Mariyam Shafiyya Steinhilber – Director of Sales of JEN Maldives, Malé by Shangri-La

We had the privilege of sitting down with Mariyam Shafiyya Steinhilber, the Director of Sales at JEN Maldives, Malé by Shangri-La, as part of our International Women’s Day interview series.

In the interview, Shafiyya describes her 22-year journey in the hospitality industry and highlights what she believes can be adopted industry-wide to inspire greater inclusion and diversity and ensure equal opportunities for women in leadership roles.

Can you share your journey in the hospitality industry and how you reached the position of Director of Sales at JEN Maldives, Malé by Shangri-La?

My professional journey started as an F&B hostess in a resort at the age of 17, without the privilege of a higher educational background. This decision was taken by the financial responsibilities I shouldered for my family. 

Over the course of my career in the hospitality industry, I have accumulated extensive expertise in various areas, including F&B, Front Office, Reservations & Revenue, as well as involvement in pre-openings and rebranding. It has been a 22-year journey marked by unyielding hard work and unwavering determination that has landed me in my current role as the Director of Sales at JEN Maldives.

How do you navigate challenges and stay resilient, especially as a woman in a leadership role?

My journey from humble beginnings serves as a powerful source of resilience, a reminder to persist and never surrender in the face of challenges. The hard work and dedication that have propelled me to my current position are a testament to my determination. 

Recognising that I can be a source of inspiration for positive change, especially for other women, fuels my relentless pursuit of success. The prospect of being an example motivates me to persist, knowing that my journey can serve as a guiding light for those seeking inspiration and a testament to the possibilities that determination and hard work can unlock.

Have you had mentors who influenced your career, and how do you pass on your knowledge and experience to the next generation of female professionals?

My journey in life and career has been guided by the unwavering support and mentorship of my husband and mother. On challenging days when I contemplated giving up, it was their encouragement that provided the push I needed to keep going. 

With a substantial audience, I aspire to inspire the next generation of female professionals by being and advocate. It is immensely gratifying to have personally offered guidance and mentorship to numerous young women. Witnessing their growth and success, fuelled by the encouragement I provided, is a rewarding experience that reinforces the importance of mentorship in shaping the careers of aspiring individuals. 

What initiatives or programmes have you implemented to support the professional development of women within your team?

In leading my team, I take great pride in the fact that it comprises of 99% of exceptional women. I firmly believe that providing opportunities for their nurturing and growth is the most impactful role a leader can play. Serving as an example, I encourage them to be fearless, to confront challenges head-on, and to stand confidently in their abilities.

I take on the role of a mentor, guiding each team member to unlock their full potential. Identifying opportunities for growth and providing unwavering support are integral aspects of my approach, as I am dedicated to fostering an environment where each member not only flourishes but also continues to evolve beyond their current capabilities.

What skills or qualities do you believe have been most instrumental in your success as a Director of Sales, and how do you continue to develop these skills?

The cornerstone of my success has been my determination and hard work, starting from the ground up. Beginning at the very bottom provided me with invaluable experience in various areas of operations. Having a hands-on understanding of key areas in the operation of a resort or hotel has proven instrumental in my growth, as it allows me to comprehend the intricacies of the entire operation.

Even though I have achieved a significant level of success, my thirst for learning remains. I remain keen on expanding my knowledge and skill set, and this eagerness allows me to actively participate in ongoing learning and cross-training programs. Embracing a continuous development mindset is, to me, an integral part of sustaining success and staying at the forefront of the industry.

What steps do you believe can be taken industry-wide to inspire greater inclusion and diversity, ensuring equal opportunities for women in leadership roles?

In our industry, there are numerous hardworking and experienced local women who have excelled in leadership roles yet often go unnoticed. It is imperative that we amplify their voices and advocate for their recognition, serving as inspiring figures for young girls seeking to instigate positive change. 

These accomplished women can be powerful advocates, showcasing that one can ascend to great heights through hard work, irrespective of possessing a prestigious educational background. 

Internship and training opportunities can be a powerful tool in fostering greater inclusion and diversity within our industry. Offering these opportunities is a gateway for young and aspiring women to start their professional journey. It is crucial to communicate that anyone, regardless of background or challenges, can seize these opportunities with genuine interest and readiness. By instilling this mindset, we encourage a culture of empowerment and resilience that paves the way for women to thrive in the face of any obstacle.