle aged person, I optimised these skills to develop key areas in the hotel such as improving guest experiences and service standards.

Currently, I am enhancing what I have learnt in the early ages to further my skill sets and keep abreast with the modern world and technology. I continue to share my passion in meeting guests, coaching staff, building and maintaining good relationships with clients.

The advantage of working in the hotels is that you have the privilege of  meeting and making friends from all over the world.

TAA: You have moved around different countries and worked/managed many Accor properties. How does one go about keeping the passion and/or interest fresh for their career and roles, especially after passing 45?

SR: I love what I do and I do not ever see it as just a job. I go to work every day like I am going on a vacation to meet new people and experience new things. It is as easy as putting a smile on guest’s and staff’s faces and that is the personally motivating factor for me. Seeing them smile daily provides me with a sense of achievement.

TAA: What or where are some of your favourite travel experiences and why?

SR: My favourites travel experiences are ones I have had in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Mexico. I admire the values the people in these countries live by, despite having so little, that they are extremely resilient and happy with whatever they have. In my own home country, the people have too much but failed to appreciate the simplicity of life and greed takes over true values.

TAA: Can you share a memorable holiday experience as well as a pet travel peeve?

SR: I had an amazing holiday in Mexico where I experienced 6 star service with extremely pleasant people who genuinely enjoyed making guests happy.

The staff earned so little and yet gave so much. They went the extra mile to make guests happy by creating a memorable experience in their country. On the flip side, I also witnessed and saw the sadness and grim reality of the rough and underdeveloped neighbourhood areas. I had the opportunity to meet the elders who cherished their life’s value and constantly instilling the crime fighting spirit to maintain a harmonious community.

One of my biggest peeves when travelling is in arriving at a hotel where staff behave like robots and do not have any empowerment when it comes to company rules and regulations. They are restricted to rules and procedures and often too scared to break away from these regulations.

The worst and most common form of reply is “Sorry, it is our hotel policy’, an extremely annoying experience. Policies are written by people and I believe it can be changed and made flexible. Hoteliers should empower staff to exercise appropriate actions and make guest experience a more enjoyable one.

TAA: Personally, would you prefer to fade into the sunset or leave a legacy when the time comes to retire?

SR: I have far too much energy to think about retirement at the moment. I do not wish to just fade into the sunset so when I retire, I want to continue to mentor and coach people to reach their destination points.

I hope the hospitality legacy never dies as I would like to continue to experience the wonderful service standards as a guest staying at the hotel.

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