Alumni Spotlight: The hospitality employee of the future – Staicy Akinyi
Staicy Kathryn Akinyi graduated in June 2019 with a degree in Hospitality and Hotel Management at the Strathmore University graduation grounds. A month later, she began her J1 internship at the Equinox Golf Resort and Spa, a historical 5 star hotel in Vermont’s Green Mountains, USA.
The Covid-19 pandemic found her gaining experience at the front office in the resort. Little by little, as the virus spread throughout the world and disrupted lives, Staicy was handed more responsibility. “We had a reduction in guest numbers which meant that it wasn’t necessary to have many of us work a shift. I at times found myself alone, having to deal with more than I usually would.”
In March 2020, the resort was forced to shut down thus cutting short her one- year paid work experience that was part of the train-abroad programme offered by the School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH). With flights halted, she lay low until October 2020 when she was able to jet back to her home country.
She speaks strongly and passionately about the hospitality industry that has been hard hit by the pandemic. “It’ll never collapse! I consider the industry to be in hibernation mode, which is an opportune time for business to rethink their modus operandi. Once the pandemic eases, it’ll bounce back. Watch this space!”
She is now in her first semester at Les Roches University in a hospitality master’s programme that entails 9 months of coursework and 6 months of a compulsory internship. “I’m learning remotely for now and will join them physically in Marbella, Spain, this August. They demand that we follow a strict dressing code, from Monday to Sunday. This aspect of life will be a walk in the park as I have learnt a thing or two about this at Strathmore University.”
Staicy had first wanted to join Strathmore to pursue Law; however, her grades did not allow her to. “At this point my mom helped me see that due to my A grade in home science, I had a strength there which I could tap into. And it’s true, hospitality is in born in me. I naturally picked it from my mother who has a strong passion in it. In high school, the influence and example of our home science teacher further helped me gravitate towards the profession.”
To date, it’s a field that has proved to fulfill her. “It has a lot to offer and it’s one that I don’t think I am willing to leave. It’s sad though that in Kenya the career isn’t highly revered and many frown upon it. From my experience, hospitality outside our borders has a huge name. I hope we will start embracing it as we do engineering, medicine, and law.”
The time spent in the US enkindled her love for the field. She felt treated like an equal, a young trainee in the field, with few years of experience, but one with ideas worth bringing to the table. “The managers and colleagues appreciated the kind of work I did. They treat everyone equally so if they are not up to doing a certain kind of job, they will not let you do it either. Their goal is to ensure you pick up lessons while enjoying your role.”
Looking into the future, when she lands a leadership role in an institution, she would like to assert a positive influence on the work experience fresh graduates have in the industry locally. “It’s a pity that often, as soon as a trainee walks in, all the workload is piled on them. It’s counter intuitive as they end up hating what they do, desperately looking for ways to transition to a different field.”
The immersion in a different culture put into practice skills taught in the Cross Cultural Management course by the STH Dean, Dr. David Chiawo. With the knowledge picked up in his lecture room, she was able to navigate through a period of homesickness and other situations she had not encountered before. “I interacted with different kinds of people in terms of race, religion, and gender and I was at times faced with situations that I did not agree with. It was a tough balancing act, reconciling a culture and belief contrary to what I held. But I knew that in spite of our differences, I should treat all clients with the respect and dignity they deserve.”
Her advice to the incoming first years? “Embrace it as you would any other career and ask yourself – How much effort am I willing to put into it? How far I’m I travel in my pursuit of excellence? If you have an adventurous attitude, you are bound to succeed.”
We wish Staicy the best in her studies!
Would you like to pursue a career in hospitality and tourism? Learn more about our courses in the ongoing July Intake.
This article was written by Wambui Gachari.
If you have a story, kindly email: firstname.lastname@example.org