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It takes a lion heart to achieve what I have

Marion Akinyi is a sports scholar and plays defense for the Strathmore Scorpions (ladies hockey team). The fourth-year Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management student was recently selected to join the Kenyan National hockey team and was part of the team that travelled to Ghana in 2018 to represent the university in the African Hockey Club Championship. The team is currently training for this year’s championships to be held in South Africa in December.

The hospitality course chose her; at first she had her sights on a business-related course but circumstances led her into this field which she has now fallen in love with. Her dream of getting a university education seemed a far-fetched idea but one which she was willing to fight for. She narrates how she changed her perspective on service in the hospitality industry and her growth in hockey.

How did you land in the Hospitality Management course?

I didn’t know much about hospitality at first. I came in on a sports scholarship after my high school teacher encouraged me to come to Strathmore. The search for the scholarship brought me to Nairobi for the first time. That journey from Kisumu to Nairobi was quite an experience; I was not used to the immense activity and crowds in the capital city that I encountered when I got off the bus.

Having started a course which had not been part of your plans must have meant an attitude adjustment. What were the difficult aspects involved?  

My first perception of service was skewed. I felt it was too hectic; and the aspect of having to deal with difficult aspects of different temperaments yet always be cheerful and at the service of customers too demanding. When I learnt the tactics, I gained the confidence to serve.

How did your perspective change?

An incident during my first internship helped me learn patience. I made a mistake with a bill that resulted in a slight altercation with a guest. I learnt that I am not just an intern; I am representing the hotel/institution and therefore I have to be alert and take care of little details. I have to manage my reactions and learn how to deal with all kinds of people in different situations. Such experiences help you learn to deal with different temperaments: those who are perpetually happy and the others who are fussy.

Operations in hotel management can be hectic – you have to be flexible. At one point you have little to do and then five minutes to the end of your shift, the restaurant gets busy and you have to work overtime. I had to adjust my attitude, which was bad at first. I realised to do the internship well, I have to like it before I do it. After that it was enjoyable.

There can sometimes be a perception that hospitality is a low-cadre career. How do you deal with the negative perception?

I take pride in my profession because our industry is broad. We learn about operations, management, supervision, with each area creating job opportunities. I can be an accountant, a sales marketer, work in service, at the front office, or in housekeeping; there are so many alternatives in one place. The hospitality industry is growing and this degree is preparing us to take advantage of this growth.

Do you need a certain temperament or personality?

When you visit a hotel, you will be met by smiling faces and employees willing to make your experience memorable. This implies service on the part of the employees which requires a warm personality.

Being on a sports scholarship means you have to maintain a certain grade in academics while being active in hockey. How did you combine your internship with the hockey?

I had to go to my supervisor and tell him my schedule for the week so that I could fit in the trainings and games. If I had a game, say, on a Saturday, I would request to have my off-day on a different day. Sometimes I had to forego that off-day altogether.

I am fortunate to be on a sports scholarship. However, it hasn’t been easy raising the remaining percentage of the school fees. I used my skills in hospitality to bake; the cakes helped offset the fee percentage that I am required to pay. Our coach, Meshack Senge, says that it takes a lion’s heart to have reached this far. He has been a pillar in my journey at Strathmore. He saw potential in me and nurtured it. My part of the bargain was to complete the degree and I am certain I will deliver on that promise.


This article was written by Wambui Gachari.

If you have a story, kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu