Team Talk #2: Ishizaki Yuka [Operations Manager]

This is the second in a series of interviews that covers how Section L came to be and shares what makes working here fun and truly exceptional. Interested in working with us? Check out our latest job openings here!
1. You have extensive experience working in prestigious luxury hotels before. Could you share more about what prompted you to switch jobs from there?

Since graduating from school, I have been working in luxury hotels overseas and have mostly lived abroad. Specifically, I have worked in guest relations at resort hotels in Maldives and Bali, Indonesia. Then I came back to Japan and worked at an international luxury hotel. At that time, I thought, well, I will be going abroad again in the near future. However, after the pandemic began, I decided to remain in Japan for my safety.

Having spent my entire career helping to create extraordinary experiences for guests at overseas resort hotels, I felt that luxury hotels in Japan lacked a sense of intimacy with their guests. That said, a large hotel also has challenges that are rewarding in its own way, but I wanted to find a hotel where I could work closer with the guests so it was in January 2022 that I started looking for a hotel that would let me do that.

2. What’s your role like as an operations manager?

Back in January 2022, Section L had only two hotels with few staff in the Operations team. So I would do anything from managing my team to changing the light bulbs of the rooms. As a manager, I am responsible for any problems that arise at the hotels I am in charge of. I supervise about 10 team members in total.

3. What are some differences you notice being a manager at a larger hotel before and a smaller hotel now?

I was working in a large city hotel with 300 or 400 staff members, so my main mission as a manager was to ensure smooth operations on an already established foundation. On the other hand, in a start-up like Section L, you have to create rules, policies, and staff training from scratch, starting from nothing at the opening. I find it rewarding to learn new things and build a foundation each time we open a new hotel. Section L is a very diverse team. Most of my teammates are foreigners who are studying Japanese, rather than Japanese who can speak English.

4. I heard that you all want to increase the number of Japanese-speaking staff in future.

That’s right. There are some hotels that don’t have Japanese staff. The guests are inbound foreign travelers, so there is no problem, but there are times when they ask for a reservation at the store, or in the case of an emergency happening, only someone fluent in Japanese can respond to the request. In such cases, it would be very helpful to have Japanese-speaking staff members. Since most communication within the company is basically in English, it may seem difficult for Japanese people to apply to the job. Japanese people have very high standards of themselves when it comes to speaking English and prefer to be perfect at it before using it, but we want to support those who are willing to challenge themselves to apply and grow even if they do not consider themselves to be fluent in English.

5. How is working with the Section L team like compared to your previous workplace?

In my previous workplace, many of my colleagues were far ahead in their careers and always invited me to approach them for help if I needed. Here at Section L, our team is filled with people from all sorts of different backgrounds, many who are fresh out of school and do not have a background in hospitality. They look up to me to guide them and are quick to learn and improve. As most of our staff are foreigners, they tend to be very open and honest, saying exactly what they think. I jokingly call them “children” as I feel like a mother watching them grow and develop, which I really find fun.