BOH INTERVIEW: St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort's Mahmoud Abulwafa

The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi area director of human resources Mahmoud Abulwafa reveals that he looks beyond technical skills while interviewing candidates

Mahmoud Abulwafa, area director of human resources, The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi.
Mahmoud Abulwafa, area director of human resources, The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi.

The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi area director of human resources Mahmoud Abulwafa reveals that he looks beyond technical skills while interviewing candidates

What is your career background?

My career encompasses more than 25 years of work experience. Having worked for a decade in the construction industry, I later moved to hospitality, in which I have completed almost 17 years. I am now working as the area director of human resources — Abu Dhabi for Marriott International based at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi.

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What are your responsibilities at the hotel?

I lead a team of human resource associates and make sure that the company has associates with the right skills and attitude, who have the opportunity to drive our business forward. In a nutshell, full function of human resources including hotel strategy.

You have been with Marriott/Starwood Hotels for 17 years. What has kept you with the company?

With more than 25 years of comprehensive human resource experience across the UAE and GCC, my need to grow with the company and learn new things has kept me grounded. Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other, and at Marriott, you’re only limited by yourself. With unlimited opportunities to grow, it truly is the best place to work.

What are some of the qualities you look for while hiring and interviewing candidates?

I personally believe it is essential to look beyond the technical skills of each candidate. In fact, those so-called ‘hard skills’ are only part of the picture when it comes to finding the right person for the job. Soft skills such as personal qualities and social attributes makes a potential candidate a strong employee. A candidate can have necessary degrees, skills, and knowledge to do a job, but, after they are hired, they may turn out to be all wrong for the position for which they were hired. The most important aspect is for the candidate to have the right attitude as this cannot be enforced.

How do you motivate your team members and new employees?

People are the main and most important resource of each company, and one of the best ways to motivate your team is to lead by example. You should never dip below the bar you set and expect your team to perform at. Other motivational factors include: empowerment, communication with our associates, encouraging creativity, appreciating your associates, maintaining a good working environment, and most importantly, to celebrate each other’s success. Even the smallest achievements are worth being celebrated and should be celebrated.

What are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome it?

Just in The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi, we have more than 52 nationalities working. Enforcing and educating our associates about the work culture and that we are one family, one team and speak one language is not easy to achieve and requires a lot of team effort and work.

What would you say are the most significant achievements in your career?

The most significant achievement for me would be the conversions of single hotels into complex hotels. Combining workforce, brand values and having one full team to work for complex or multiple hotels is a huge challenge which I thrive in.

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