A Q&A with G.D Tharanga, Training Manager with Centara Hotels and Resorts
We sat down for a chat with Thara, a hospitality training manager with a specialization in Food & Beverages from The Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management. She did her MBA at the The Thames College, affiliated with the Asia E University, and is currently enrolled at the European Institute of Professional Education in Dehiwela, Sri Lanka.
Q: Throughout your career you have worked in the hospitality industry in Sri Lanka. Before the MBA you worked with Taj hotels and Vivanta, both Indian chains, and now you are with Centara, which is a Thai brand. Would you walk us through your career to date?
A: Taj and Vivanta are both sub-segments of Indian Hotels Company Limited under the Tata Management. I started work at Taj Samudra and gained a lot of knowledge as a management trainee and as an employee under Taj. I highly value the work ethics which I gained from the Tata philosophy. Thereafter, I worked in Kuwait where I gained better insight towards the Arabic culture and dining habits. I then lectured at the Mount Lavinia International Hotel School for diploma students. And shortly after I joined Taj Bentota, under Vivanta. From there, I moved to my current workplace. Each organisation has offered something new for me to learn. Working with different nationalities had enabled me to be much more open and understanding towards situations and has made me highly flexible.
Q: What made you decide to pursue an MBA?
A: The requirement to be a better manager, who would make decisions based on researches, logic, and facts, made me pursue the qualification.
Q: How has your experience on the course been? Have there been any elements you have found particularly challenging?
A: Maths had always been challenging for me, so whenever calculations or formulas came up I was shaky! I just went through them again and again and asked for help from friends (Dinithy, Ajani, Sushanth, Mr. Sridhar, Hussain & my brother).
Q: What are your plans post-MBA? How will you position your hospitality experience for employers?
A: I have always made efforts to develop employees through motivating, training, and coaching. I try to simplify the knowledge from my MBAs and pare it with day-to-day situations so that employees can easily grasp the concepts which are relevant to them. By developing the employees, I provide value for my employer as well as the tourism industry
Q: What skills or experiences do hospitality employers look for and help candidates stand out?
A: Soft skills are becoming vital, especially since most of the HR interactions and the theoretical learning is done on virtual platforms. Of course one's cognitive abilities have always been important and will continue to be so.
Q: Hospitality is quite rank and file, do you have any advice for MBAs who would like to move into hospitality post-MBA but do not have direct sector experience?
A: A good manager must understand the heart-beats of their employees and this cannot be completely be done by watching videos. A manager must perform office work and take strategic decisions, but to understand what they are handling, one must get their hands dirty, sweat, and learn to admire the aroma of sweat.
Q: Any tips for someone currently working in hospitality and considering an MBA?
A: Review the lecturer panel. Ensure that they are qualified, speak to current students and graduates to know if the specific MBA is worth the money and time you will invest.
Centara Hotels and Resorts