Rosemary Mugambi rose through the ranks to achieve career success. As Regional Sales and Marketing Manager for Serena Hotels East Africa, she oversees the portfolio of one of East Africa’s distinctive brands in the hospitality industry. She joined the company 33 years ago.
Mugambi’s father was born in Meru on the slopes of Mount Kenya and was a cook in Rumuruti and her mother worked from home.
As Mugambi’s eldest sister got a job as a secretary in Machakos, “it was like a transfer to Timbuktu,” she says.
It was in the early 1960s.
“My sister wanted not to be alone so she asked mom if I could stay with her.”
Mugambi went to Machakos, then to Kampala and back to Nairobi.
When she was fresh out of high school at Loreto Convent Msongari in 1982, her first choice was to become a journalist, but while attending the newly opened Utalii College, which offered courses taught hospitality, she was fascinated by the lecture given by the head of the college on tourism, so she joined in.
Her first internship at Utalii was at the Jacaranda Hotel in Nairobi’s Westla suburb nds.
“I was dressed smartly,” she recalls, laughing. And the manager sent them to the kitchen.
“I was shown a sack of potatoes and asked to get to work with a knife – not even a potato peeler. This was my first day as a Intern and I returned to college with calloused hands while the rest of the class had more interesting work experiences to share.”
Things didn’t get any easier. The manager assigned rooms to clean and beds to make.
“I learned an important lesson here – if you want to be a great manager, start at the bottom.”
“You can’t manage the kitchen if you don’t know how the supply chain works. That’s also when I started to understand the staff and appreciate what they do.”
Success takes teamwork – from the room steward to the chef to working with the communities around the national parks and reserves.
“It’s as simple as the bed. If the bed is not made properly, the guest will be unhappy. If the room isn’t done right, the property reflects that. So what am I selling if not this?
“Treat employees right to get the best out of them. You may have the best facilities, products and the latest technology – but your most valuable asset is your employees .”
It was in Mombasa Serena that she first received a major promotion in the early 1990s.
“I was asked to transfer to Mombasa from Samburu Serena where I was assistant manager Serena as Human Resources Manager. I seriously thought management was going to fire me and told the Group Human Resources Manager so. At the time, industrial relations in Serena Beach were difficult and the staff union was in a confrontational situation. But it turned out, that the bosses had noticed that I had a people skills I didn’t even know I had.”
“Covid brought home the fact that the local market matters ‘ says Muga mbi. While many facilities were closed or downsized, Serena survived.
“Our local customers who know us and have been our customers since before Covid have stayed with us.”
“My dream is for Africans who travel Africa,” the hotelier continues. “And tell our own stories.”
“Serena has offices in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique Be able to travel to these countries easily.”
Mugambi’s job involves long hours in the office, meetings, global marketing for East Africa and hitting sales targets.
” When the stress builds up, I walk away, take a deep breath and pray. I say to myself, “I’m not alone”. I have a strong team. And it’s important to learn to trust God,” she says.
Mugambi is very involved with her church and family and takes walks to keep fit.
She plans to write about her journey in the tourism industry che.