Welcome to the Emirates Woman weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.

This week we chat with Emanuela Setterberg, General Manager of One&Only, The Palm. Emanuela joined One&Only The Palm resort from One&Only Resorts’ Global Dubai Office, where she was Vice President of Operations for nearly six years. She drove success across numerous metrics, including quality, brand service standards, and new openings.

Emanuela joined One&Only The Palm resort from One&Only Resorts’ Global Dubai Office, where she was Vice President of Operations for nearly six years. She drove success across numerous metrics, including quality, brand service standards, and new openings. Before this role, Emanuela was General Manager of Hotel Bel-Air, Dorchester Collection in California, Managing Director of Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco in Tuscany, Italy, and part of the opening team for Bulgari Hotels & Resorts in Milan, Italy.

An Italian-born Swedish national, Emanuela earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Hospitality and Business Management from Leeds Metropolitan University and Glion University, Switzerland. She is fluent in Italian, Swedish, Spanish, English, and French. She was appointed to the Advisory Board of the Cornell Institute for Hospitality Labor and Employment Relations (CIHLER).

Emirates Woman sat down with Emanuela to learn about her career path and how she leads The One&Only, The Palm to success as a leading resort in Dubai.

What was your favourite subject at school?

I had a few favourites, as I liked going to school and learning. I especially loved languages, science, philosophy, sports and arts.

What was your first job?

My first job was as a babysitter.

What inspired you to go into hospitality?

My first life change was when I was eight years old. I moved to Sweden from Italy. Usually, kids prefer to avoid moving countries due to the significant changes this entails. On the contrary, I was very excited and looked forward to making new friends, discovering new lands, attending a new school and generally exploring the unknown. After Sweden, we relocated to Barcelona when I was 16, and again, though I was sad to leave my friends, I was excited to discover a new place. In addition, my family and I enjoyed travelling together and visiting incredible restaurants in beautiful hotels. At the same time, I have always been fascinated by human behaviours and the story behind each of us. All of that combined, and the five languages I had acquired along the way, created that special interest in the business. When it was time for me to choose my higher education, I realized I wanted to explore and continue discovering the beauty of different parts of the world, immerse myself in cultures, while meeting new people and learn their stories. During that time, I also realized how much I enjoyed creating joy for friends, family, and people in general. Therefore, I decided to build my career within the luxury hospitality industry.

What eventually brought you to Dubai and how did you come to work for such an incredible brand like Kerzner with One&Only Resorts?

One&Only brought me to Dubai. One day I received a call from an ex-colleague, who at the time was working for Kerzner, and informed me they were looking for someone who matched my profile perfectly. I have always admired the brand from afar, and to have the opportunity to be part of such an aspiring brand would be a dream. The cherry on top was that the role was based in Dubai, which had been on my radar for some time. Needless to say, I accepted straight away. Six years later, I am still here.

What are the key elements of your role?

Being the General Manager of one of the most beautiful properties in the world is genuinely an honor. The position, and the career experiences one makes to become a General Manager of a Resort or Hotel, is incredibly varied. From discussing technical issues with a boiler, to a tasting of a new dish, the development of the asset, or the profitability of a certain department or the hotel. You become quite knowledgeable in many fields of the business. Therefore, it is essential to surround yourself with strong experts who are like-minded, passionate, creative, and trustworthy. In a hotel, you must create a strong team with strong leaders who can in turn, teach, coach, and develop their teams, and represent the brand appropriately. As service is the product we sell and it’s made “a-la-minute” for each individual, everyone plays a crucial part in the guest journey and their perception of the complete experience. Hence, the key elements are leadership (not management), creativity, empathy, quick problem resolution, coaching, planning, and truly caring for your colleagues’ and guests’ wellbeing.

Talk us through your daily routine?

My day normally starts by greeting guests and colleagues, review the daily numbers and retrieving any information from the night shift. Following this, I do a walk through the breakfast service to speak with our guests and ensure they are happy. The morning briefing takes place at 11am with each department head where updates are shared. Besides already set meetings in place, I may need to give my attention to a particular department or guest. In the meantime, I walk around the property to review that the resort is in order, which usually takes me to 6pm, where I go back to my office to do admin work until I notice the time, usually late! Then with guilt, I rush back home to my daughter and my husband, who is patiently waiting for me to have dinner unless we have any special engagements at the resort.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

I speak from a woman’s point of view, which makes a big difference. Hospitality is a truly international business requiring very long hours, engaging you 365 days a year, while the majority is on holiday. To grow, you need to be able to move around the world and be very open-minded, flexible, and adaptable. Hence, if you desire to balance work and family life, it is not easy. Nevertheless, travelling the world, and learning different languages and cultures allows you to grow exponentially as a person and a professional. The world becomes small, and change becomes part of your personality, giving you that drive and focus, which makes you stronger in any situation, personal or otherwise.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

From a business perspective, the best advice I carry as my foundation comes from my father when I just started working after university. He told me, “Always remember that the best leader is the one who outgrows his/her need”. This advice says everything. It takes care of being organized, creating proper structure and consistency, developing and coaching your team, empowering and leading by example.

And the worst?

I can’t recall anything to mind that burnt my memory. I’ve had fewer inspiring leaders in my life, but I learnt from them as well.

What are your goals for 2023?

First to stay healthy and restart my fitness routine, which I paused due to the high season. Second, to continue driving excellence and, hopefully, make a difference in my guests’ and colleagues’ lives.

For more information visit: One&Onlyresorts.com

– For more on luxury lifestyle, news, fashion and beauty follow Emirates Woman on Facebook and Instagram

Images: Supplied