We Are Our Own Competition

“We Are Our Own Competition”, says Rosemary Mugambi – Alumni Hotel Management – Kenya Utalii College

Rosemary Mugambi had never planned to join Utalii. On finishing secondary school she yearned to be a journalist, when she met the then principal of Kenya Utalii College who told her about prospects of an exciting career in hotel management if she joined Utalii. “I knew nothing about hospitality but I took on his challenge.”

She remembers her first three months of training working in hotels around town for familiarization beginning with Jacaranda Hotel. “I was shocked, there were no ceremonies or orientation, I was just handed a sack of potatoes and asked to peel. I was mortified but did it anyway.” When she joined others at the school in the evenings to exchange experiences, she recalls how an international student had spent the whole day cleaning toilets and how he wanted to go back home immediately. “After the experience I vowed to be the best.”

She emphasizes as important the fact that students were well prepared for a career to be spent dealing with people from different cultures. Courses in foreign languages and exposure to other cultures served them well. “from the moment you entered the school, you knew the sort of world we were being trained for. There was Swiss efficiency, order and discipline.”

Rosemary Mugambi also recalls feeling special and privileged. “The school was well kept ad the meals were stuff of a four star hotel.” She remembers how students from other schools were resentful of #KenyaUtalii students. “We were dropped off and picked up in the best bus in those days, and we even had an allowance, something that was unheard of in Kenya then. That treatment made us feel like somebodies, no matter where we had come from.”

Rosemary Mugambi joined Kenya Utalii College in 1984, at a time when the Industry was taking off a great revenue earner in Kenya and when there were no women managers in the industry. “We were given the challenge to be the first ones. During my interview for the position at Serena, I respectfully dared the interviewing board to take me if they were serious about employing women in management positions. They did so and it has been one milestone after another at Serena.

She admits though, that it was initially difficult being a young woman working in a heavily male dominated environment. “I had to go through a lot of resistance, even some harassment, but I had a professional background to back me up.”

She says that she owes who she is today to the training she received at Utalii. “One thing I know is that we worked extremely hard then but also partied hard. We were our own competition and the students before us put the bar so high that it was a challenge to break their record. The discipline and consistency I learned has since opened many doors for me. I loved every experience at Utalii.”

Rosemary Mugambi was the first-ever woman Lodge Manager for Serena in Samburu, which she remembers as some of the most exciting years of her life. She was also based at the Serena Beach Hotel and Spa holding several positions as Manager of Human Resources, Food and Beverages and Rooms Division before moving to Head Office as Group Sales Manager. She is currently the Sales and Marketing Director of the Serena Group. She has worked for the Serena Group for twenty three years, starting her career there straight out of Utalii after four years of studies in Hotel Management.