How I got here: Valerie Barrie, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai director of sales and marketing

Barrie details her journey from schooling on the Shetland Islands to the JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai

Education

I was fortunate to have a great education on the Shetland Islands, winning two Dux medals for history and geography at Anderson High School. After a short stint in psychology, followed by 18 months in the North Sea as a helicopter cabin attendant I went to Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen to study hospitality management, graduating with distinction. Life education has come from travelling the globe and meeting amazing people, all of whom you can learn something from if you’re open to it.

My start

I have worked in many hotel companies from Scotland to Australia and now in Dubai. Each company and role has taught me something and I wouldn’t change any of them. When I left university I worked in F&B, reservations, and was assistant front office manager, before landing my first job in sales at the Copthorne Aberdeen. My general manager at the time was female, she gave me six months to prove myself in sales and since then I have not looked back.

Approach

I would hope that the people I work with would say I was a positive influence and I am a fair and supportive leader. Employ the right people and develop them, understand you do not own anyone and that they will perhaps leave at some point. Just make sure they leave with something you have taught them to make them more successful. Have an open mind, embrace change and don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people who may know more than you in certain areas, as learning from each other is the key to success. Having lost my brother a couple of years ago to cancer, I have learned to embrace every day. Don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them at every chance; you never know when it will be too late. Treat every single day as a new opportunity to excel and another chance to try and make a difference.

Highs and lows

Working at the JW Marriott Marquis is definitely a career high in many aspects. This has certainly been one of my most challenging and satisfying roles, and I am very fortunate that I work for a great product alongside a great team. It is also very important to me that I have set an example to my three children that, as a woman, it is possible to have a successful career and be a mother. Sometimes I struggle with the balance, but I firmly believe working career women have so much to offer. I believe things happen for a reason, so the lows I have experienced have generally been followed by a better opportunity, and the lows are what make you stronger.

Dos and don’ts

If you do not wake up every day and look forward to your job then don’t stay in it – it isn’t good for you or the company you work for. You need to recruit passionate people in your teams. You can teach content and skills, but you can’t change personalities. Encourage your associates to grow and pursue their goals. Don’t micromanage your team – give them clear direction and measurable goals, which are aligned with the company’s vision, but trust them and give them the ability to contribute to their own success. Don’t spend all your time working inside the business – take time out to work on the business: reflect, plan and look forward.

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