Career Path: Meet Laura Kay Brown, spa manager, Fairmont The Palm, Dubai
Laura Kay Brown talks to Hotelier Middle East about her journey inthe industry, mentors and her big break
We catch up with Fairmont The Palm, Dubai spa manager, Laura Kay Brown, who takes us through the key points in her career and shares some advice for budding professionals in her field.
I was studying hospitality management at Oxford Brookes University and when I was there we did a semester in Hong Kong. As part of the hospitality studies there, they actually study spa management. When I started to learn about spa I decided that rather than becoming a front office manager of an F&B manager, I was going to completely change what I was doing and try the spa aspect of the hotel instead. I finished my degree and went to work as a spa receptionist at a hotel called The Berkeley on Hyde Park Corner in London. While I was there, I grew up to assistant manager and then when the Bvlgari Hotel opened down the road, I moved there to do the opening. From there, I moved to the Armani hotel in Dubai. I was there for two years and I’ve been at the Fairmont The Palm, Dubai for three years.
I feel like everything is a big break actually. When you’re in your career, each and every step has its own successes but I think the big one was when I moved to Dubai because in Dubai you get thrown into more responsibility. Even if you’re not ready. When I was at the Armani, I got the chance to get much more responsibility than I knew how to handle and then I handled it and I learned and grew. In London you need to stay as a spa receptionist for several years before you grow to a supervisor whereas here they give you the opportunity. If it all goes well, it’s great because you learn a lot.
The first manager I had at the Berkley was very inspirational to me as my first mentor. Then when I moved to the Bvlgari, the spa manager there was amazing. I’ve been lucky because I’ve had a lot of leaders who’ve spent a lot of time teaching me, inspiring me but today my biggest mentor is Lindsay Madden-Nadeau, our global director for wellbeing for Fairmont, Raffles and M Gallery. She’s a person who whenever you meet her, you have to have a pen and paper. You come away with so many ideas, questions and things to look up. She’s definitely my mentor. She manages to
keep me looking at the trends, step back from the operations and think about what’s coming next year, what are the trends, the strategies and that all really comes from her.
The challenge in spa is to be taken seriously by the other departments in the hotel. It’s always about showing everyone what you’re doing. We’re doing so much and working so hard but if no one knows about it, they would think that you’re just relaxing in the spa all day. You have to go to all the briefings with the department heads so that everyone understands what we do. It’s important because when you need something like a new treatment bed, everyone’s on the same page.
In my team I’ve got 23 people and 10 of them I’ve promoted within the same team. One of my team members was an assistant manager, now they’re a manager in the Maldives. You give people a chance to grow and have a better salary, they can send more money home to their family, then their family can go to a better school. There’s so much knock-on from what I do. It’s actually really impacted me because I’m making a difference. If you put all of your effort into your team, they really benefit.
I would say a few things. One is start every day with a fresh outlook. Especially in hotels it’s such a busy place and when you’re busy things can get stressful. If you start everyday as if you’ve forgotten about yesterday it makes it much easier for you. The second thing I would say is to invest as much time as you can into the people that work with you because once you’ve done that, they do the rest. Each and every single thing we do for our colleagues, they give it back to the guest in the end. Finally, don’t be tempted to fill a position with someone who isn’t right for the role just because you’re under pressure.