Get to know your peers in the global HR community through our career profile series. Today, we talk to Monika Mruczek, training cluster manager at Hilton Worldwide. She shares the career journey that’s taken here from a job in sales in Edinburgh, through years as a freelancer to her current role. Along the way, she’s become fluent in English, developed hundreds of employees and learnt to love the quirks of the English pub.
Name: Monika Mruczek
Job: Cluster Training Manager
Current employer: Hilton Worldwide
CV in brief:
- 2011-2013 – Trainer, The Skills Partnership
- 2010-2011 – Freelance Trainer
- 2006-2010 – Partnership Sales Consultant, Bright Grey
A day in your life
Tell us about your job and organisation
I am cluster training manager at Hilton, overseeing training and development for four properties in West London. Hilton Worldwide is one of the largest hospitality companies and most recognisable brands in the world. It has almost 100 years history as pioneers in the hotel industry and therefore is an exciting and established brand to work for.
Who do you report into?
I report to the London cluster HR director, who oversees five properties in West London.
Tell us about your team
My role is very independent; I am the lone ranger of the training team at the West London Hiltons. However, I work closely with all HR Managers and heads of department within our cluster.
Every month we meet and evaluate what happened the previous month to see if objectives and targets were met. We then review what is happening this month and forecast our plans for the following month. We talk about challenges, opportunities, succession planning, revisit team member survey results, analyse satisfaction and loyalty trackers to make sure we are both working towards and achieving the same goals.
Every couple of months the whole HR team from all four properties including each respective HR director and HR manager meet for the whole day reviewing each sites progress.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Management Development Programmes. I love developing people. It can be quite challenging for the participants, but I know that at the end of the programme they are so proud of what they have achieved. Most have applied the skills they have learned and have used them on different projects within their properties, which brought tangible results for the business.
What is the most challenging part of the role?
Due to fact that I oversee multiple properties I can’t spend each day at each hotel. This makes structuring the training schedule a headache. The demand for training is extremely high, and I have never felt so popular!
I always make sure that I focus on the most important projects within the hotel and at the same time I manage expectations and clearly state when I will be working on which project.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There is not such a thing as typical day in my role, all days are very different, which is something I love about my job. One day I can deliver a full day Management Development Workshop, the next day I can run sessions with my departmental trainers to develop them.
I may spend time with Head of Departments to gauge which staff member or team needs development. Alternatively, I may analyse customers’ comments and managers’ logs to determine training needs. I share this data in meetings with directors of operations or general managers to make sure the training strategies I suggest are aligned with the needs of their hotel.
In addition to this I always have hundreds of calls and emails that need dealing with, as well as coaching and giving feedback to employees and of course having few minutes to laugh with people to keep me sane… well sort of!
Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?
Before I applied for the job at Hilton I worked with TSP, where I designed and delivered training sessions to different clients within many business sectors. This was the time when I found that hospitality is the only industry where people factor is ultimately crucial. As I am a big believer that people buy people, I wanted to join a company which supports and actively promotes developing people. After many days of research I found that Hilton is one massive training company. The role of Cluster Training Manager was available, I applied for this, and the rest is history.
Perks and downsides?
I will keep it short. Chasing mandatory e-learning is the bane of my life. Every day being different is definitely a perk.
What skills are essential for the role you’re in?
Thinking on your feet and quick decision making skills are essential, especially when working in a fast changing environment. Resilience when working with demanding stakeholders and juggling many projects at the same time, relationships building, without it I would not achieve anything, and a good sense of humour. The job is much more exciting when you are having fun!
How did you get to where you are now?
I started working at Bright Grey Financial as an administrator, although they soon realised my passion was for building relationships. So I found myself in sales, where after a while I discovered that training is exactly what I wanted to do.
Part of my role was delivering sales training sessions to Independent Financial Advisers /mortgage brokers to help them to maximise their revenue and of course to build loyalty with the company I worked for. However I felt this was not enough for me, so with help from my sales trainer and support from my manager I started delivering training sessions to my colleagues. I also completed a CIPD qualification via my own funding.
After few months I have decided I need to progress and vary my training disciplines and with help of my friend I got my first freelance training project, then a second and a third one. These invaluable experiences helped me to understand the many requirements of different industries. After three years I decided to join a training company so I could gain further knowledge and delivery styles more from other trainers. I enjoyed my role so much there, but at some point I felt too comfortable and was in need of a fresh challenge, so here I am at Hilton Worldwide.
What were your best subjects in school?
