Maja Demonja
RIT Croatia Class of 2002
International Hospitality and Service Management

Employer: Radisson Blu Hotel, Kuwait
Job title: HR Manager

My adventure started in 1997 at which time I became part of RIT Croatia’s first generation of students, along with Ana Jarak, Marko Slunjski, Maja Bencic, Izet Zdralovic, Ana Kesovija, Mirjana Cutura and many others. Up until that time I lived in a peaceful town called Sisak and little I knew what lay before me when I decided to enroll at RIT Croatia.

The years spent at RIT Croatia brought new knowledge, exciting new experiences and friendships that will last forever. If I had to select one thing that I gained – I would say that I learned "to fish”. I realized very soon that, in order to find employment and advance in my career, I would have to look further than Dubrovnik.

I started with a seasonal position of Reservation Agent in Suncani Hvar in 2003. After that, I "strayed” a little from the hospitality industry, when I received the opportunity to work as commercial assistant in a small private company in Zagreb that imported playgrounds for children.

Realizing that I really wanted to work in Human Resources and in hotels, I decided to take a leap of faith. I resigned from my position in Zagreb and took a seasonal job on Hvar as Agency representative with the purpose of trying my chances with Suncani Hvar hotels, which were facing renovation.

Before my seasonal job finished, I was invited for an interview with then COO of Suncani Hvar, who saw my passion and interest for HR and decided to offer me the position of Training Manager and soon I was promoted to the position of Employment Manager.

After almost four years there, I got an offer from Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Dubrovnik Sun Gardens. This was my first experience as HR Manager with an International hotel chain – Rezidor. Joining this chain opened a whole new realm of opportunities for me because after three years in Dubrovnik, I received an opportunity to work in Kuwait.

Moving a lot in Croatia (btw my second home is Split since my husband is from there) I sometimes refer to myself as "Mobile Maja”. However, nothing could have prepared me for moving to Kuwait. It took me a short while to get over the weather (50 degrees centigrade for most of the year), and general lack of greenery. Another thing that took getting used to was the crazy traffic. Reckless driving is normal and accidents on the roads can be seen daily.

Working here is obviously a very different experience than working in Europe. There are people from 21 different nationalities working in our hotel and among us we speak 16 different languages. We use English as the official language. Or should I say – Indian English, Philippine English, Arabic English, Cringlish and so on… 90% of us are expatriates, as most Kuwaiti nationals who choose to work are employed in government sectors. It is also a shift for me as this is a business hotel with steady year round occupancy as opposed to the resorts I usually worked at. The hotel is facing reopening this May and we are in hurry to fill all positions and train the new hires before the opening.

As Kuwait labor law mandates a 48 hour work week, it can sometimes get intensive. On the other hand, living in such an environment, you learn to appreciate the little things. My work week includes balancing between recruitment from different countries (India, Nepal, Philippines, Lebanon, Egypt, etc), training and coaching. It also includes managing departmental admin and following up on visas and work permits for new arrivals. We also often organize different employee events but considering alcohol and pork are strictly forbidden, employee barbecues and staff parties are quite different from those in Europe.

There is so much more to say about life in Kuwait, but it would take days. So far, I am enjoying my Middle Eastern adventure quite a bit. I don’t know what will be the next step and where it will be, but I am sure it will again be something exciting!

RIT Croatia. Different from Day 1.

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