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Sat 8 Mar 2008 04:00 AM

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The Beri best

Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri housekeeping assistant Catherine Celzo reveals the secrets behind breaking bed-making records.

Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri housekeeping assistant Catherine Celzo reveals the secrets behind breaking bed-making records.

How long have you worked for Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri?

I came here for the pre-opening stage in mid-February last year. Before that I worked in Emirates Palace, which was my first hotel job. I worked there for just over two years so I knew Abu Dhabi well and was happy to get another job here.

What originally attracted you to working in housekeeping?

As a lady, I wanted to work in housekeeping because it's not only a good job in the present, but also in the future when I have a family; I'll know how to handle all the housekeeping work and look after other people as well. It's a very useful skill. Plus there are good career prospects.

What does your job entail?

Every morning I go to the office to collect my worksheet and check my room allocation for the day. After that we have a briefing from our manager and service leader, where they tell us the previous night's occupancy, occupancy for the day, how many arrivals there are and departures as well, and occupancy for the following day.

Then we hear guests' comments, any preferences they might have, and complaints that have been made, although hopefully there aren't any of those! It's important to get a clear idea of what is going on in the hotel before we start our day's work.

What training have you had since joining Shangri-La?

First we had a workshop about core values, the core values of a Shangri-La employee. Then we had training regarding how to make a bed properly, the standard cleaning sequence for the rooms, how to prioritise when cleaning the rooms, how to deal with lost and found items, how to correctly enter the guest room and so on. Every stage of the cleaning process was covered. We also had to learn how to operate the machines we have to use when cleaning.

Shangri-La is totally different from my experience anywhere else; they will not let staff work without proper knowledge, knowing every detail of the job. They want staff not only to work, but also show the standard of the brand.

What is the most rewarding thing about your job?

Sometimes, even though we have a lot of guests and are very busy, we get compliments from the guests. That makes me happy. They recommend us, or comment on how good our work is.

And it's always good to get positive feedback from the manager as well, to hear that they think you're doing well.

What's the most challenging thing about your role?

I think the hardest thing is when it's busy, and as soon as one guest checks out you have to clean the room right away so it's ready for when the next person checks in.

Sometimes we have demanding guests, who are quite fussy.

Also, when a room has a family staying in it that's quite a challenge. In double or single occupancy, making up the room takes about half an hour. But for a family room it's totally different. There are all sorts of things we include - we have to put in extra things for the kids as well, so that can be a challenge when you're on a tight schedule.

How do you think you have improved during your time here?

Day by day we're all learning, we're practising and improving our skills. For example, regarding the time it takes to make the bed perfectly - when I started it took me 13 minutes, now I can do it in nine. Every day we learn new things because our department conducts training at least twice a week to keep our skills perfect.

Also, when I arrived I was quite shy when dealing with people and now I'm far more confident. I have improved a lot in myself.

What skills do you think a person needs to be a successful housekeeper?

First, a housekeeper should be able to take the initiative, and not always wait around for our service manager to tell them what to do.

Secondly, you have to be focused on your room and be really thorough about everything, so it's perfect for the next guest. And finally I think you need to have a lot of patience as well. You have to start at the beginning, learn step-by-step and keep encouraging yourself. Of course it helps if you are with a hotel like Shangri-La with a good training programme.

What are your future plans?

Well everyone wants to see their career progress. For me, I'm trying my best. We have a lot of Shangri-La properties opening in the future, so there's potential for internal promotion. So I would like to continue and improve my career here.

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