Career & Education

Kirkland Smith finds success at Sandals

Sunday, November 05, 2017

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Kirkland Smith joined the team at Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort & Private Island as a bar porter. He worked 6pm to 2am shifts and his job entailed stocking the bar, washing utensils and keeping the bar and its environs clean. It was far from luxurious, but it was the beginning of a success story that was greater than anything he had imagined.

“It was frustrating,” Smith admitted. “There were moments when I felt like giving up, but I looked at the bigger picture and I kept on going.”

Smith's bigger picture soon began to take shape and his perseverance started reaping rewards. Today, six years on, he is the housekeeping supervisor at Sandals Royal Caribbean's Overwater Suites.

“I never thought I could be a supervisor, much less to be in charge of the highest category rooms in the entire brand, but I started at the bottom and did what I had to do,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

At just 17 years old, Smith, who wanted to become a fire-fighter, found himself a teenage father. While his fellow high school graduates went to pursue further studies, he sought employment in order to provide for his new baby. He landed a job with the Social Development Commission and while he enjoyed serving the community, he wanted more. Determined to earn a skill, he signed up for a course in food and bar service with the HEART Trust/NTA. Upon completion he was placed at Sandals through Project Bartending — a training programme facilitated by Bars to Go and Diageo.

Smith worked as a bar porter for a year before being promoted to bartender. It was then that he discovered his true passion.

“When I came into the industry, I just found a love for it. When I was at the bar I just felt that passion; it was just different. I have a passion for the industry and for meeting new people,” Smith told Career & Education.

After working as bartender for a year, Smith's positive work ethic, vibrant personality and determined spirit caught the attention of the resort's executive assistant manager and elite services manager, who encouraged him to cross train with the concierge department. Smith jumped at the opportunity and soon landed a job as a Club Sandals agent. He held this position for two years before being promoted to housekeeping supervisor at the main resort.

Nine months later, Smith was appointed housekeeping supervisor at the resort's new offshore Overwater Suites, the first of their kind in the Caribbean. His responsibilities include leading a team of 12, ensuring that all villas and bungalows are maintained in pristine condition and that the housekeeping needs of all guests are not only met, but surpassed.

While admitting that the journey has had its challenges, Smith credits the numerous training and development opportunities at Sandals for his personal and professional growth. With the help of the Sandals Corporate University, he is currently pursuing diplomas in hospitality management and tourism studies through the online learning platform Alison and has completed training in customer service, sales and leadership development. He has also been recognised with multiple awards including Team Member of the Month, Supervisor of the Month and Runner Up Team Member of the Year. An avid volunteer, Smith is passionate about giving back, and lists Sandals Foundation among his favourite things about the company.

Despite his current career success, Smith has never lost sight of his humble beginnings with the company. In fact, he uses this as motivation to be a better leader.

“You have to start somewhere,” he said. “You have to start from the bottom to really appreciate and understand what it's like down there. Now that I'm a supervisor I don't just say, 'Do this' or 'Do that'. I actually assist in doing the work and I try to motivate the team and encourage them to take advantage of the training and development opportunities.”

He is also grateful for his mentors at the resort and cites their constant support and motivation among the reasons for his success thus far. “I really have to thank Sheldon James, executive assistant manager; Dezreen Reid, elite services manager; and Dwight Shuttleworth, operations manager; Connie Chin, former HR manager; and Tracy Shortridge, the training manager, and everyone at the resort for believing in me and encouraging me,” he said.

Gerald Christ, the resort's general manager, spoke highly of Smith.

“Kirkland displays an attitude towards excellence. His “can do” personality, humility and passion are a winning combination for a young leader. Kirkland is always willing to go the extra mile. From his time as a concierge agent he stood out by taking on additional tasks and showing interest in housekeeping. The decision to select Kirkland for this role was a result of his excellent performance and knowing that he would be able to adjust to the high-quality requirements of this important position. In my opinion, he will grow further with our company due to his positive work ethic and passion,” said Smith.

With his sights set on eventually becoming a hotel or operations manager, the 31-year-old father of two is more focused than ever, and with the support of his Sandals family and his unwavering spirit of determination, he is positive his goals will be attained.




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