THIS week’s High Flyer is Sherif Salem, director of revenue and reservations at the Fitzwilliam Hotel in Belfast
What was your first job?
When I was a teenager my father was the general manager of a cruise ship in Egypt and he was always advising me to find an alternative career path than hospitality. I was very inspired by his charisma and recognition he got from all his team and I was adamant that I wanted to be like him. So during one of my school summer holidays, he started me on the starting line serving coffee on the cruise ship. I think this was his attempt to put me off, but it didn’t work!
What qualifications do you have?
Master of Arts in Hotel & Catering Management.
What do you attribute your success to?
Firstly God, my hard work and dedication and my family’s support.
How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?
Calm and quiet, until you get to know me!
Who do you look up to in business?
I’ve always appreciated the way Richard Branson handles his business affairs and employees.
How do you get the best out of people who work for you?
Working in a five star hotel with over 140 bedrooms is as busy as you would imagine, so it’s important that I always listen to my team and discuss the plans set out to ensure we all understand the tasks and are on the same page.
If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?
The VAT – it’s too high and very unattractive, which limits new ventures opening.
What website or app could you not do without?
Professionally, my outlook is always open and social. The app that consumes my battery life the most would be YouTube – it works better than a dummy for my little girl.
What was the last book you read?
The Meadows of the Righteous, written by Al-Nawawi from Damascus.
What car do you drive?
A really old 2002 C-Class Mercedes, but it’s automatic which I love.
Tell us something interesting about yourself?
While snorkelling in the Red Sea, Egypt, a shark decided to join me and in a panic, one of the members snorkelling in our group decided to push me towards the shark, however, I’m still alive with all limbs to tell the tale. I was also once attacked by a salt water crocodile while canoeing in the Katherine Gorge, Australia.
What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?
When I have time and find myself alone, I love to sit with a page and pencil and draw anything and everything, lately it’s been animals found in the jungles.