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Marcus Simmons and Khaijeh Worrell climbing hotel leadership ladder

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Marcus Simmons has been working as a steward at 1609 Restaurant as part of the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club’s leadership development programme (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Marcus Simmons and Khaijeh Worrell are halfway through an 18-month employment journey at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club that will hopefully lead to management.

They are part of the hotel’s second leadership development programme cohort.

“When I was younger, leadership was the last thing on my mind,” Mr Simons said. “I was a little bit lost and confused.

When he started in hospitality at 19, his only thought was earning money.

“My first job was mini-bartender at Rosewood Tucker’s Point,” he said.

In the decade since then he has “hustled”, working as a beach attendant, stocking a hotel gift shop, and staffing a tuck shop, among other things. Most recently, he was a food supervisor at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

Mr Worrell, 27, was much the same.

“I had glimpses of leadership when I was younger, but did not take it seriously,” he said. “I had to mature to a certain point. Right after high school I was just looking to get my foot in the door or find something that I was comfortable with. In the process, I was trying whatever came available. I wandered around the hospitality industry without much direction.”

He particularly loved working in the golf department at the Southampton Hotel.

Khaijeh Worrell is in the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club leadership development programme in the rooms division (Photograph supplied)

“It was a great place to network,” he said. “I learnt a new sport and still play golf to this day. It opened my eyes to a lot of things.”

Luckily for him, the golf course remained open when the hotel closed in 2020.

As time went by, Mr Worrell and Mr Simmons started looking around at ways to advance themselves.

“I always keep my eye out for better job opportunities,” Mr Simmons said.

Mr Worrell was considering studying management in Canada when he heard about the leadership programme at the Hamilton Princess.

They applied and were accepted.

Mr Simmons is now trying out different aspects of the food and beverage arena.

He has two weeks left of stewarding at the hotel’s 1609 Restaurant before he moves into culinary arts. He loves working in food service.

“Food softens people up,” he said. “There is a lot of attention to detail that goes into it that guests do not really see.”

Meanwhile, Mr Worrell has answered phones at the hotel and worked as a bellman.

“I am in the Fairmont Gold Lounge now,” Mr Worrell said. “In a short time, I will be going into housekeeping. That is a bigger operation and I will probably be there for the rest of my time in the programme.”

He has found the rooms division to be challenging.

“Like food and beverage, there is a lot that goes into it,” Mr Worrell said. “From the outside looking in, you don’t see the big operation going on behind the scenes. It is challenging because of the amount I have to learn and retain.”

While in the programme, Mr Simmons’s biggest lesson has been the importance of relationships.

“Try not to burn your bridges,” he said. “The best part has been getting to work alongside other leaders. That is really what is going to make me stronger.”

Mr Simmons dreams of becoming a maître d’.

“To do that I would have to learn menu design and how to do scheduling, budgeting and staffing,” he said. “On a Friday at 1609, I bet there is nowhere on Front Street doing as much business as that place.”

Last year’s leadership programme graduates, Jaquan Burrows and Tah-Mi Williams, are now working at the hotel, Mr Williams as 1609 assistant maître d’ and Mr Burrows as housekeeping manager. They have become mentors.

“I take my hat off to Jaquan,” Mr Worrell said. “Whenever I have a question or want to know more about a process, I can learn from him. He has never given me the cold shoulder. He has always made himself available for me.”

Mr Worrell said knowledge was power.

“Just knowing who you can talk to is nice,” he said. “It is nice to have two other people that look like us, and have done this before, that we can relate to and talk to.”

Mr Simmons said it is great to have someone like Mr Williams around to help him sharpen his skills.

“He is very refined and good with his numbers,” Mr Simmons said. “It is good to work alongside someone so young and bright.”

Mr Worrell hoped that when he and Mr Simmons start to move up the career ladder they will also be able to help those coming behind them.

One of Mr Simmons motivations is his two young children, aged three and ten-months.

“That pushes you to go on,” he said. “School and the world are definitely two different places. We are living in a society that is definitely cut-throat.

“Everyone is looking for opportunity. Everybody wants a position. If you find your lane, you really have to give thanks.”

He praised the hotel’s owners, the Green family, for being pro-Bermudian.

Mr Simmons said: “People like Keisha Webb [public relations and reputation manager] at the hotel are pushing for us to have a voice in the community. She is helping us to be seen in a different light, as far as hospitality.”

He advised youngsters just coming out of school to take their time with adulting.

“Wi-fi, groceries, nurseries, rent, mortgage, helping your mother out – all that stuff is not $2,” Mr Simmons said. “Work and earn yourself a little bit of money, or go to school.”

Mr Worrell said you have to sift through the positives and negatives and find what works for you.

“Find out who can really help you,” he said. “Some people want you to fail, or are not going to help you at all. When you have leaders around you who are like-minded people who want to see you grow, that encourages and shapes you to become a better leader.”

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Published February 20, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated February 21, 2024 at 8:18 am)

Marcus Simmons and Khaijeh Worrell climbing hotel leadership ladder

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