Ella Blake left school and spent a year at polytechnic followed by another at university. But it was during her OE years in London that she discovered her true passion: hospitality, travel and tourism and looking after the guests in the best hotels in London, and in New Zealand.
Today, at 24, Ella is Front Office Manager at Wellington’s upscale Bolton Hotel, the unique independently-owned establishment famous for its refined service, quiet elegance, excellent dining, and extraordinary family collection of paintings by pre-eminent New Zealand artist Rita Angus.
It’s the ideal place for Ella to apply the skills she honed in the UK, and advance her career on-job by completing ServiceIQ’s National Diploma in Hospitality (Operational Management) – Level 5.
Ella’s journey to the Bolton Hotel all started in London several years ago, where she first got a job in the city’s sophisticated catering scene, a perfect place to learn about high-end food and beverage service.
This led to a role as a butler in a re-vamped five-star Hotel Café Royal, a historic and luxurious sanctuary in Piccadilly whose regular guests once included Winston Churchill dining in the restaurant and Oscar Wilde reclining in the library.
It was in this rarefied setting that Ella learned the secrets of one of the most English of English professions, and discovered the skills that would serve her exciting career today.
Butler training on the job meant she got to do a bit of everything around the hotel: from greeting guests, showing them to their rooms, food and beverage service, putting the finishing touches to a room, through to looking after guest requirements for private dining and private parties.
“We did anything that would make our guests life easier,” says Ella. “The most unusual request was from a guest who wanted all the freshly-laid carpet pulled up for a private party which of course, we did.”
When Ella’s visa expired, she returned to Wellington and got the job at Bolton Hotel. She works alongside the hotel’s Chief Concierge, and oversees a team of reception and duty management staff.
She relishes earning and learning in an industry where some of the most experienced people have inspired and encouraged her to carve out a professional career.
“London was a whirlwind that I thoroughly enjoyed,” says Ella. “The managers I worked under had a massive impact on my work ethic and how I feel about my job. It’s the same at the Bolton. Everyone is motivated because they genuinely care about guest service. They take pride in their work and put their guests first.”
ServiceIQ’s National Diploma in Hospitality (Operational Management) – Level 5 is specially designed for experienced and talented hotel staff ready to take their career even higher. It gives senior people the vital skills, knowledge and capability to be able to manage the hotel’s day-to-day operations, staff and planning, and pull everything together to provide a first-class customer service.
At this stage in her career, Ella says the knowledge and skill she’s gaining from the programme are extremely useful and dovetail perfectly with what she needs in her role.
“Some education programmes can be vague, but this is very practical and relevant to what I’m doing, especially the people management and financial management side of my role” she says.
She says she often finds that she will learn something in the programme and days later a situation will arise at work where she can apply what she has learned.
“For instance, I was recently looking at developing the team through training and based on a structure in the programme material I was able to create a plan.”
There’s no such thing as a typical day in Ella’s job. She starts between 7.00 and 7.30 in the morning and reviews the correspondence and guest logs from the night before. After the team briefing at 9am, she follows up on guest feedback and works in general operations around the hotel. Her afternoons are spent working with team members on development training and new initiatives.
“Bolton Hotel is an independent brand and a lot of care is taken to make sure the right people who understand the business are in the right place.”
Right now, Ella wants to gain her Diploma and to keep on learning, developing a professional career. One day she’d like to manage a property or work in the tourism industry helping to develop guest relations.
Her advice to school leavers considering a role in the fast-growing industry?
“You can always work your way up in hospitality. It’s not a stagnant industry. If you can do the job and you have the passion, you’re pretty much home free. There are always people who can help you and you can train and gain your qualifications earning as you learn. It can be a real career for life.”