Abby is an international spa consultant with over 10 years’ work and management experience in the luxury 5-star spa sector. Her experience includes many well-known spas’ all over the world such as Champneys Day Spa, Sugar Beach a Viceroy Resort, Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island and most recently Whatley Manor Hotel & Spa.
What made you want to work in the industry? What route did you take in?
When I was 14 I went to Seaham Hall to enjoy a spa day. It was such a wonderful and relaxing day and I remember sat in the spa lounge in my robe enjoying lunch and thinking that this must be such a wonderful environment to work in. That started my desire to explore a career in the spa industry so at 16 I did my high school work experience at a day spa and that confirmed this was the industry for me.
After graduating high school my family and I relocated to Houston, TX, USA. Here I enrolled in The Institute of Cosmetology, Esthetics and Massage which was the first ever Cidesco school in the US. I studied the Cidesco program and just before I turned 18 I graduated with my Cidesco certificate.
Do you find there are any prejudices (good or bad) about choosing this industry as a career?
I think in the UK there can be a stigma that comes with being a beauty therapist- many people can view it as an easy way out. I did however find that this was less of the case in the US and that actually it is recognized in a much higher regard as I believe American’s relate a lot to looking young and with such a huge medical skin care demand especially in the Houston area if you told people you worked in skin care they very quickly asked for your business card.
I have worked in other countries besides the UK and the US and I must say having the Cidesco diploma has really helped me stand out in terms of education. People in this industry appreciate how much hard work goes into obtaining that qualification and so I felt I gained respect for having that.
How hard/easy was your journey - give some examples of some highs and some lows?
My journey has been a complete adventure so far with some great highs and lows. My biggest high was landing the job of spa manager/consultant for Sir Richard on Necker Island. I was a huge fan and this was literally my dream role- so being able to actually land that position was my biggest career high to date.
The low for me would be when I had to leave a job I loved due to a very bad relationship with my boss. I loved the spa and the team but having such a difficult relationship with my boss caused me to hate coming into work and the stress was so bad it eventually took a toll on my health and I had to leave.
What has been your biggest three challenges - and what did you do/are doing to overcome them?
1. Working for a difficult boss has most definitely been my biggest challenge to date. I unfortunately have had two over the past 11 years working in the industry and it can really cause you to question if you made the right decision. In both cases I keep in constant contact with the HR department and tried to find daily enjoyment within my role, but ultimately it caused me to leave a job and a team I loved. I advise anyone to choose a boss over a job and since I became a manager I wanted to ensure I would never treat my staff badly and instead be a positive leader and mentor to them.
2. Becoming a manager in my early twenties was also a challenge for me. I found that some of my staff who were much older than me struggled with having such a younger manager. I also found that other heads of departments or spa managers looked down on me as if I didn’t have enough experience and had nothing to really offer. In times like this I like to look back at my resume and remind myself of how much I have achieved at such a young age and how proud I should be. I also remind myself that I wouldn’t have been hired for the role in the first place if I didn’t bring anything to the table.
3. Another challenge I have faced has been working with different cultures. In resort spas the majority if not all the staff members have been local to that area and when you move somewhere new you can be completely unfamiliar with that culture. In these situations I always made sure I did my research beforehand and when I got there I was respectful of the different cultures and made it a point to learn as much as possible and involve myself with the locals.
What message would you give to anyone considering a career in Spa?
For anyone considering a career in spa I would tell them to make sure it was something they were really passionate about. They should be a people person as this industry is all about customer service and keeping your clients happy. I would also say they need to be happy to work weekends, evenings and long hours.
What message would you give to people already working in Spa?
I think I would say to those already working in a spa it is so important to keep your passion for this industry alive and your education current.
This is a demanding industry that changes constantly so it is vital to keep up with the trends and what is new on the market to keep your clients happy and loyal to you. Attend seminars, expos, workshops, online classes and read industry magazines and blogs to expand your knowledge. I also recommend visiting other spa’s to experience new environments and treatments. It’s certainly a very relaxing and enjoyable way to do research!
Find out more from Diamond Spa Consultancy here.