Welcome to the weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week we chat with Emanuela Setterberg, General Manager of One&Only, The Palm. Emanuela joined One&Only The Palm resort from One&Only Resorts’ Global Dubai Office, where she was Vice President of Operations for nearly six years. She drove success across numerous metrics, including quality, brand service standards, and new openings. Before this role, Emanuela was General Manager of Hotel Bel-Air, Dorchester Collection in California, Managing Director of Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco in Tuscany, Italy, and part of the opening team for Bulgari Hotels & Resorts in Milan, Italy.
sat down with Emanuela to learn about her career path and how she leads The One&Only, The Palm to success as a leading resort in Dubai.
What was your favourite job at school?
I had a few favourites. I liked going to school and learning and especially loved languages, science, philosophy, sports, and arts the most.
What was your first job?
What inspired you to go into hospitality?
My first life change/move was when I was eight years old. I moved to Sweden from Italy. Usually, kids prefer to avoid moving countries due to the significant changes this entails. On the other hand, I was so excited and was looking forward to making new friends, discovering new lands, new schools, etc. After Sweden, we moved to Barcelona when I was 16, and again, though I was sad to leave my friends, I was excited to discover a new place. In addition, my family and I enjoyed travelling together and visiting incredible restaurants in beautiful hotels. At the same time, I have always been fascinated by human behaviours and the story behind each of us. All of that combined, and the 5 languages I had learned by then, created an exceptional interest. When it was time for me to choose my higher education, I realized I wanted to continue to discover the world, learn new ways, see the beauty of the different parts of the world, meet new people and learn their stories. I also realized that creating joy for friends, family, and strangers gave me a fantastic feeling. Therefore, I decided to build my career in luxury hospitality.
What eventually bought you to Dubai?
One&Only brought me to Dubai. One day I received a call from an ex-colleague, who was working at Kerzner then, who told me they were looking for someone who matched my profile perfectly. I have always admired the brand from afar, so working with such an important and beautiful brand was a dream. The cherry on top was the role was based in Dubai, which had been on my mind for some time, even before One&Only called. Needless to say, I accepted straight away. Six years later, I am still here.
How did you come to work for such an incredible brand like Kerzner and The One&Only?
Same answer as above
What are the key elements of your role?
Being a General Manager of one of the most beautiful properties in the world is genuinely thrilling. The position, and the career experiences one makes to become a General Manager of a Resort or Hotel, is incredibly varied. You go from discussing technical issues with a boiler, to a tasting of a new dish, to the development of the asset, to the profitability of a certain department or the hotel. You become quite knowledgeable in many fields of business. Therefore, it is essential to surround yourself with strong experts who are like-minded, passionate, creative, and trustworthy. In a hotel, you must create a strong team with strong leaders who can, in turn, teach, coach, and develop their teams, and all can represent the brand appropriately. As service is the product we sell and is made “a-la-minute” for each individual, everyone plays a crucial part in the guest journey and their perception of the complete experience. Hence, the key elements are leadership (not management), creativity, empathy, quick problem resolution, coaching, planning, and truly caring for your colleagues’ and guests’ wellbeing.
Talk us through your daily routine?
I arrive, say hello to everyone, and head to my office to review the daily numbers from the day before and if there have been any glitches in the night. Then I go to the restaurant and walk around tables and guests at breakfast to ensure our guests are having a good stay and if they need anything or have any feedback for us to improve. Then we have the morning meeting with each department’s representatives with different updates. After that, besides already set meetings, it depends on the day. I might need to give my attention to a particular department or another. In the meantime, I walk around the property to check that the resort is in order. When all of that is done, which usually takes me to around 6 pm, I go back to my office and do admin work until I notice the time, usually late, and I rush home to my daughter and my husband, who wait for me for dinner, unless we have any special events at night.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
I speak from a woman’s point of view, which makes a big difference. Hospitality is a truly international business requiring very long hours and works when the majority is on holiday. To grow, you need to be able to move around the world and be very open-minded, flexible, and adaptable. Hence, if you want to balance work and family life, it is not easy. Nevertheless, moving around the world, and learning different languages, cultures, etc., allow you to grow exponentially as a person and professional. The world becomes small, and change becomes part of your personality, giving you that drive and focus that make you stronger in any situation, personal or otherwise.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
From a business perspective, the best advice on which I have based my focus is from my father long ago, when I was just starting work after university. He told me, “always remember that the best leader is the one who outgrows his need”. This advice says everything. It takes care of being organized, creating proper structure and consistency, developing and coaching your staff, empowering, leading by example, etc.
And the worst?
I can’t recall anything so bad that it burned into my memory. I’ve had many less inspiring leaders in my life, but I learned from them as well.
What are your goals for 2023? First to stay healthy and restart my fitness routine, which I paused due to the high season. Second, to continue driving excellence and, hopefully, make a difference in my guests’ and colleagues’ lives. Creating Joy.
For more information visit: One&Onlyresorts.com