Thursday, August 25, 2016

Mahika Chandrasena reflects

We all have our passions. They define us. We live with them so closely that despite those mundane choices life throws at us, they determine what we do and what we commit ourselves to. True, along the way we have to make decisions which don’t always conform to what we like, but those passions of ours survive even through them. Mahika Chandrasena, Director of Marketing Communications at Galle Face Hotel, clearly has understood the importance of all this. She talked to ESTEEM. She reflected. We listened.

To start things off, how would you describe a typical day at work?

Sure. First of all, I follow a critical path embracing and integrating a wide range of activities. I plan, schedule, and document. Given the nature of this industry we are in, however, there can be one-off ad hoc requests which crop up. We have to deal with them as and when we encounter them. So yes, all in all a typical day is routine for me. It’s also fun.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for someone in your line of work?

To be honest, there are five big challenges and it’s hard to list them in any order. They are
  1. The global financial crisis, which basically hits our customers in a way that makes over the top expenditure a waste sometimes,
  2. Competition, which compels us to slash our rates to attract customers sustaining a minimum base,
  3. Differentiating this hotel from the rest by creating new product offerings,
  4. Widening the range of activities our customers can look out for, and 
  5. Keeping a tab on social media to ensure that our image isn’t affected and to update ourselves on the latest trends in the industry.

How do you engage with all these?

By being resilient. By facing the drastic changes this world is facing. By focusing on technology and innovation. And by finding the right talent to fit the right role.

In this industry you have to meet a lot of people and meet a lot of deadlines. How do you manage all that?

Simple. I consider everything I’ve encountered in my career so far as a choice, a decision, or an opportunity. On the other hand I always choose in favour of my passions. How does that work out? Well, when I do that, my interests become an integral part of the choices and decisions I make and the opportunities I see in everything. Not that I have the same interests all the time, but while interests may change passions don’t. That is how I look at life and how I look at others, so much so that I delegate work to my team members knowing what each of their passions are.

How did you get into this industry?

I chose travel and tourism because I felt that it ran in my veins. So from the beginning, I placed value on my education and learnt about hospitality, travel, and tourism as much as I could. In fact both my Bachelors and Masters Degrees are from these areas. I came into the hospitality sector later, after much soul-seeking.

How do you manage to balance your career and your life?

That’s tough. I admit I haven’t been able to strike out a perfect balance. I think we focus our energy on balance too much, besides. We should be more concerned about prioritising, on inculcating patience, on being perseverant, and on inculcating faith in what we do. It’s then that we realise that life is more than just being a workaholic. It’s about being passionate, about discovering self and exploring the many facets life opens to you. I sport a motto wherever I am: Love what you do and do what you love. I follow it to the best of my abilities. I haven’t failed.

Time for some out of the blue questions. Who are your top three role models?

Firstly, Erin Brockovich. I consider her to be a modern-day David who loves a good fight and has a good fight with today’s Goliaths. She thrives on being a voice for those who can’t yell. She is a rebel. A fighter. A mother. A woman. In short, me.

Secondly, Leigh Anne Tuohoy. She reminds me of my mother: she inspires you but then she can be a firecracker too. She had a career but focused her energies on finding Michael Oher a home. Strong-willed she was, wore different hats, and didn’t limit herself to being only a mother and nurturer but also a wife and housekeeper who went out there and worked. Her words of wisdom are: I’m not a big women’s liberation person, but I do think that women have to contribute to all aspects in society.

Thirdly, Chris Gardner, the Founder and CEO of Gardner Rich and Co. He represents to me a true rags-to-riches saga. A person who journeyed through sadness, tragedy, grief, and happiness, who obtained strength to continue what he did and went on to be the success he is today.

If you could go back in time, what period would you go to?

Not that far. I’d say 2013 and 2014, because I wish I were more spiritual and wiser then.

You have three wishes. What are they?

Firstly, that I had another child in 2005, since that would have changed my life today. Secondly, that I see my son through College so that he has a career he can be passionate about to look forward to and so that he can be a happy and spiritual father. And thirdly, that I become more spiritual and that I inculcate more patience.

What are your current plans and what are your (not so distant) future plans?

I plan to enjoy life to the fullest and do good deeds unto God and then see my son derive happiness from whatever he does.

Any words of wisdom or points to ponder, looking back?

Yes. Respect yourself enough to walk away from ANYTHING that no longer makes you joyful. Happiness isn’t a destination you reach at the end, but a way of life that colours the moment. Remember that.

Written for: ESTEEM Magazine, August issue