An interest in meeting people from all walks of life and learning their stories was the main driver for Sonia to pursue a career in hospitality management after completing her studies at Tawa College in Wellington. She chose QRC due to our small, personalised classes and the combined practical and theoretical teaching methodology.
While at QRC she undertook her 9-month, fully paid internship in Auckland as a Guest Services Agent (GSA) at the Quay West Suites where she gained experience within the Front Desk, Food & Beverage and Conferencing teams. However, rather than returning to QRC after 9 months she deferred to the next intake to enable her to stay on for the busy Rugby World Cup series in October 2011.
The biggest takeaway from her internship period was the importance of cross training and how essential it is for departments to work together to ensure the guest has a seamless and memorable experience.
Sonia now holds the role of Reservations Manager at the iconic Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Gold Coast.
Continue reading below to learn about her journey since graduating from QRC.
On the Couch with Sonia Staudenmann-Hughes
Why did you choose to follow a career in tourism/hospitality?
I’ve loved working in the hospitality industry from a young age and have always been interested in meeting people from all walks of life and learning their stories, so the tourism & hospitality industry was the perfect match for me.
Why did you choose QRC?
I was never interested in going to a “traditional university” where you sit in a large lecture hall and are “just another number”. QRC attracted me due to the smaller intakes they have, and the hands on learning they offer.
Where did you undertake your internship? (job/position)
I undertook my internship at the Quay West Suites in Auckland as a Guest Service Agent (GSA); however it wasn’t your typical GSA role as I dealt with Front Desk, Food & Beverage (café) and Conferencing. I actually stayed on in my internship for an extra 3 months to experience working in Auckland over the Rugby World Cup.
What was the biggest “take away” from your internship experience?
The biggest take away from my internship was the ability to multi-task across multiple departments, and how vital each department working together is to the successful operation of a hotel. Sometimes in one day I would work Front Desk in the morning to cover check-outs, and then would be up in conferencing setting up for lunch, then back down to Front Desk for arrivals.
Tell me about your journey since leaving QRC.
Whilst in my last term of QRC I worked for Oaks Shores as the part-time Night Audit, and once I finished QRC moved to day GSA, and then full-time nights. I then made the move across the ditch to Brisbane with Oaks where I worked as a GSA, before moving to their Central Reservations team as a Reservations Agent. From this role I moved to the Gold Coast and joined the team at the Sofitel Broadbeach as a Reservations Agent, and was then promoted to Reservations Supervisor at Novotel Surfers Paradise. Missing the 5-star environment an opportunity arose for me to step into my current role.
What role are you in now?
Reservations Manager at the iconic Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Gold Coast.
What are your main responsibilities?
Overseeing the day-to-day operation of our FIT and Groups Reservations department.
Can you describe a typical day at work?
It really can vary depending on time of year and availability of the resort, but taking phone calls & email enquiries, dealing with VIP guests, checking room type availability is correctly selling online, setting up new rates, completing various reports.
How did your time at QRC help prepare you for your current job?
QRC gave me the practical experience across multiple departments of a hotel to understand how each operates, which is a vital tool as a manager, as sometimes you get pulled into other departments to assist where needed. Even today I still help our Food & Beverage or Front Office team when required, and even remember how to make a good coffee!
What do you enjoy the most about your current position?
I enjoy dealing with the various different guests we have stay at our resort from all different walks of life, from celebrities to wedding celebrations to just a short weekend getaway.
What are the challenges?
COVID-19 has definitely been a big challenge, especially in Australia with state borders being closed (and then opened & closed again), given a lot of our guests are from NSW & VIC, so it feels like we triple handle everything, as we book, then cancel, then rebook.
What are your plans for the future?
My next step I am currently training for is to move into a Revenue Management role.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?
There’s no single piece of advice I have been given. But one of my General Managers I have had their passion for the hospitality industry, as well as developing women into management roles has always been inspirational to me.
Any words of wisdom to young people starting on their career?
Take every opportunity that is thrown your way across various departments, the more you learn the better, as it makes you understand and appreciate each department in a hotel.
And you never know who your next boss is going to be, so respect everyone you meet equally.