"A good leader always leads from the trenches and that is what I am always focussed on"
Senthilkumar Kathiresan, Executive Housekeeper, Dubai International Hotel
Senthilkumar Kathiresan is the Executive Housekeeper of Dubai International Hotel located in Terminals 1 and 3 of the Dubai Airports. He manages all the housekeeping and laundry operations at the hotel. Having been in the hospitality industry for over 16 years, Kathiresan was thrilled when he bagged a job opportunity in Dubai. He has been with Dubai International Hotel since the past 13 years. He talks about his experience and inspirations.
As a young student, I had always dreamt of a metropolitan life and was enamoured by the immaculate cleanliness and orderliness in a hotel. I was thrilled beyond words when I bagged a job opportunity in the glitziest city of the world - Dubai, and worked long and hard to progress on my path. I was a keen observer of how hotels operate; the possible challenges of achieving a sense of perfect calm and harmony in front of the guests – while behind the scenes it is a different scenario! When I visited Dubai as a tourist, I was fortunate to land myself a job in a hotel. I immediately moved here and there was no looking back since. In 2006, I joined the team at Dubai International Hotel. Being in an airport hotel at one of the world’s busiest airports has been exhilarating and challenging at the same time. Everything needs to be done at super speed as our guests are all airport transit passengers, in a rush to check in and rest, or check out and run for their flight. There is never a dull moment in this department!
Motivation must always come from within. I have been motivated by several factors in my life, the most important being – the will to succeed in whatever I do. I also believe that success must not come at the price of burn out. One must be happy at their work place, and achieve a sense of work-life balance. This balance has motivated me to do my best. My family has been my support. They have always pushed me to do better and have been so supportive of the long hours that this career demands. I enjoy my work and that makes it easier to work hard.
I started with small beginnings and big dreams. I was at the grass root level when I joined the industry and worked hard to progress. From a housekeeping trainee back in 2006, I grew into the position of Executive Housekeeper in 2016. Working in the housekeeping department of Dubai International has been exhilarating. All our customers are passengers who are either about to take a flight or have just landed. Some of them are first-time visitors to Dubai, and we must offer the finest first impression of the city. The turnaround time for my team is always unpredictable as we do not have a standard check in and check out time. Passengers check in for a couple of hours of rest between flights, and this can be any time of the day or night. To align my team to this kind of schedule has been an exciting challenge. I cannot be present at the hotel 24 hours, so I have trained my team to function in perfect symphony even when I am not there. My team is motivated and empowered to know what is best for the guest at that time. It is not always easy to be remain motivated at all times, but we have created a great team that works together for a common cause. They have a perfect understanding of their work and are able to stay positive and alert at all times. This, to me is my biggest achievement. A good leader always leads from the trenches and that is what I am always focussed on.
The job – pros and cons
I read that if you don’t impart training to your team members, they won’t be able to replace you. And if no one can replace you, you cannot grow. I believe in training and empowering the team so that everyone can progress and grow. Training my existing team is one of the best parts of my job. It has been said, “In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” And, it is such an immense learning when I impart training sessions. I also enjoy training and spending time with the new housekeepers. They come with enthusiasm, fresh perspective and energy, which is very important in our workplace. It brings in a fresh vibe to the team and makes the team stronger.
Controlling expenses in today’s times when costs are ever increasing is a challenge. Due to their exposure to global travels, customers now expect high standards of luxury and convenience at low costs. Balancing these demands with the suppliers can be a challenge. However, cutting costs should never mean cutting quality, especially when it comes to our department. Another issue is staff retention and keeping up with the latest technologies, especially the use of AI in the hotel industry.
Importance of sustainability
It is important as it helps in reducing carbon footprint and contributing to the environmental preservation. We all need to take steps to conserve resources. Ours has been a resourceguzzling industry, but over the years many hotels are deploying ways to confront its ecological impact. Excessive use of resources at the cost of the environment is no longer an option in the time of climate change. Our hotel, too, has been consistently raising our standards of ecofriendliness to accommodate our duty to the world around as much as to our discerning guests.
We follow the ABCs of housekeeping – standards that embody the essence of fundamental housekeeping. We use manpower and resources effectively, therefore cutting costs – these are the only technologies we use here. No matter what the size of the hotel is, the housekeeping staff is the backbone of your hotel. Without a clean environment for your guests, the chances of repeat business are slim. Moreover, we are in the social media age, where any slip up can go viral on the digital platform. A good business will only survive if the cleaning and management of the rooms is at the highest standard. This is the first thing that we teach our new employees. It doesn’t matter how many stars the hotel has, or how large or small it is, every member of the housekeeping staff should be trained to the highest level of quality and care to achieve the best results. Right from personal hygiene, to their uniform, cleaning materials used, health and safety, fire protocol, and maintenance, we look into every aspect while training newcomers. We always hire employees who are keen to learn and imbibe our work ethics into their DNA.
Being in a large hotel in a crucial location such as ours, it’s only natural that we are always on the lookout for new ways to optimize our processes. Increasing productivity, improving quality and boosting profitability are the leading forces in reinventing a wide range of industries across the U.S., and they are driving the evolution of the cleaning field, as well. The cleaning industry certainly is undergoing massive changes. Innovative cleaning tools and processes are fundamentally altering the way business owners manage their companies, and how employees conduct their day-to-day activities. We are focused on introducing more efficient chemicals that are more environment-friendly. We are looking at debuting robotic vacuums in our hotel – to cut down on manpower so that room attendants no longer need to spend time vacuuming guestroom floors with traditional electric vacuums. Instead, rechargeable battery-operated robotic vacuums are soon going to be the norm.