Soneva Jani is a name synonymous with nature and enhanced by the caress of luxury. From its majestic overwater villas to its equally striking lagoon of crystal clear waters fringed by pristine beaches and islands blanketed in lush tropical greenery, it promises an azure spectacle that inspires a sense of calm. Fathimath Shaazleen, the Resort Manager shares her experiences that helped shape her as an industry stalwart, the biggest challenges faced and insights into the ultra-luxurious hotel brand.
Tell us about yourself, the challenges you face as a working woman and how you overcome them?
Born in Lhaviyani Naifaru, Maldives, I spent my early childhood there with my family. After completion of my primary education, I moved to the capital city Malé where I continued my education and received a National Diploma in Hospitality Management. From then on I started working at various resorts. My first job was a telephone operator at a resort, and here I am today. While working, I completed my MBA in 2016. In January 2020, I got the opportunity to attend the General Managers program at the prestigious Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
The road has not always been easy, however I would not say it was because I am a woman, especially at the beginning of my career. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunities to learn and grow. The opportunities come and at the end of the day, hard work and dedication become the factors of success.
The challenge came much later. Having a child at a very critical time of my career, I did face rejection. I had many interviews, but companies were reluctant to offer me a job, because I have a one year old child. Then Soneva happened. This company not only offered me a job, they also allowed me to take my son with me to the resort.
I believe there will always be challenges. It is the decisions we make with the opportunities available that enable us to overcome these challenges.
What has been your source of inspiration?
My biggest source of inspiration to join this industry was the beauty of the Maldives.
Did you always know that you wanted to be a Resort Manager and General Manager? If so, why?
I have always believed that I am in this industry to further my career, and not only as a series of jobs to help me get by. Being a General Manager has always been my goal and I believe the Resort Manager position is a much needed stepping stone to get there.
Are there any Resort/General Managers or mentors that you worked with in your career that you attribute some of your success to?
I truly believe that all the General Managers I have worked with, in one way or the other, have contributed to my learning and growth. Yes, each one of them has played an important role as a mentor, and my experience with each one of them has contributed to my success.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
Working in a resort is challenging and requires some long hours, yet the surrounding is highly rewarding. I am fortunate to be able to have my son living with me at the resort. I try to get out of the routine and engage with some fun activities, be it a quick swim or a walk in our organic garden with him. These moments have become both the norm and the highlights of our days.
Living in a resort also creates a community feeling, the team becomes more than colleagues and becomes lifelong friends and family. Taking part in staff activities is always fun.
Wherever you are it is important to be in touch with family and friends. Today we live in a world where there is no limit to the different mediums available for a quick call or a short text message.
Personal development is an important aspect for me and it is important to give time and attention to myself. I love reading and studying new subjects which will broaden my knowledge and experience. We must never stop learning and always strive for growth.
Everyone is talking about the need for hotels to become more sustainable. Tell us some of the ways that Soneva Jani stack up on the sustainability front?
I think Soneva has come a long way in this front. Be it getting rid of plastic bottles and not using
straws, measuring carbon foot print or achieving zero carbon as a company. For us, waste management has become an art, finding creative ways to deal with our food waste, glass bottles, styrofoam, etc. It is good to see many companies now participating in this journey.
Soneva is all about the “Slow Life” movement. What is the meaning behind it?
I am delighted that you mentioned SLOW LIFE as a movement, as this is exactly what we want to achieve. SLOW LIFE comes from Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wellness, Learning, Inspiring, Fun Experiences. This is the guiding philosophy behind all what we do as a brand. Starting from the very initial stages of design and building of our resorts, sustainability is at the very core. Wellness is an equally important part for us in everything we offer at the resorts. Healthy options are the staples on our menus. We want every experience we offer to our hosts and guests to be inspirational and they take away a better understanding of the culture and the surrounding we live in.
What would you consider to Soneva Jani’s USP, which sets it apart from the competitors?
The design of the villas, the beauty of the natural island, the experiences we offer, and the renowned concept is unique and is what sets Soneva Jani apart from our competitors. The water slides and the retracting roof are the first things which come to mind. For me, it is also the team behind the unforgettable service that makes us unique and distinctive.
In what ways do you engage with the community?
We do a lot of work with local schools from nearby islands. Inviting young students who are about to enter the work force, we show them the opportunities available at the resorts. We also organize and take part in other activities such as children’s activities, island clean ups, marine awareness sessions, and much more. We also take these opportunities to educate students and parents
about our sustainable practices. It is important for every individual to do their bit to conserve the environment,and the best place to start is educatingyoung minds on the importance of the environment.
Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself, your career, and your experiences?
This industry has taught me a lot and has become a part of me. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had in reaching this height. I can only thank all of my colleagues and anyone I worked with during my career. I wouldn’t be here if not for the support and encouragement I have received
from my family, friends and colleagues. I am humbled that I have inspired many young girls to join this industry. It is my dream to see even more women thrive in the hotel industry.
“I am delighted that you mentioned SLOW LIFE as a movement, as this is exactly what we want to achieve. SLOW LIFE comes from Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wellness, Learning, Inspiring, Fun Experiences. This is the guiding philosophy behind all what we do as a brand.”
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