Marketing & Communications Manager, Hotel Jen, Male, Maldives
This time around, we catch up with Nina – she leads marketing at Hotel Jen but wears many hats and has a background in interior design, so you know there’s a story here. As a kid, she was a tomboy who hung out with older male relatives and was drawn to her father’s carpentry and design work. She was also a netball star and is still into fitness in a big way. Nina has a baby now, but she works just as hard as any of her colleagues. She believes young women can make it in hospitality as long as they are ready to be fully committed.
Hotel Insider: You studied interior design and marketing but you opted for a career in the latter. You’re with Hotel Jen in Male now, and it seems like there might be a good story behind your choice.
Nina Mohamed: Yes, it’s a pretty strange journey to be honest [laughs]. I was always into design and as a kid I really loved art. My mum wasn’t very pleased that I had a passion for the creative, arty side of things. She was an accountant who worked for a big company, Horizon Fisheries. She was very practical and would push me towards accounting and business – art was pretty much a waste of effort for her.
And when we chose ‘streams’ [of study] we weren’t really aware of the opportunities that came with each. Like, if we studied science, we had little idea of what doors it might open for us besides maybe becoming a doctor. Or if we did business an accountant. We had so little information back then.
Hotel Insider: Yeah, we didn’t have the internet, kids take that for granted now.
Nina Mohamed: [laughs] Yeah. Well, I always kept art as an option though, just in case. My dad was actually a carpenter and he’d design furniture and interiors. He did quite a bit of work for Seagull, too, back in the day. And I think I got the passion for art and design from him.
Hotel Insider: Did your dad work at home? Like, did he have a carpentry studio?
Nina Mohamed: Yes. And my mum used to say I ran around with a hammer and nails like a tomboy [laughs]. I hung out with my relatives who were mostly boys, we climbed the roof and the trees in the yard. Then my grandfather had an accident and my dad stopped working at home. Not related to carpentry, mind. But my dad would still bring over blueprints for various projects and I found them really interesting.
So, to please my mother, I did an ABE diploma in marketing because my mother really wanted me to soon after completing my O’ Levels. Then, I had to move to Malaysia and I continued with my diploma. When my family moved to Sri Lanka, I went and enrolled in the Northumbria University in Colombo and studied interior design.
Hotel Insider: That’s a really bold move.
Nina Mohamed: Yeah, but you know, I think by then my parents, my mum especially, had realised that you can’t always be controlling your children, you need to let them make their own choices and get on with their lives. So yeah, I finally studied interior design.
Hotel Insider: And you took part in a management course taught by Harvard, which looks pretty impressive on your CV. But is any of it applicable in the work you do? Would you recommend it to someone following a similar career path as you?
Nina Mohamed: Yeah, that was after I’d joined Shangri-La. The course was very in-depth, and there were many modules with real life case studies that were presented by our professors. You had to find out how to apply what you’ve learnt for each module. And in areas where you’d scored low you had to demonstrate that you could apply your knowledge at work and get results. It was very interesting, really. And I’d recommend it, of course.
Hotel Insider: Cool. So, when you came back to the Maldives you found a job pretty quickly. At Clique College, right?
Nina Mohamed: Yeah, I was with them for a while until I found a better opportunity at V Media.
Hotel Insider: What was it like working in media? Is it very different from the work you’re doing now?
Nina Mohamed: Yes, though I was in sales and marketing, it was a totally different ballgame. I’d be coming up with programme proposals and trying to sell airtime. I think my biggest achievement with V Media was Euro 2012, we hit way above the sales target.
Hotel Insider: Oh, cool. How would you describe your role here?
Nina Mohamed: I’d say it’s not easy since I’m a one-person department handling marketing, PR, digital marketing, social media marketing, graphics and photography. And to an extent I also lead the CSR efforts here. As this is a small property, my role isn’t specialised – we multitask. It gives me certain advantages – I know quite a bit more about hotel operations than most in my position.
Hotel Insider: That’s a lot! We also wanted to ask you what the culture here [at Jen] is like, like is it accommodating to a woman in a position like yours?
Nina Mohamed: Well, it’s just three ladies in the management meetings every day [laughs]. And I really liked it when we had a woman GM. I haven’t ever felt discriminated against because of my gender here. I think this is a good place for a woman to work and build a career.
Hotel Insider: We know you’re incredibly busy here but do you do anything besides this? Any hobbies?
Nina Mohamed: Yes! I’m a fitness instructor and I’ve been working in fitness since 2000. My friend and I brought ‘pound fitness’, a kind of drum-based fitness to the Male fitness market. We had a good launch in 2016. And I used to play netball. I was actually on the national team, under 16, under 18 and under 21.
Hotel Insider: That’s incredible. Tell us more!
Nina Mohamed: [laughs] But I had to quit [netball] because of a back injury. Around this time, Sheri Fitness [of Sheri Salon] was conducting some fitness classes. A friend and I attended those classes during our time off.
So, later, when Heat [fitness centre] was about to open, Shifana gave me the opportunity to become part of their team. We were the first batch in Male who did Les Mills training programmes. We brought in a dance programme, weight training and kickboxing. And while I was in Malaysia, I found the time to take classes for people. It was very satisfying and also an additional source of income.
Hotel Insider: That’s awesome. And before we part, do you have a word of advice to young women who want to make it in hospitality?
Nina Mohamed: Hospitality is not an easy industry – you have to have commitment. I feel that there are women who get started in hospitality, and slowly rise through the ranks but then at some point they’ll start a family and leave. I really think you can succeed if you compartmentalise your life. I have a baby too, but I work as hard as anyone here. So, like I said, you give your full commitment – it might take some time for you to shine but you’ll get there eventually.
Hotel Insider: That’s great, thanks a lot, Nina.