Rising Star: Alumni Sherie Cooper

Sherie Cooper (Alumni 2015) is currently in Human Capital Management with HealthShare NSW, Newcastle

What do you love most about the hospitality industry?

I have always been passionate about the tourism and hospitality industry. I have grown up in a family where education, travel, and cordial hospitality is greatly valued. My time at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS) fostered my love for the industry.

BMIHMS is known for providing great industry experiences, academic opportunities, and ongoing graduate support with their global alumni network. I completed a Bachelor of Business majoring in International Hotel and Resorts Management. This created a strong foundation, which I built upon with industry experience. My love for the work we do grew.

Within my two and half years study, I also represented BMIHMS by volunteering at the World Business Forum Sydney, working at Qualia on Hamilton Island, and both Australian Park Hyatt Hotels in Sydney and Melbourne. During this time I learnt that a career in the hospitality industry is an exciting career, where no day is the same and each day presents new challenges and opportunities. A career creating extraordinary experiences for potential and current customers, whilst also ensuring good returns to the business – what’s not to love!

After graduating, I explored other areas of the industry focusing in Accor’s Revenue Management and Leadership programs. Then I worked briefly at Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours in sales before the global COVID-19 pandemic hit. Using the experience and skills I gained from working in the hospitality and tourism industry, I have been able to assist HealthShare NSW (HSNSW) with the increased demand for their customer services due to COVID-19.

With BMIHMS, and support from my fellow Alumni across the globe, I kept striving towards my goals, was confident to change my career objectives and feel I positively adapted to change. I will always love the tourism and hospitality industry, as I greatly enjoy broadening my horizons by meeting new people, learning, and creating precious memories.

When you started with NSW HealthShare you worked on four emergency call-in lines, dealing directly with the public. What was this experience like and how did it compare with guest relations/communications in a hotel setting?

As a customer service representative, on four emergency helplines with HSNSW, my leadership capability and communication skills were put to the test. Together, our team has succeeded in showing empathy and credibility as leaders when giving out advice in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the Work Health & Safety Assist Line, I experienced the challenge of providing critical support by responding to requests for advice on personal health matters specifically relating to COVID-19. The qualities and skills required to be successful in this role are similar to those needed for dealing with guest queries and complaints in hotels. For example, having the capacity to interpret well-established procedures, and exercise initiative, judgement and discretion, when appropriate. Effective communication and interpersonal skills, gained from my hospitality experience, have assisted me in working with the Clinical Excellence Commission to provide advice to hospital Executives, and the public.

Working on the Supply Chain Triage, Urgent Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Stock Shortage, and Urgent PPE Clinical Advice phone lines I proactively connected with, and learnt about, other departments and their roles to ensure calls could be confidently directed to specific people, significantly improving customer satisfaction. This work is comparable to a communication role in a large hotel where you are the first responder to guests, and must coordinate providing a solution to their request with other departments within the hotel. In this role I was the first responder to enquiries about hospital equipment and offers from organisations to supply equipment. I assisted callers to get in contact with the right person to provide emergency supply of PPE.

Like my hotel experiences, the opportunity to work at HSNSW has been much more than a casual job. This opportunity has led me to make lifetime connections with my team mates who have also come from many different industries impacted by the pandemic. I have learnt a lot about the medical industry and the array of opportunities that exist for those who have not studied any form of medicine but have strong business skills which are needed to coordinate staff and the operation of the health care system.

What skills or mindset have helped you in the last few months?

My ability to think outside the box in working towards solutions, and that willingness to adapt to changes with an open mindset has been my strongest asset in the past few months. I have always taken pride in whole-heartedly committing myself when I see an opportunity for a valuable experience. I was not about to let the experience of losing both my fulltime job at Scenic, and casual Hotel job, change my core values.

I believe the hospitality and tourism industries will recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and be better than ever because of it. I believe this because I know the passion behind the people in the industry.

Consider my favourite travel quote by previous United Nations World Tourism Organisation Secretary-General Dr. Taleb Rifai:

“Every time we travel, we become part of a global movement that has the power to drive positive change for our planet and all people.”

In broadening our horizons by meeting new people and exploring the world, we learn so much from each other – because nobody knows everything but everyone knows something. I can’t wait until I can travel again, especially if I can visit my overseas friends to experience their countries too! I suppose it’s the dream keeping my hope alive, along with a little hard work, and a great support system by keeping in contact with friends and family.

Has this career pivot changed or focused your future career goals?

This year has bought many challenges to us all. For my career, it’s provided an opportunity to pivot into the health and medical industry. Although I have casual work with HSNSW, I am still striving towards gaining fulltime employment and career progression opportunities. Whether this career pivot has changed or focused my career goals really is a matter of perception. In some ways, this year has taught me that by focusing my career goals to be in customer service I can be seen as a highly skilled employee in many different industries. Despite changing to another industry, my strategic career goal of leading a team in customer service, and career objective of consistently exceeding expectations by building a team environment that encourages continuous improvement, remains the same.

What’s your advice/suggestion for grads thinking of moving into a different industry?

For those who have recently graduated or are soon to graduate, I have three pieces of advice:

  1. Reach out to your networks for support during challenging times
  2. Seize new opportunities when they present (regardless of it not necessarily being a part of your career plan), and
  3. Surround yourself with people with the same passion that encourages continuous improvement.

I hope you are inspired by my story to keep striving towards your goals, feel confident to change your career objectives, and exceed expectations by taking how you respond to change into your own hands, reaching out to others if you need help, and following your personal compass.

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