What attracted me to hospitality:
I can honestly say I have never wanted to work in any other industry. It's probably because we used to go, as a family, to the Lygon Arms in the Cotswolds every Boxing Day for afternoon tea. I would always look forward to the great service we'd get every year and as I got older, wanted to know how to provide that experience for other people.
How I got to where I am now:
I went to Portsmouth University to study for a BA in Hospitality. While I studied I worked in kitchens, front-of-house and in pubs gaining experience. Then, when I graduated I got invited back to the Lygon Arms to take on my first manager's position. I was duty manager and it gave me experience back-of-house and the chance to understand service and how to meet the expectations of guests.
After six years I made the move to London and went to Claridge's as deputy banqueting manager, then I took some time out of the front line to work in the Savoy offices in sales. Two years later I went back to operations. I loved working on the sales side, because it gave me some great negotiation skills and great contacts, but missed the operations side of things, so I went back as banqueting manager at Claridge's before being promoted to house manager.
I went on to work for Gordon Ramsay Holdings to open up its first hotel - The York & Albany - in 2008 which was brilliant because it meant bringing together all the different strands of my work so far and applying them to a new project. I opened and operated it for a year before handing it over, then went to work for Swire Hotels, opening Montpellier Chapter in Cheltenham, the company's first UK hotel, as general manager before returning to London with the opportunity to work for The Dorchester. Director of Group Sales and Events was a new position and when I was offered it I just couldn't turn it down.
My biggest achievement:
I would say it's being able to have a number of different specialisms and to have always allowed the people I work with to develop. I'm gobsmacked at the amount of people who I've worked with who have gone on to do amazing things.
My biggest challenge:
It was moving to London for the first time. I was over-awed by what was required within the luxury market. I'd never seen anything like it with regards to the guest expectations. I had to learn very quickly that it was different from the country house hotel environment I'd known.
Later on, when I worked in events, I was asked to provide an elephant to walk through a cocktail reception - and it had to be an Indian elephant. We rose to the challenge and tried so hard to arrange it, but we just couldn't do it for a range of reasons. You could do it now, there's a supplier who will do it, but it was impossible at the time.
What you need to succeed in event sales:
You need to be creative, flexible and you need to be able to inspire and demonstrate that you have a commitment to your role. You need to have selling and management skills as well as good organisational skills - or if you don't have all those - you need to be able to find people to work with who have.
You really have to want to exceed expectations as you're working with someone who's aspiring to have the most amazing event, so you have to look after them well and pay so much attention to detail.
It really is a great place to be. You never know what's coming in the next five minutes and that's really exciting.