An interview with Deepanshu Chawla, Learning and Development Manager at Mercure Maldives Kooddoo

07 September 2017

“Learning is fruitful in open minds than just closed doors”

1: Can you tell us a bit about your beginnings? What were your aspirations back then?

 My love towards the food and hospitality business comes from my family where happiness and celebrations are a synonym to special food preparations and family dinners. To take my passion further, I decided to join a hotel school and was selected for the prestigious Chandigarh Institute of Hotel Management where I learned basic traits in all core hotel operational areas and other verticals. As I was closer to my graduation I chose Food and Beverage Management as my major and space which I wanted to explore and excel. Back then the aspiration was similar to what it is today, to focus on improvement and keep moving with the same passion because I always knew that if you are passionate and genuine for what you do, it is what makes you different and special.

 2: What were your early days like in India? What were some of the difficulties you faced in your journey to success?

 The early days were definitely thrilling and a bit challenging, especially when you are in a fast track management development program and expected to learn at a much faster pace than others and maintain the best of relationships with people around you. In this entire duration of setting up a strong base for myself, I realized that it is more important to value people around you and respect them for their contributions than just to focus on your technical abilities.

 3: How did you get into this industry? What made you want to become a learning and development manager?

 During my Internship at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Gurgaon, India, I spent a lot of time with the Learning and Development team there; very soon I was given the opportunity to facilitate training sessions for fellow Interns which definitely motivated me a lot towards L&D and helped me to understand different learning behavior’s while polishing my facilitation skills. By this time I had also realized that to stand at the center and speak, you need to have the required knowledge of operations so I decided to start my career as a Management Trainee where I can learn in sights of operations and then take a strategic move to Learning and Development.     

 4:You have had a long history in this industry, with positions in respected companies such as Marriot, Hyatt and IHG. How did those experiences affect your career?

 When I look back now and assess myself I can easily pick out traits that I have learnt from the organizations and the people I have worked with. During my journey with these amazing organizations I have had a lot of experiential learning which no book can teach, this is something learnt from my mentors and my colleagues at work place. You are certain to learn from each other when you are in a progressive environment because of the passion people possess in our industry. I have always practiced and believed that the best way to learn is to learn from people around you, no matter what designation they hold. It doesn’t cost you anything and that is what I have been doing and will forever do.

 5: What are the main responsibilities of Learning and Development Manager at the flagship property of AccorHotels in the Maldives? Can you tell us a bit about the work that someone in your position carries out every day?

 The role of a Learning and Development Manager is very important and exciting with a lot of responsibility especially when it is a flagship property of Accorhotels in Maldives, it starts from inducting new talent’s to Accorhotels, the brand, and our values, introducing them to our vision and making them a part of it while keeping them engaged, passionate and motivated at all times. As an L&D Manager, the key task is to bridge any gaps through my need analysis and setting up a strong learning culture in the resort along with my Director Talent and Culture and the General Manager. The focus is not only to invest maximum time in training talents but also to measure and evaluate our training methodology and to use the right tool with the right set of learners while keeping them all engaged.


6: Everyone has different techniques for their work, as must you. Can you tell us a bit about them and how you implement them at Mercure Maldives Kooddoo?

 I have always believed that “Learning is fruitful in open minds than just closed doors”, so my technique is very simple, do not push people to learn, inspire them. As an L&D Manager my key focus is people and their development, and it is a relationship which is based on trust and respect. When we respect talent and value them nothing can stop them to develop themselves, as an L&D, you just have to act as a catalyst and support them. 

7: How do you try to develop the talents of your staff at Mercure Maldives Kooddoo?

 You can never judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, likewise, each individual is different with their own learning abilities and you cannot adopt the same methodology to everyone. At Mercure Maldives Kooddoo we use different tools in developing our teams, Power sessions, Brainstorming sessions, Role Plays, Team Activities, competition sets, orthodox classroom session are some of the different techniques which we use to break the monotony and present a fresh perspective to learning.

 8: What are the expectations that you have from your staffs when training them? What is the most important characteristics a staff must have in your opinion?

 My expectation usually begins after the session, when I want the learners to go and practice the skills learnt or adapt them in the daily routine as and when required. I believe an effective training is when the learners start using the skills on their job. We have ways to observe and evaluate the same and in terms of important characteristics I believe we all should be open towards learning, and also towards change if it is for good because what has been successfully working for years doesn’t guarantee that it would work the same forever, we all need to change as and when it is required.


9: What are some of the developing ideas and plans that you have Mercure Maldives Kooddoo, since it opened very recently?

 We are very close to open our doors and to welcome our first guests; our team is ready and very much excited. Every individual across all departments and levels have spent a lot of time and energy in deciding the minute details to provide immaculate services to our guest. Sometimes the smallest gestures can make the biggest impressions so we are determined to make our guests feel welcome and to go the extra mile by taking care of them and making them feel special at all times, because this is what we enjoy doing.

 10: As Learning and Development Manager, do you have a few words of advice or steps for our readers in becoming successful?

 If you are genuine and passionate for whatever you do, you are on the right path to be successful. The best trainers and source of knowledge is people around us, let us learn from each other and enrich ourselves every day.