I loved geography; I believe this was the first time that I got hungry for travelling, as the world seemed huge and full of possibilities. At university I studied marketing management and of all the subjects that interested me sociology and market research fitted my tastes. I enjoyed learning about people’s preferences on a bigger scale.
What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?
I will skip the excitement of seasonal jobs working in pubs, shops and strawberry picking and move on to work at Bright Grey in Edinburgh, as it was the first “proper job”. When I arrived at Edinburgh I registered myself with few agencies and one signed me up for an assessment centre at Bright Grey, and advised it was a very new and exciting company within financial services and I thought “gosh financial services…what could be exciting about this industry?”
How wrong I was. You know that feeling of “love at first sight”? That was it. Great people and amazing offices with fun and colourful furniture. Did I say great people? Unbelievably good break-out areas and beautiful views over the Firth of Forth.
Have you followed the career path you set out to?
As a child I wanted to be a ballerina! I never pursued my dream from childhood as I really do not like wearing tights! I very quickly got myself into sales. It wasn’t my ideal career path, but I really enjoyed building relationship and was pretty good at it. At some point working in sales, I started training financial advisers and this was a breakthrough moment in my career. I realised this is exactly what I wanted to do, this is what makes me feel excited about my day and totally fulfilled. I followed that feeling and here I am.
What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was not being able to speak fluent English at the beginning of my career and especially talking over the phone with financial advisers, which paralysed me with fear. So, I took a phone book and every day after work starter calling random places and asking questions (i.e. calling a shoe shop and asking about prices and shoe sizes of random shoes, calling wine merchant to ask about best wines in Australia etc) just to get used to the Scottish accent and to overcome the fear of talking over the phone. It worked! The next massive challenge was moving to London and trying to fit into the craziness of this amazing city. This is still a work in progress!
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?
I used to live in Edinburgh and when I was applying for my first “corporate” job my English was very poor. I remember going to an assessment centre with another 200 people, failing activities as I did not understand what was expected from me, and afterwards writing to the HR manager at the company and adding a personal note saying something like “I love your company, take me”. That not only landed me a job there but got me a friend for life, who taught me English in a very short space of time.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
The first time I graduated delegates on a Management Development Programme and seeing them being proud, fulfilled and very thankful. This was a standout moment. The second time was when I found out that around 60% of delegates were promoted within three months from completing the programme.
Do you have any career regrets?
I treat every experience as a learning curve and believe that nothing happens without a reason, so do not regret anything.
What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?
Keep networking with people who are where you want to be and keep asking how did you get there, how did you do this, just keep asking for cross exposure and try new things even if you do not feel ready (you will never feel 100% ready).
What would you say to your 22-year-old self?
Just go for it without thinking what others will think about you.
- Coffee or tea? Tea. With honey and lemon. Honey lifts my mood and lemon refreshes my taste buds
- Jam or marmalade? Jam. Strawberry jam on toast is simply the best.
- The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The Beatles. Help!
- Mac or PC? Mac. It looks and feels great.
- The Guardian or The Times? The Times. Nothing is better than a roast dinner, pint and The Sunday Timesin a local English pub
- BBC or ITV? BBC. The Beeb’s documentary programmes open my curiosity and increases my hunger for travelling and exploring
- M&S or Waitrose? Waitrose. Strawberries actually taste like strawberries
- Morning or night? Night. I am a zombie in the morning
- Rain on snow? Snow. You can play in the snow, but you can only sing in the rain and I am not a great singer
- Sweet or savoury? Savoury. Beer and crisps are served in heaven
- App: Viber. I can send endless nonsensical messages to my family and friends for free
- TV show: Frozen Planet. Over-excited penguins splashing on their fat bellies on the ice…brilliant. Who could ask for more?
- Band: London Grammar. That is for today. Tomorrow I will probably choose something different
- Song: Do Your Thing, Basement Jaxx. This gives me a massive smile and makes me jump and dance
- Book: The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared. Intriguing, witty, odd, spectacular – a bit like me
- Sports team: Polish volleyball team. Their world championship winning moment was my only post on Facebook
- Thing to do on a Friday night: Get a late afternoon flight to Florence, eat lots of pizza and drink lots of beautiful wine in an osteria or reffatorio
- Place to eat: Italy…
- Holiday spot: Italy. Great food. Great wine. Old little towns. Sunshine. Scooters. Fashion
- Piece of advice you’ve been given: To climb the big mountain you have to take one step at a time. Got this advice just before I climbed Kilimanjaro
By Karam Filfilan
Karam is Changeboard Middle East's editor and UK deputy editor.
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