Please tell us about your upbringing.
I grew up in a big family; I am the second-to last born of eight kids. Our home was always filled with noise and good vibes. My parents were both educators – my dad was a principal and my late mom was a Grade 1 teacher. They both valued education therefore we were always pushed to do better in school. My parents also never allowed us to do anything that would take our attention away from schoolwork.
What is the one lesson your parents taught you that you still value today?
My parents taught us about work ethic. My dad would always say that wherever you work or study – be a blessing to other people and they in turn will be to you. My parents had a great work ethic and they also did so much to give back to the community we lived in.
When did you join the Protea Group?
I had just finished my studies, and I didn’t really have anything lined up to do. I had completed my matric at the age of 16 and then went on to complete my Web Design Diploma at the age of 19. At the same year in 2003, I got the opportunity to work at Protea Hotels after my sister had helped me to apply for a junior position in the sales office.
What have been the challenges?
When you have such success at a young age, you’re bound to come across obstacles. Some people believe you shouldn’t be in the position because you are young, woman and black. I’m never one to fall victim of such circumstances, therefore it was incumbent on me to really take the bull by its horns and prove to myself that I deserve to be here. I was fortunate that I wasn’t on my own on the journey; I have amazing leadership in our organisation that provides positive direction. I wouldn’t be where I am if weren’t for my mentors.
Do yo have advice to upcoming women in the hospitality industry?
Find your place, work hard and you will shine. Our industry is only for the people who are passionate about service. So if you have passion and work hard you will make it. More than that, you must have set goals for yourself. You will not be able to go far if you don’t have goals. Write down how to achieve them.
What has been your career highlight?
I’ve had some great highlights, like representing my country during the FIFA Congress in Zurich in 2007 where I was one of the delegates sent to observe the event in preparation for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Recognition from the industry when I was awarded the ASATA / Diners’ Club Tomorrow’s Leader Award in 2014 as well as being named one of the Top Women in MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conference & Events) in 2016. More than anything it’s every time I engage with young people in our industry that relate to me and are inspired to work a little harder because they now believe if I can – they can too. My success is ours.
What keeps you going?
My urge to be half the woman my mother was. My mother was more than a wife and mother; she gave so much to the community we lived in. My family keeps me going – I want to be a great example to my kids when they grow up.