“Sun Siyam already has women in powerful positions now and they are considered pillars of this company as they have put in so much work and determination to ensure that this company stays on top.” - Aisha Faiz, Chief Operating Officer, Sun Siyam Group
In light of International Women’s Day 2021, a day marked out to recognise and understand the challenges that women face, as well as to celebrate the achievements and successes of women everywhere, we sat with Chief Operating Officer of Sun Siyam Group, Aisha Faiz, to ask a couple of burning questions. In this exclusive interview she gave us some amazing insights into her role within Sun Siyam Group, her background, plus career and life lessons as a mother, and what she hopes to achieve at Sun Siyam.
In December 2020, you were appointed as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Sun Siyam Group, a brand that is resolutely part of the luxury segment. What role will you play in its repositioning?
A key focus for me is to ensure the Sun Siyam Group operates in a way that is efficient, cost effective and successful. I am mostly involved in Finance, HR functions, and purchasing operations of the day-to-day activities at Sun Siyam Group. Similarly, developing our staff is a top priority. When customers speak to a representative of Sun Siyam, if the staff has little experience, poor training, or are not happy with the company, it shows in service. So, we want our staff to be well trained, to have the adequate knowledge. I also believe we have a large talent pool in our local community, and giving opportunities and development for our people is key in the success of our company. Employees are our biggest asset.
What are some defining moments or pivotal points in your career that reflects on stepping into your new role?
I was working alongside the Managing Director of Sun Siyam when the travel agency first opened its doors in 1990. Once Sun Travels & Tours became an established travel company, I wanted to focus on personal growth and development. So after successfully completing my BSc Degree from Marymount Manhattan College in New York; and while finishing my MBA, I also worked in a Travel and Trade company in Singapore for about 11 years as a Director.
I had spent more than 20 years living and working overseas, so I wanted time with my family and loved ones, especially during this difficult time. I wanted to give back part of my experience to my country, and to the company which I was a part of from its inception.
What is your opinion about women’s empowerment in the Maldives? Are women provided with adequate liberty and opportunities at workplaces, especially within the tourism industry?
We as women, have what I like to call an abundance of emotional intelligence in addition to our capabilities and knowledge. Because of this, we tend to know how to create and maintain relationships, empathize with people, and make well-informed decisions. I think women have come a long way and now you see more and more women in leadership roles. I do believe that the tourism industry has changed significantly and you see more women in male-dominated roles which is a big step forward. We still have a lot to accomplish and I am sure we are paving the way for the future by showing the younger generation that there are no longer gender specific roles in any work place.
Do you think the tourism and hospitality industry in the Maldives is a gender-dominated vocation?
Back in the day, we might have said this is true. However, I do not think that this is a statement we can repeat now. We see women in powerful positions in this industry now.
How do you achieve work-life balance?
I am a very organised and meticulous person. Work-life balance is essential, especially when you are in a position as this. I practice efficiency; when I wake up and go to the office, I make sure I complete everything that I need to do that day without interruption or distraction. Focus, organisation and structure are key. By the end of the day, I have my work planned and organised ahead, so I know exactly what needs to be done when I arrive at the office the next day. This way I am able to go home at the end of the day, take time for myself, and spend time with family.
Is it (still) necessary as a woman nowadays to decide between career and children, and what advice would you give to young women in this regard?
I do not think it is necessary. I think we women are so strong. We are masters at multi-tasking, we can do anything; be a mom and a powerful business woman at the same time. I raised my daughter, I worked, studied, cooked and cleaned – I did it all. It’s all about the will to achieve things. If you train your brain right, sky's the limit!
It took a lot of experience, hard work and sacrifice to get to where I am in my life. Being a mother and a passionate cook myself, I don’t think having children and family responsibilities should hinder women in any opportunities for growth.
Our society needs improvement in balancing work and life. I want that stability for working women, so I always tell my team to be as efficient as you can, by managing time.
Sun Siyam is fortunate enough to have the support of seasoned female employees who have been with us from the start and are now in top-level positions of the group. I hope to see more women and local women filling up top positions in the industry.
How is Sun Siyam Group empowering women?
Sun Siyam has been giving a lot of opportunities for women. There is no discrimination and no limit as long as they are right for the job, and have the knowledge and capability. Sun Siyam already has women in powerful positions now and they are considered pillars of this company as they have put in so much work and determination to ensure that this company stays on top. We do not have gender specific roles in Sun Siyam and I think in the future, we will see more women in powerful positions.
What are you most optimistic about for the hospitality industry in the years to come?
It is great to see young people showing interest in working in the industry. Inevitably, the future of tourism lies with the up-and-coming youth of the country. I’m excited to see what they have in store for us. We are also seeing a lot of local talent in middle management and in high-ranking positions of the industry.
This is where hiring and having local talent present at our resorts prove as an advantage. Apart from giving young people the opportunity to learn, it gives guests the chance to interact with a local, who is showing their home to a foreign visitor – it brings a layer of authenticity. For a tourist, a conversation with a proficient local, tops one with a foreigner every time.
What is your overall goal for Sun Siyam? What do you hope to achieve?
Sun Siyam is a company dear to my heart. My hope for the future is that Sun Siyam becomes one of the most successful and leading companies not only locally, but also recognised internationally. We are diversifying, expanding, and I believe we have a bright future. Growth and success are never by mere chance, it is with dedication, passion and an unbreakable team willing to take risks and work together. That is what I hope to accomplish – to build this company up together with our loyal and dedicated people.
The International Women’s Day is around the corner and if you had one piece of advice to give someone starting a career in tourism and hospitality, what would it be?
Hard work, determination and passion are the keys to success. Be efficient, productive and strive to be the best and nothing can stand in your way! Be the example of success and integrity. Time is of the essence. Don't lose sight of time!
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