Hospitality Professionals Outline their Career Successes in Bid to Inspire Others

Hospitality professionals have been sharing their career successes in a bid to inspire people to both join and then stay in the sector – highlighting the progression and extensive career opportunities afforded by those working in hospitality.

From a group marketing director who started out pulling pints in Wetherspoons, to a group financial controller who began as a banqueting waiter at East Midlands Airport, all have moved up the ranks of hospitality, embracing new opportunities and new experiences to achieve career success.

As part of its #ShareYourSuccess campaign, HOSPA, the Hospitality Professionals Association has been talking to those who’ve progressed in their careers to find out how far they’ve come and what’s inspired them along the way – with a view to showing others there’s no ceiling.

Speaking with Marc Saunders, Director of Marketing & PR at Splendid Hospitality Group, HOSPA asked him what made him recognise the potential for a career in hospitality, to which he said, “I instantly loved the fast-paced environment” in reference to his time at Wetherspoons. He views this initial experience as something that helped him properly appreciate the industry. “Some of the very best managers I’ve worked for started their careers off working in a hotel kitchen or behind a bar,” said Marc. “For me, it’s the grounding to understanding what really makes hotels/restaurants work.”

These sentiments were echoed by Derek Lister, who is Group Financial Controller at Valor Hospitality Partnership having started out as a banqueting waiter: “I soon realised that if you worked hard, enjoyed looking after people and working with others as part of a team you could get on in the industry and have fun doing so. The number of times you see a 21-year-old running a large function for over 300 people and managing more than 30 members of staff is amazing.”

Ali Powell, a business growth consultant who progressed via a graduate programme, with a career that’s included being Head of Global Brands Planning and Trends for IHG, was similarly enthusiastic about the awareness offered by a broad introduction to the sector, saying: “Progressing via a graduate programme sets you up extremely well for a prosperous career. I knew I wanted to work in hospitality, but it enabled me to experience all departments as part of the learning experience – something that’s been enormously beneficial as my working life has evolved. Getting that hands-on experience early on, helps doors open as you choose the path that’s right for you. The great thing about hospitality is that it offers so many doors to choose from!”

HOSPA launched the campaign earlier this year to highlight and celebrate the wealth of opportunity available in the hospitality industry, as it seeks to help people recognise the enormous potential for progression – with an emphasis on grass roots education.

The campaign will see Marc, Derek, Ali and others reach out to their former schools to help try and tap into younger generations, and outline that, far from being a stop gap, hospitality offers a career for life with limitless potential.

When asked what message they would relay to those starting out, Derek highlighted how it’s suitable for all sorts of personalities, saying “It’s a great opportunity to be yourself, and to make people happy whilst making great friends.” Marc agreed on the people element, while also emphasising the variety in the role and again underlining the benefits of starting from the bottom up, saying “Working in hospitality is a ‘people thing’! My advice would be to get involved in different aspects of the business, whether that’s front of house or back of house. Some of the finest leaders in our industry have worked in all parts of the business and understand how it ticks.”

When asked whether more effort was needed to encourage youngsters to join the sector, Marc said: “Yes, and this is going to be the focus in the industry in 2022. Working in this industry can give you flexibility around your personal life and deliver some lifelong skills that will benefit you for the rest of your career. There aren’t many industries that will develop you in this way.”

Derek held a similar view, adding: “It needs to be easier to take people on from colleges and universities.”

Amidst an ongoing staffing crisis, HOSPA fears that, despite it being one of the largest and most successful sectors in the UK, not enough people approach hospitality with a view to staying in it long term. It’s an attitude the association believes needs to change if the industry is to properly overcome its staffing shortages.

Jane Pendlebury, CEO of HOSPA, said: “I’ve said it so many times before, but hospitality really does provide enormous progression potential, and to a level that many other industries simply don’t offer. It’s not just progression either, but the diversity of opportunity as well. Many view hospitality as primarily involving front of house roles, but a vast array of back-office functions are needed too.”

Jane continued: “Marc, Derek and Ali are prime examples of how you can start in one area of hospitality before moving into and then flourishing in another. Having initially started in guest-facing roles, they’re now behind the scenes overseeing marketing endeavours and pulling the financial strings respectively. They’re perfect illustrations of what we’re looking to convey with #ShareYourSuccess, that essentially, when it comes to hospitality, the world really is your oyster.”

The association is still seeking contributors to the campaign, and prospective participants are invited to visit the HOSPA website to sign up, where they will receive an email template to help them form an introduction with their school of choice

Jane Pendlebury concluded: “By reaching out to schools, we’re hoping to sow the seeds of a hospitality career in younger generations in a way that will benefit the industry for years to come. If you’ve got successes on your CV that you’re proud of, then do please come forward and share them with us.”

To find out more about the campaign and to sign up, please visit