Tell us about yourself
My name is Zhennia Cheng, I am from the north part of China / Hohhot. I have been in the Middle East since 2000, and with InterContinental Doha Beach & Spa since 2007. I work as Director of Housekeeping In charge of Residences operations. I utilize creative problem-solving skills and have great attention to details. I am self-driven and self-reliant, target oriented, one of my greatest strengths is driving for results. I have good interpersonal skills to engage, motivate and encourage others through change. I love to inspire others to grow and learn new things. My main catalyst is maintaining a strong relationship with my team, which is an invaluable factor that took me to where I am today. I do not consider my job as only a duty to fulfill, but a responsibility that I take upon myself on a daily basis to ensure we create a memorable experience not only to our guests but even to our people. I strive to pass on my vision through my team and make them believe in the brand and property they work in, which drives both them and myself to be creative, inspired and lead the operation as if it was our own. I am always guided by my values and ethics which is the reason behind why I strive for perfection and aim to create a beautiful story through what I accomplish.
Your experience and years in the industry
I am an articulate professional with more than 26 years of national and international experience in the hospitality industry. I started my career with Forum Hotel ShenZhen China in 1992. My first encounter with the Middle East was when I moved to Doha, Qatar in the year 2000 with my family. In April 2002, and because of my renowned background in the industry, I secured a short term assignment to support the housekeeping operations in Crowne Plaza Kuwait as Executive Housekeeper. However, due to the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, I decided to remain in Kuwait for a year to support the busy hotel operation after the hotel accommodated foreign military personnel on premises. As well as supporting the team members in terms of morale during such emotional circumstances. I then moved to Sheraton Grand Doha Resort and Convention Hotel also as Director of Housekeeping for almost 2 years. Due to a special request by the Director of Operations at IHG in the region, I moved back to Crowne Plaza Kuwait again in 2005 – 2007. After accumulating the needed experience in GCC, I joined InterContinental Doha Beach and Spa in 2007. One memorable experience I can mention is taking the exquisite task of managing government palaces (Diafa Palace, Marmar Palace and Diana Palace) where honorary guests were received by the HH the Emir of Qatar and HH his wife. Among my achievements, I had opened an executive wing of 120 Club InterContinental rooms and suites, a cigar bar, a new Club InterContinental lounge, and the world's largest Belgian Beer Café. I then opened an adjacent new InterContinental Residences project offering 18 beach villas and 76 luxurious apartments with the largest recreation facilities in Doha. All these experiences led me to be able to support our IHG sister properties in Doha, one of which is supporting Staybridge Doha pre Opening through participating in the budget formulation and OSE orders. Another initiative is working as a task force for the rebranding of Crowne Plaza Doha West Bay.
I am very grateful with all the special tasks, opportunities, pressures and challenges I have faced in the past, which have become part of my identity as Director of Housekeeping today, and I am honoured today to be a connoisseur in the industry where I am the reference of many external stakeholders such a our suppliers and our owning company when it comes to my area of expertise.
How did you get into the hospitality industry, and how have you grown since then?
I completed my travel & tourism post graduate certification in Beijing and for me pursuing a career in Hospitality was not on my agenda. However, destiny was on my side all along and guided me to find my passion when I fell for the sense of achievement this industry brings with it. When I first started my career with Forum Hotel Shenzhen China back in the 90s, I started as Floor supervisor. I had since then aimed to gather as much experience as I could from the operation, which was when I decided to hold on to the opportunity of moving within the different roles and sections of the Housekeeping department. This led me to build a solid career foundation for the next 3 years. Although it was not as easy as it sounds, not to mention the moments of doubt that I faced along the way. But I was always known to be someone who pursues their goals to the end. Having such memories always reminds me of why I love what I do.
What drives you and your career?
Among many things that drive me in this industry, one thing I look to the most is the ability to position myself as a professional, and to set visions and goals to people who have the same ambitions I had before. When I see my people succeeding, I feel proud and accomplished through their achievements. Another driver for my career is being able to translate the brand's excellence culture into the operation and see the results through the experiences of our guests.
