Interview with Syed Rizvi, ‘The Changing Faces of Hospitality’

Wednesday, June 05, 2024. 1:18pm

Read the interview below:

The Changing Faces of Hospitality, An interview with Syed Rizvi

Hospitality is an industry which is changing and evolving and there are now many path breaking opportunities within the industry. The positive development of the industry is ongoing, even in the face of adversity.

We are all acutely aware of the staff shortage crisis experienced within the industry for the last number of years. There has been a significant decline in the numbers of students embarking on a career in hospitality. This is due to long standing preconceptions around harsh work environments, long unsociable work hours and poor pay conditions. We understand these issues, and many are adopting a solution-based approach to the recruitment and retention of staff. It is an optimal time to reinvent the industry and to not only make changes within our businesses but also to challenge these negative preconceptions.

I recently met with Syed Rizvi, who has recently been promoted to General Manager at Castleknock Hotel, which is part of the FBD Hotels & Resorts. He shares with me his inspirational story, of how he came from Karachi in Pakistan to Ireland as a young man to study hotel management and is now the general manager of the prestigious and premium ‘Castleknock Hotel’. He talked me through his employment history and career progression highlighting valuable learning curves experiences. We also discussed the concept of work/ life balance and the importance of having a solid and accessible support system for our employees.

Syed is an alumnus of Shannon College of Hotel Management. His father noticed an advertisement in a Pakistani newspaper for the college and encouraged his 20-year-old son to travel aboard to study. Syed graduated in 1997 after 4 years of study, intensive practical training, and placement in the UK. To this day, Shannon remains a highly reputable institute of education, where students can obtain undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

Modules include business management, languages, commerce, and employment law. Connections were made and opportunities were seized from his time spent at college.

Syed was fortunate to get placement at the Nuremore Hotel a well-established, award-winning hotel in the picturesque countryside in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan as part of his work placement during his 2nd & 4th year with the college. This experience lay the foundations for rest of his professional journey as his employers became mentors, teaching him valuable lessons of the business and offered Syed a taste of all aspects of hotel management, from weddings, corporate events and golf links and other amenities.

After completing college Syed then worked at this hotel for over 8 years, in the role of assistant manager. He shares that he thoroughly enjoyed his time spent here and was a proud to be part of the hotel and team of staff. This property was for example used by the FAI as a place for the Irish team to stay at which would have been something of a departure from previous experiences of Irish football teams. The team at the time was managed by Jack Charlton, who was extremely popular with both fans and the media. Given they regularly held press conferences at the hotel, this helped in creating awareness for the property in numerous ways, something not lost on Syed. He then moved to the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel and was the Conference & Banqueting Manager and was there for 2 years.

His next role took him to the Great Southern Hotel as Deputy Manager where he completed two years there fine tuning his skillset. In this operational role he acquired skills and knowledge which were transferable throughout his career, such as stocktaking, quality control and cost-effectiveness alongside the operational running of the day-to-day business of a bustling airport hotel.

“My time spent working in Great Southern Hotel Dublin airport was challenging, it was something different, something new, but it was without doubt a valuable learning experience. The pressure was on, but I found the work very interesting.”

He then moved to the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel as Operation Manager and then Director of Operations. This luxury, prestigious family run business, holds corporate events and conferences and high-profile weddings. Customer experience and exceptional service is at the heart of this hotel’s ethos.

“I always wanted to work in a place where the focus was the customer, somewhere I felt proud to me part of. Hospitality is all about people, it is a people industry”.

After seven years in Fitzpatrick’s Castle Hotel, Syed decided to explore new career prospects and roles and an opportunity arose at the Gibson hotel, where Syed was employed as Operation Manager for over 2 years. The Gibson hotel caters for corporate events and its location attracts concert goers, large corporate groups and tourists wanting to explore the city.

Syed shares that throughout his career he continued to grow professionally acquiring new skill sets. A career in hospitality does not confine you to specific role and the more experience gained gives your greater insight into the direction you want your career to take.

Everywhere I have worked has thought me something new, each valuable learning curves. I always aim to learn what needs to be learned and then progress to something new and different.

Syed started working as Hotel Manager at ‘Castleknock Hotel’ and is now General Manager. The transition was challenging but made easier by past experiences and learning and Syed ability to show initiative and just ‘get on with the job’. They have a good support system for staff regarding their health and wellbeing and a ‘people centred’ working environment. The work/life balance is a key component of this progressive system which values the right for staff to have a life outside of their work commitments. They have built a positive and valued relationship with the team the customer and of course their local community.

“The industry must re-evaluate itself, and how it interprets the work/life balance. This is the key to where the industry must go. At Castleknock hotel, we ensure that employees get weekends, holidays, and time off. It is not like it was in past, we had to work weekends, we changed that ourselves”.

As Syed shares his account of his professional journey, the central themes which emerge are progress, opportunities, new and diverse roles, and experiences. It is imperative that we promote a career in the industry as rewarding and worthwhile with many opportunities to attain professional success Our industry is multi – faceted, skills and knowledge can be applied to many disciplines, such as customer service, marketing, finance, culinary training, cost control technology and sustainability. There are many diverse roles where experience can be gained.

I asked Syed what advice he could offer to people considering a career in hospitality.

“With a hard work ethic and committed mindset, hospitality can be extremely rewardable and a remarkable career which many opportunities for progression”.

Moving forward, Syed envisions a future which is bright for Castleknock hotel and for the industry as a whole. Syed success story is inspirational and uplifting and hopefully a source of motivation for those within the industry who are experiencing challenges time or questioning their future roles in hospitality. We wish Syed the best of luck moving forward in this career.

Share this:

Explore topics: