How I started:
My original degree is in home economics but in my college holidays I always worked in hospitality, from housekeeping to bar and restaurant work. I joined the NHS when I graduated in their management training scheme but was eventually given the opportunity to become executive housekeeper at Peebles Hydro Hotel & Spa. It was an ideal opportunity to get a job without having to commute and in my home town where I could bring up my family. It was also something I had a rough knowledge of because all my NHS training was in domestic services.
That was when I got my first taste for hotels. I was head housekeeper for seven years and then I became reception manager for three and a half years, and that let me see another side of hospitality.
But I’d gone as far as I could there and was given the opportunity to join MacDonalds Hotels’ Cardrona in Peebles, again as executive housekeeper.
When I arrived it was part of your role as a head of department to do duty management shifts, so quite often I was early duty manager and that let me dip my toe into front of house, in terms of breakfast or lunch conferences, and that’s when I realised I really enjoyed the other side of housekeeping.
I went onto become deputy manager for five months before being offered the position of hotel manager. The, two years late in September 2010, I was promoted to general manager.
On staying local:
Cardrona was a new build and the borders can be quite a difficult area to implement change. Undoubtedly being a local person I’ve driven the hotel forward because people I’ve known for many years can relate to the fact that a local person is now managing the hotel. It is important that local people see other locals when they come in to use the leisure or golf clubs. And you have to have local people working there too.
On swapping housekeeping for FOH:
Learning the food and beverage side of the operation was a steep learning curve for me. As a duty manager you’d have a restaurant supervisor at breakfast but if something went wrong or you were particularly busy, you were the one who had to pick up the pieces. You have to learn very quickly.
On my transferable skills:
There are many skills that a head of housekeeping has that are useful in the role of general manager. They include skills like great organisation, being able to think on your feet, paying attention to detail, and working efficiently to create a comfortable, clean warm and welcoming atmosphere throughout the hotel.
My greatest achievement:
Getting to the position of general manager is my greatest achievement, there’s no doubt about that, but on the route to doing that I’m proud of how I put Cardrona on the map as one of the borders’ best four-star hotels and a premier wedding venue. I’m also very proud of the fact that I’ve built a stable and secure team around me, and that we’ve achieved profitability in the past two years.
On having a mentor:
The managing director that I work with at Cardrona, James Lerche, was the man who gave me the opportunity to make the step up from housekeeper. He’s supported and mentored me in every way. You need someone like that who perhaps recognises a little bit of your potential and gives you the opportunity to progress and develop.
My favourite part of being a GM:
Dealing with guests is my favourite part of my job. I’m very interactive with the guests and I still love being part of the operation because I love getting great feedback from them when they’ve had a great stay with us.
On my future:
I feel at this point that I’ve achieved more than I ever thought I would. MacDonalds is a very progressive company and you never know when opportunities will be offered to you. So I’ll just enjoy being general manager and develop the business here because there’s a lot to be done and challenges to be managed, particularly with the economy as it is now. But if I was offered an opportunity with the company down the line I’d see where it took me.