Many times in the society we live in we are trying to change and conform to what we think the society expects us to be.
For me, I chose to define my own destiny, growing up when most ladies were trying to figure out their career, I knew I wanted to work in the hospitality industry. Everyone thought I was crazy as hospitality was not among the top selected professions then but I stuck to my decision and went for it. I knew my passion was to work with the best and make a difference in the service industry as a whole.
I recall during my final year while studying abroad, the placement manager was adamant that getting into a 5-star hotel for my internship was impossible. Being from Africa, I knew if I didn’t work with the best then I would not be able to set myself apart from my peer competitors. I told her to give me an opportunity and set up the internship interview at the hotel. I was chosen among the three ladies who got interviewed for the internship position. I was stunned and excited at the same time.
I knew then the sky was the limit and there was nothing I could not do if I set my mind to it. As soon as I graduated, I started working at the property I had interned and got promoted into hotel operations. I relocated back to Kenya within the same hotel property group and within a year grew into a managerial role. I watched some of the women in the industry compromise their values to get ahead and I said to myself, “ Lilian this is not your destiny” If I was to get ahead it would have to be my sweat, my hard work and no compromise on my values.
Hard work paid off as I got promoted into different roles during this tenure, I kept asking myself, what can I do to impact more people? I thought to myself maybe I could impact more people in training rather than operations and when I got the opportunity to sit with the operation’s director in the hotel group I was working in, he asked me about my aspirations and I told him “I would like to start my own training consultancy one day” and he told me “What if I gave you an office and a training manager title today would you take it?” I said ‘Yes!” and thereafter I moved into training to start the training department.
My heart was pounding thinking to myself what did I just do! I moved into my new empty office with only a PC, a desk and a chair and I started to create the department from scratch. Within 2 years I was offered a group training manager role in the hotel managing 8 properties and was also managing my male peers. This was not easy but I gained respect from management and my peers as well as we worked together to drive training initiatives across the business.
Three years later, I decided to go back to London again to gain more experience. The sky was the limit and I was not going to settle for less and unless I worked at the same level or higher I would not take a step back in my career. Many people told me I was being ambitious but I never gave up. After numerous interviews I got a role managing 13 properties for a well-known hotel brand within the UK.
From then on I desired that going forward I would work with either luxury or well- known brands and this prompted my move to Dubai where I worked in leadership role with a luxurious 5 star hotel for two years, thereafter moved to work as a senior leader with a waterpark and theme park in Abu Dhabi managing training aspects of both properties.
During my tenure in all my roles, I never let the titles get to my head, my goal was always to mentor as many people as I could. I was never afraid to share what I knew and always encouraged the young mentees to aim for my job. I knew if I did this they would not be afraid to aim high.
We recently moved back home due to family reasons and my husband and I made a decision to start a training consultancy, a venture that I have always dreamt of doing, it’s a new adventure but one I am willing to try.
In summary, the lesson I learnt was, to never settle for less than what I deserved. In the society today, many women feel the need to conform and give up their values and morals along the way. This is not the way to gain respect in senior leadership roles. As a woman you need to know who you are, never try to be someone else, stand by your values, be principled and aim for excellence. The society is not looking for copies of leaders. Being unique is what makes one stand out and others stop to take notice.
Everything that you do give it 110% and ensure that you leave a positive watermark on the people you work with either by mentoring them to be future leaders or even making time to listen and give advice.
The world is running out of mentors, so are you going to step up and be different or are you going to keep conforming and living a life that is less that what you deserve?
My choice is to keep exploring opportunities to make a difference. My principle is to touch one person at a time. I refuse to conform instead I will continue to be myself.