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When it comes to cool jobs, working for a luxury travel brand has its fair share of perks. But it's not all glamour, as our Training and Development Manager Sarah Dunning can attest!
In her years working for Virgin Limited Edition Sarah has braved camping in the bush with lions for company and a close encounter with a cheetah, to name just a few adventures.
Sarah's job is ensuring service standards exceed our guests expectations no matter how remote the location, and this means she often has to spend weeks at a time with the teams at all our hotels. We asked Sarah to fill us in.
How did you get your job? I visited Ulusaba privately as a guest and on my return I kept asking Lyn Weimer (People Development Director) if she had any jobs for me as I wanted to work for this great company. It took almost seven years, but persistence does pay off! Lyn said they were recruiting a Training & Development Manager and would I be interested in applying? A nanosecond later I had my CV in the post to her!
What's your favourite part of the job?
Training of course! Whether it's in a 1-1 session or in a group, I love working with people to help them learn and develop.
It's great see the results when team members apply what they've learned. It's all reflected in the Virgin Limited Edition service style that we aim to deliver.
What's the most challenging part?
We operate in some far flung locations so I frequently jump off a plane (metaphorically speaking) and get into the swing of training as soon as I arrive. Different time zones and climates can be challenging and if you throw in the occasional lost luggage, it gets really interesting.
Any close calls with nature?
I should briefly mention my accommodation at Mahali Mzuri in Kenya. I lived in a tent for five weeks but it was nowhere near as glamorous as the real tents for guests, with a separate loo and shower outside. As the lions and hyenas paid us frequent visits overnight I elected not to venture out to answer the call of nature (either call for that matter). On the plus side I didn't have any TV or radio for the while time I was away bliss!
Surely you're forgetting something?
Oh yes, the cheetah! I was on a game drive at Mahali Mzuri sat next to our guide and we spotted a cheetah lurking in
the area. It approached the vehicle, which isn't that unusual, but then suddenly it jumped up onto
the bonnet of the car and was standing less than 1 metre away from me. It only stood there for about 20 seconds but it felt like a lot longer than that!
How important is the local culture?
Part of our Virgin Limited Edition philosophy is to employ locally where we operate and this is something that I'm really passionate about. We have some of the most beautiful and aspirational hotels and retreats in the world but it's our teams which set us apart. The local team members have so much culturally to share with our guests and we all learn from them every day. Their role is vital in delivering an authentic and truly local experience and it's such a joy to read the feedback about this and how it makes our guests experience so memorable.
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