Just how do the industry's top execs get to where they are and what advice would they give to aspiring professionals hoping to follow in their footsteps?
We talked to Guoman & Thistle's Christian Armstrong about his career trajectory.
- Christian Armstrong
- Guoman & Thistle Hotels
- People & Development Director
Q: Please provide a brief career snapshot
I began my career working for British Airports Authority (BAA) in the mid 90's before moving to Trusthouse Forte as a management trainee in 1996. I then spent a number of years learning my trade in Hotel Operations, including stints in London and Edinburgh before moving into HR in the millennium year 2000. Since then I have held area, regional and national roles with Intercontinental Hotels, Macdonald Hotels and Guoman & Thistle where in 2010 I took on the role of people & development director for the group.
Q: How did you first get into the hotel/hospitality business?
I was lucky in that the general manager of the Forte hotel at Glasgow Airport saw my potential and gave me a chance. I am still eternally grateful for the opportunity given to me by Alistair in those early days.
Q: To what degree has your career trajectory been planned (as opposed to maximising opportunities as they arose)?
To a certain extent it has been planned as I always wanted to become an HR director by the time I was 40. However I'd say it was a good balance of going after opportunity as well as being able to maximise and create opportunities from time to time.
Q: What do you believe to be the most important skills, abilities or approaches to succeed in a high-level people management / development role?
The ability to take and to give feedback, to listen to those around you actively soliciting input and to spend time coaching and developing others is critical. Additionally, always being on the lookout for great talent and being able to spot potential in people are key to driving your organisation forward.
Q: What advice would you give an operations or HR professional aspiring to advance to a similar position as yours?
Be keen to learn and make sure you surround yourself with great people both within your team and in a networking capacity. Above all else though, opportunity will come if you have a proven track record of delivery and success in your role. So stay focused and have a plan for your area that the business is aware of and that they can measure you by.
Q: What do you most like about your current job?
The opportunity to work with such a talented and gifted group of colleagues who are committed to growing our company each day.
Q: How far do you find yourself subconsciously analysing service/operations when visiting other hotels socially?
Oh all the time, it's all about learning and shamelessly picking up the best ideas. Equally it can be good to reinforce how good we really are, especially when we are being hard on ourselves!
Q: How much has HR/people development changed over the time you’ve been in the industry?
Massively, the focus now is far more on developing talent and levels of employee engagement and is shifting ever more to the role of HR as a business partner.
Q: First ever job?
Saturday job with Dixons in Glasgow as a cashier. I ended up out-selling the salesman as I had the Glasgow patter!
Q: Worst ever job?
I had a short spell on night-shift in hotels and I have to say I didn't like it all. Whilst there was plenty to do, I just couldn't adapt to going to work at 10pm!
Q: If you weren’t doing this, what would you do for a living?
I'd probably be a pilot or a musician as flying and playing live are two of my greatest loves.