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Acorns 2019: Ilona van Rooij, 28

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Acorns 2019: Ilona van Rooij, 28

Commercial director (maternity cover), Conrad London St James

Nominator Beverly Payne, general manager, Conrad London St James

Proudest moment “Facing my fears as a young female leader, taking risks and delivering great results with my manager, mentors and team.”

Greatest inspiration “My general manager Beverly Payne, who has been a great coach, mentor and friend. I couldn’t have made this significant career step without her support.”

Why hospitality is a great career “It’s dynamic – people are at its core and it opens up travel, growth and career opportunities. It’s exciting – no day is the same and I get to work and grow my career with the most passionate and inspiring people. It’s important to do something you love, and for me that’s hospitality.”

In 2013, aged 22, Ilona van Rooij was one of just 10 people out of 2,500 applicants selected for Hilton’s graduate general manager fast-track development programme, Elevator. The 18-month training included gaining operations, finance, HR and business development knowledge at Hilton hotels in Italy and Austria.

Just 18 months after graduating in 2015, she was promoted to assistant director of the London cluster, responsible for groups, conference and event sales, planning and reservations at seven Hilton hotels with an annual budget of £16m. Being as ambitious as she is busy, she also managed to complete the Director of Business Development Aspire programme.

In 2018, this led to her being promoted into her current position with a team of 18. It’s a role that has showcased her financial acumen, delivering rooms revenue growth of 8.7% and over-achieving budget by £500,000.

Van Rooij hasn’t been neglecting her own development. She has won a place on Shine 4D, Hilton’s development programme for commercial and operational directors, and has built bridges with other departments through a weekly running club, improving lines of communication at work. This has resulted not only in better financial performance, but also in a happier team and, therefore, a more satisfied guest.

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