Malsa Shiyam discovered a passion for hospitality at a young age. Fresh out of university, she laid the foundation for her career as a Front Office intern at Cheval Blanc Randheli. In less than ten years, she worked her way up to overseeing the Front Office team at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands.
Hotel Insider: What made you choose a career in hospitality? What inspired you?
Malsa Shiyam: I think hospitality is something I always had within me. My Dad is a huge inspiration and I would consider him one of the most hospitable people that I know. For as long as I can remember, I was always interested in working in the hospitality industry and can still recall when I visited Sun Island with my parents at five years old. My parents were just having a chat at the reception desk with the General Manager and he gave me the opportunity to stand behind the desk and pretend to work. It’s still one of my fondest memories.
Hotel Insider: You started your career as a Front Office intern at Cheval Blanc. Tell us a bit more about that.
Malsa Shiyam: I studied in Male’ until Grade 7 and then moved to Malaysia. I was there for about 7 years where I finished high school and college. After college, I returned to the Maldives and started my internship at Cheval Blanc and primarily focused on the festive season while I was there and that was how my hospitality journey started.
Hotel Insider: Was that when you fell in love with hospitality?
Malsa Shiyam: Yes, I’ve always said that Cheval Blanc was the foundation of my career. My experiences at the resort led me to feel confident in the fact that I wanted to pursue a career in hospitality. I fell in love with Front Office operations right then and there.
Hotel Insider: You also have experience in pre-opening. What does that entail? How is that different from regular operations?
Malsa Shiyam: My first pre-opening experience was at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, and I was so excited. The resort was a long-awaited opening and I find myself appreciative of the team at the time. We were comprised of much smaller teams, compared to now, and the bond that we shared truly can’t be broken. We learned together and came up with ideas together which built a strong foundation for the operations of the resort across all departments.
Hotel Insider: What were some of the highlights of your career?
Malsa Shiyam: As I eluded to earlier, my internship at Cheval Blanc was most certainly a highlight. Following that experience, my first proper job was at One & Only (Reethi Rah). I was a part of the front office team and learned a lot at the resort itself. I was there for about two years and continued to grow throughout. My next challenge was when I moved to St.Regis. That was my first Marriott property, and while it did challenge me it also provided me with profound learning opportunities. That was the beginning of my career with Marriott and that really shared my view on hospitality. There was this one book I read while I was there that really stood out for me. It’s called Excellence Wins by Horst Schulze, who is the Founding President of the Ritz-Carlton Company. At the time, The Ritz-Carlton brand was not represented in the Maldives, however, I knew once it did, I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be part of its first Ladies and Gentlemen, and that was the beginning of my journey here.
Hotel Insider: What are your current responsibilities as Front Office Supervisor?
Malsa Shiyam: As Front Office Supervisor, I oversee six staff and assist the team with the day-to-day operations as well as any operational challenges that come up during the day. What I enjoy the most is guiding the team to strive for success because if there’s no one to motivate them, they may not feel empowered to achieve their goals. I always try to guide them and support them by keeping a positive attitude and energy in the office.
Hotel Insider: What do you like most about your role?
Malsa Shiyam: I think it would be dealing with people, guiding the team and working with the guests because at the end of the day there’s a lot of teamwork that goes on behind the scenes to ensure a guest is happy with their stay. I enjoy working across different departments and having that connection with the whole team; it is what keeps me going.
Hotel Insider: What’s a typical workday like for you?
Malsa Shiyam: I like to start my day very early. As you know, Fari Islands is a multi-island archipelago so we have an island campus dedicated to housing the employees of the hotels. I like to wake up early and catch the ferry while listening to music. That time for myself is very important for me to start the day off right. I tend to arrive earlier than my team and then come to the resort to have my coffee, which is very important! Before everyone comes to the office, I get ready for the daily operations and cross-check what we have for the whole team.
Hotel Insider: You started your career as an intern and have worked your way up. What do you hope to achieve next in your career?
Malsa Shiyam: As a next step in my career, I like to expand my skillsets as learning is something that I’m always very eager to do. I try to learn something new every day and at The Ritz-Carlton, something that I truly admire is our service values. One of my favourite service values is number eight, which is “I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow”. With that being said, I like to always learn from my managers who have always provided guidance and mentorship. I believe I get to follow the leadership from my Front Office Manager and Assistant Front Office Manager and hope to follow in their footsteps.
Hotel Insider: We are seeing more women in the hospitality industry now than before, and in high positions too. This wasn’t the case even a few years ago. What are your thoughts on this?
Malsa Shiyam: Yes, I think the hospitality industry has changed a great deal over the past years, especially in regards to women and gender equality. It makes me so happy to see so many opportunities for women now, especially in leadership roles.
Hotel Insider: What’s your advice to women who want to choose a career in hospitality?
Malsa Shiyam: Hospitality for me is a passion that I chose to pursue. But for women who want to pursue a career in hospitality, I would say it’s never too late to start something new. If you have the passion for it, the right mindset, and the can-do attitude, I think you can do wonders. At the end of the day, the right mindset and the right attitude will get you to where you want to be.