Celebrating International Women’s Day at The Grove
1 March 2022 / Lifestyle /
Behind the scenes at The Grove is a passionate team who are dedicated to creating beautiful experiences for our guests. We are proud to champion equality in every way, and for International Women’s Day, we thought we’d share the journeys of a few of our most inspiring women at The Grove.
Debbie Rogers | Sequoia Spa Director
My journey at The Grove began in 2004 after finishing four years of study at The London College of Fashion in Business and Beauty Therapy. I remember at the time I was really unsure of what career path I wanted to take but I knew I needed to get a conventional, full-time job, so I applied to be a receptionist at Sequoia Spa. The Grove had only just opened its doors as a hotel a year prior and I remember feeling overwhelmed at even getting an interview because my previous work experience had only been as a part-time cashier for Waitrose whilst studying. I was excited to start my role as a receptionist as I knew I would able to develop the skills that I’d learnt from my Business NVQ and it was also perfectly related to the beauty qualification I’d attained. From this job I then worked my way up within the ranks of Sequoia – from Head Receptionist to Reception Manager, then Spa Manager to my current position as Spa Director. Each of these positions provided me with the training, development and motivation I needed to progress and I am proud of what I have achieved thus far in my career. A lot of my time at the moment is spent in and out of meetings, coordinating and managing the Sequoia spa refurbishment which is set to be completed at the end of April. It’s been hard work but we know the end result will be so worth it!
Fiona Blacklock | Assistant Reservations Manager
I have always lived locally to The Grove so when the hotel was built in 2003 I was very keen to become part of the buzz and get my foot in the door of the hospitality industry. My first role at The Grove was in Meetings and Events Operations when I was 18, and I worked in this job for two years on a casual basis before I moved away from the area for a more permanent, full-time job in hospitality. (I did this knowing full well that I wanted to return to The Grove one day.) For the next five years I worked at the Hilton Hotel group gaining experience in the Food & Beverage and reception departments, but came back to The Grove when a position in the reservations team became available. I remember as if it was yesterday when and where I was when I got the call from HR telling me that I had been successful in my interview and that I’d secured the role of Reservations Agent. I could not hide the smile on my face!
When I re-joined The Grove, my career started to progress very quickly. I was soon promoted to Senior Reservations Agent, then Reservations Supervisor and then to Assistant Reservations Manager where I am today. During this time I had the opportunity to step up and cover the Reservations Manger role on three occasions due to other team members going on maternity leave, and this was a brilliant experience where I learnt a lot.
Day-to-day I look after a team of 11, dealing with all reservations made within the hotel including accommodation, dining requests, golf and spa bookings and activity requests. We are a busy office with constant incoming calls and emails, being the first point of contact with all guests. And we do tend to get some very weird and wonderful requests meaning no day is ever the same! There is always something new happening here and always a lot to learn, so I’m sure over the next few years I will be able to add a few more strings to my bow!
Anna Darnell | Resort Leisure Director
I started my journey as a keen young golfer at the age of 5 and by the time I started senior school I knew that I wanted a career in golf. I took the positives from being in a very male dominated sport and was fortunate enough to stand out from the crowd, which secured my first role as a trainee professional at an exclusive private members club. From there, I took on a challenge in the Middle East and continued to teach students such as the King of Bahrain, other diplomatic dignitaries and the national golf team. After I met my husband, now of 13 years, I moved back to the UK to pursue a role in golf operations. I joined The Grove in March 2005 and since then I have moved from corporate sales to retail and instruction to golf operations and finally stepped into my dream role as Director of Golf in March 2011. I felt this was a huge achievement as a female at the age of 29. One of my proudest moments was the final day of the British Masters in 2016, when we were able to look back and see how well we performed as a team. Since then, my role has become much broader and I am now looking at how we can improve the experience of our leisure guests through the resort reservations and activities teams, and more recently how we can bring our golf guest journey together with our food and beverage team in The Stables. With the varied teams I deal with on a daily basis, there is never one day the same and always new challenges that present themselves, which has been the biggest learning curve for me, but also what I enjoy most about my role.
Natasha Geldenhuys | Head Gardener
My journey at The Grove started back in 2003 at the grand opening, when I was working as part of the contractor team for McQueen’s florist, London. My love grew for the estate and after four years I became a part time gardener. After a short break and relocation from The Grove, I returned in April 2010 as a full time gardener, dropping my first child at Anouska’s Nursery every morning. In December 2010 I became Formal Gardens Supervisor and I think I can safely say that with help I re-planted every inch of the Formal Gardens. I then took another break in 2013 to have my second child; I couldn’t wait to return so as soon as he was 3 months, I was back to my paradise gardens at The Grove. Whilst away I had so many ideas of how to create wow factors within the gardens and couldn’t wait to get started. In 2015 I created what is now ‘The Vista’, a border with an airy feel, alive with bees, butterflies and birds. Later that year I was promoted to Deputy Head Gardener, I must say was very nervous about this and without the support from The Head Gardener and the gardens team this could have been a tough call. During the last four years our department has flourished, creating gardens for all to enjoy, complete with woodland benches and shelters crafted from recycled materials. We joined the Wildlife Trust in 2017, which has given the gardens department new direction; we are all eager to plough forward in developing our estate management skills. I try to create individual objectives for each member of the team by embracing their interests, talents and strengths, which has proven to be both enjoyable and successful. Most importantly, I love getting my hands dirty, getting stuck into the task at hand, I strive to improve our environment for our team and guests alike. I am proud after nine years to be part of The Grove gardens and estate department and can’t wait to get into work every day.
Amelia Lawrence | Executive Housekeeper
Liaising with a whole host of suppliers, from florists to maintenance engineers, I oversee the activity to maintain the cleanliness and appearance of the hotel. I have been at The Grove for almost seven years and have a strong team, who enjoy working in housekeeping as much as I do. Every day is different, every day has its challenges, but every day we ensure that guests have the best possible experience. Throughout my career, I have managed housekeeping departments with 150 bedrooms right through to 1000, winning UK Housekeeper of The Year in 1995 and 2017, as well as being runner up in the AA Housekeeper of The Year in 2009 and 2013. It is an amazing job, which I have been proudly doing for 30 years.