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Hopscotch Heroes: Roxana Jaffer

This month's inspirational Hopscotch Hero is the multi-award winning mind behind Holiday Inn Al Barsha, a business that is a testament to diversity, innovation and sustainable practices.  From setting up NGO's, to instigating international sports tournaments and mentoring young people, Roxana Jaffer is a thought leader in many spaces; we sat with her to run through her unusual journey and what she does to keep it all balanced.

"Hello! My name is Roxana Jaffer, originally born in Kenya and hailing from London.  My background is in finance, with my first degree in accountancy from London followed by a role with Dunkin’ Donuts, moving up to director level in the company.  I now run Holiday Inn Dubai Al Barsha after moving here ten years ago from London, taking on the role after I got bored of retirement and having been introduced to the company by my husband who was instrumental in the build of the hotel.  I started by project managing the build, which was very exciting as it was a new profession that I  had no experience of, managing mainly men and learning the ropes at first hand, which was fun and I gained a lot of respect from my staff at my time.

Once the hotel was ready to open, I realised that my background in finance would come in very handy - I did the planning, accountancy, budget and procurement - and now hold the title of CEO.

My main role right now is advising teams across the board, including a 13 strong management team with 5 women, on strategy.  I often going against tradition to come up with new solutions, best practices and sustainable approaches.  Every business strategy at the hotel is defined by sustainability - that was a new thing in 2008 but has become a norm for us.  We have three pillars under sustainability - Energy, Culture and Charity.  The latter falls around our Holiday Inn Loves You programme, raising funds to feed over 400,000 hungry children as part of the UN World Food Programme.

Outside of my role at Holiday Inn, I have a lot of extra curricular activities involving giving back to society.  I formulated an NGO working across UAE, Pakistan and India called Advent for Building Human Capital, through which we teach children who don't have the best English language skills, about how to work in hospitality with the goal of finding them jobs in their countries.  I also engage in mentoring young people out of university or those with problems to help catapult them into successful positions.

To keep things balanced, I walk on the beach every morning for at least 6km and meditate for an hour four times a week to give me the equilibrium of spirituality.  I also pursue Bridge and I’m on the board of an association called Four Jacks, which is recognised under Dubai Sports culture, holding big tournaments with 200 people across the world each December.  

For me, I feel if I am healthy and have a clear mind, it allows me to focus and ensure that what I’m running is done correctly. I think it’s a holistic way of life and I like to socialise a lot, bringing new business into the hotel.  All of this is actually relaxation for me, I don’t remember the last time I switched on the TV, though I have been enjoying Netflix lately on my laptop!

Success for me is ensuring whatever I take on I do my absolute best at - every day is different in hospitality and as a woman you can bring something different to a man, which for me is the secret of my success.  I think women are often a woman’s worst enemy; first of all herself and her self doubt, and secondly other women. Sometimes it not just men who don’t like gender equality, it’ s women too.  I’ve learned that if someone is saying something unkind, I try to ignore it and move on and I’ll try not to let it bother me. You know in yourself if you’re doing something right and making a difference - it's not a comparison game.

My motto is: ‘It is not what I have achieved that is important, but what I have allowed others to achieve.’ (Aga Khan).  This is the line that I use for my NGO and I always work with that in my mind."

Posted: March 27, 2018



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