From waitress to executive housekeeper at the Radisson: How this super-mom of five didn't give up
The value of the tourism industry is often overlooked.
While hundreds of thousands of tourists travelling across the incredible urban and wild spaces of South Africa - the industry supports a fair amount of indirect employment, as much as 1.53 million jobs are supported by tourism currently, according to Gillian Saunders, an Independent Tourism and Hospitality Adviser - and "around 800 000, through the multiplier effect,” she says.
Saunders detailed the potential of the industry in a recent column featured on Tourism Update saying, “Tourism is an amazing industry. It is one in which you can still enter unskilled at the bottom, and make it to the top. There are many stories of cleaners, rangers, bar staff, and the like making it to lodge owner, hotel general manager, restaurant owner etc. Motivated people can make it to the top with no formal qualifications,” says Saunders.
One such woman is Wendy Adams.
With no formal training, and through sheer will and determination, Wendy has worked her way through the ranks and is now the Executive Housekeeper at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront.
This is her journey...
Q: Let’s start at the beginning. Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up on the Cape Flats in Hanover Park. I still live there today, along with my amazing kids. Our area has its challenges, yes, but I am proud to come from a community where neighbours still know each other’s names and the names of their kids.
I want to be an example and show others who grew up in a community such as mine that where you come from doesn’t have to hinder how far you go. You need to fight for what you believe in and you need to take your future into your own hands.
Which women do you admire the most?
I always have, and always will look up to my mother. She raised me with strong values and always encouraged me to be independent and strive to be the best that I can possibly be.
I also really admire Graca Machel. She is an impeccable woman, who through her life’s journey, has shown the world that where you start in life does not matter, as you define your future and the impact you have on others.
When did you start in hospitality?
I started working as a waitress, in September 2000, at the age of 18. I received my first promotion at 23-years-old, and my passion and career just grew from there.
I was a food and beverage manager at another establishment for a while. Then, in 2010, I made the choice to take on new opportunities. At the time, I felt as though I needed a new challenge. I joined the housekeeping team as a contracts manager and built my career from there.
How did your career grow from there?
I was a housekeeping manager from 2013 to early 2015, before moving to Radisson Hotel Group as Assistant Housekeeper in February of that year.
At the time there was no Executive Housekeeper, so I took the initiative and I basically assumed the role for a while. I was soon promoted to Executive Housekeeper in June 2015. Then an opportunity at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront came along in 2017, and this is where I proudly stand today.
How has your family supported this journey of yours?
I have always been in the industry so, my kids understand that I sometimes work shifts. They are amazing and completely support me. I am a divorced mother of five of completely different personalities, all who I adore.
They keep me grounded in this crazy world.
How do you juggle career and family?
Balance is very important to me. I try to carefully manage my time to ensure that I can work on my career and raise my family, but also, I definitely try to squeeze in a little “me” time every now and then too. Many working moms forget the importance of showing themselves some self-love.
I have found it to be refreshing to both my mind and spirit, and it allows me to take on family and work responsibilities with a renewed sense of determination.
What have you learnt as a manager?
As a head of department, I understand that as much as I am here to manage a team, I also have to lead them. I try to make them see how important they are, and I emphasise the impact that each person’s actions have on the success of our business. This gives my team a sense of pride that shows in the quality of their work.
Any advice for other young women?
Believe in yourself. Nothing is ever too hard or too difficult, unless you decide it is. We are all stronger than we know and we only realise this when we are faced with challenges.
Lastly, always be the best version of yourself as there is no one else quite like you!