An accomplishment that shaped your career
My accomplishments are translated through the success of my people. I am always proud to be a mentor and guide to many leaders among my department or even the different departments of the hotels I operate in. I am proud when I see my assistant moving to higher career levels and linking that growth to the periods she spends alongside me. I feel achieved by the fact that I have not once gone below the 90% Guest Feedback scores. And most importantly, I feel blessed to have the will to always learn from others and set a continuous learning culture around my environment. The aim for constant growth for me is a perfect example of accomplishment.
The best part of your job
The aesthetic side of the job always brings me the pleasure behind what I do. I am always motivated to redecorate a restaurant, prepare for a holiday celebration theme in the hotel, or even create special setups for our guest rooms. With all the operational challenges, we must not forget the magical touch of our job which lies in us working alongside external designers and suppliers to create the perfect end product.
Another aspect of the job I like is being able to celebrate success as a group, and drive a culturally diverse team towards one common goal which is the success of our hotel.
The most challenging aspect of your job
Retaining our talents has always been challenging, because we do not always have the resources to do so. Yet we always have to revert back to embedding a culture that is based on ambition and the aim for constant growth. Being able to translate your vision within the team needs a lot of patience and coaching styles that are tailored to the different personalities you might have among the group.
Why is sustainability so important to you?
We as the leaders of today have a responsibility towards the future generations. This sense of responsibility drops down from the top leadership to the front-line levels of the group. We always need to raise awareness on the vitality of preserving the resources we have in our hands on a daily basis, not only because it is a trending topic, but because every small step makes a difference towards the environment in which we operate.
One mentionable project that relates to sustainability is introducing "Organic Herbal Gardening" to cover the green landscapes in our property. With the high level of chemicals and materials used in the housekeeping section of hospitality, we always need to be resourceful and set actionable targets to reduce wastage.
Housekeeping practices you live by
We have a combination of temporary and permanent staff members. The main duty we have is to treat everyone equally. Give them the knowledge they need through regular training and retraining, and help them develop their ownership. Our organization depends greatly on our ability to place the right people in the right places. Encourage the team to take ownership of their own responsibilities. Show them what has to be done daily, weekly, and monthly as you guide them through their own regions. We can assign the employees we can rely on to work alone with minimal supervision in a stand-alone restaurant, lounge, or club. Empower the section heads or assistants to be the manager of their own areas. Give them freedom and let them run their own areas and coach them whenever is needed.
Cleaning practices at your hotel
Our main task is to reduce flare or spots. Our goal is to hygienically clean our hotel. We have a procedure in place that requires the area to be cleaned simultaneously whether a manager is there or not. For me, it makes no difference if you are working with a 5 stars, 3 stars, or no star hotel. Everyone must maintain the same level of cleanliness. Things should be handled more methodically.
The latest products (chemicals & equipment) that are in use
As an international hotel chain, we must adhere to global chemical regulations, but that does not stop us from researching the most recent cleaning instruments, spot-removal solutions, and marble-cleaning solutions. I frequently find myself in awe of new equipment, machinery, and chemicals that increase the safety of our visitors and employees.
The latest technologies trending in housekeeping departments
Technologies in housekeeping most likely refer to machinery that is always evolving, in terms of productivity or in many cases sustainability and eco-friendliness. We have purchased good machines in recent years. One of which is PURAQLEEN Pure water base station for high levels of glass, wall or shade cleaning station, which is very handy, chemical free and good for our environment. Another is I MOP (A handy scrub and dryer machine) Although this was developed many years ago. But I still find it very practical and hygienic to use in order to replace the mop and mop bucket. These technologies have shaped the success of our daily operations and I am constantly on the look-out for new trends that would support my department in fulfilling the job more efficiently.
Training provided to the cleaning staff
As an international branded hotel, we must always embed a culture of learning for our staff. Training them to be competent supervisors or line staff is simple. The most crucial part, in my opinion, is to teach them how to be trustworthy and accountable which means building their characters and equipping them to become future leaders. What is correct to do, how to improve one's judgment, how to make a good decision, how to recognize one's weaknesses, and how to strengthen them. With my staff, I often share experiences or lessons that would inspire them to act morally or encourage them to take responsibility for their growth.
The future of the cleaning industry
I think everything will become more digitized and organized. We can analyze the cleaning frequency and effectiveness of our work with the aid of a computer. Future research will lead to the development of more robotic cleaning instruments. We also need to be better prepared to implement changes. Continually learn new things throughout our lives. adopt it and keep up with modern trends and technology.