May Diversity and Inclusion Spotlight – Sharon Eliatamby

MayspotlightsharoneliatambyTell SHFM members a little about yourself:

My Malaysian multicultural upbringing has always guided my philosophy of hospitality. I like to say that I learned my protocol skills at the family dinner table where we connected with people from all the diverse cultures that make up the fascinating country of Malaysia. I so loved welcoming our friends into our home and conversing with them in Malay, two dialects of Chinese, not to mention English, that I decided to make hospitality my career.

I convinced my family to let me go to the Hotel Consult Institute Hotelier Cesar Ritz in Switzerland where I earned a Diploma in Hotel Management. And that’s where the adventure began! From there, I earned a Bachelor of Hospitality and Hotel Management from Johnson and Wales University in Providence RI. And then a Certificate in International Protocol Training from the Emily Post Institute in Washington DC which is now my home.

Washington is a fabulous place to live. The diversity is not quite as vibrant as Malaysia (how could it be?) but it’s close! I started my career there as the Director of Food and Beverage at the Ronald Reagan Building where I was on the founding team to open the building to the public. This challenging project involved overseeing the final construction and implementation of a 2.2 million square foot event space. I loved being able to create a culture of high service standards and impeccable quality for our clients and our staff.

That experience led me to where I am now in my “dream job,” the Senior Project Manager for Food and Conference Services at the World Bank Group (WBG). I get to direct operations for multiple food service locations serving cuisines from over 180 countries within the five building WBG campus. I enjoy planning and organizing large scale events not only at the WBG headquarters, but also around the globe; including Paris, Bali, and Peru where I have hosted WBG leaders, top national and political figures, as well as international dignitaries.

Covid-19 has changed many aspects of my job, but we have adapted very well to hosting virtual events and running the much of the operation from my home office. I am anxiously looking forward to re-opening in-person service later this year. The challenge of bringing back over 150 employees to serve food and cater events will be one of happiest milestones of my career.

What inspires you and how do you try to make an impact?
Our younger generation inspires me! Every day I read about how they are responding to the major challenges presented by Covid-19 and I admire their resilience. The hospitality industry will be coming back, but probably not as we have known before. I would like to make an impact by finding new ways of helping new hospitality professionals adapt, thrive, and find opportunity in our very rewarding and exciting profession.

Now, I am in the position to give back and help others to who have a similar path that I had. One of the organizations that I support is called AALEAD in the DMV area. They support low income and underserved Asian Pacific American youth with educational empowerment, identity development, and leadership through after school, summer, and mentoring program.

What would you like others to know about your culture/heritage?
One thing I know for sure that you will never go hungry when you visit my home. All we talk about is food and every time when our family or friends visit the first thing we ask is “Are you hungry?’ or “Have you eaten?” Food is the common denominator when it comes to our Asian heritage. When you think of familial meals, what is one of the first dishes that comes to mind?
Oh my! You just stirred a wonderful memory! It’s “Laksa,” a noodle dish with fish served with a tangy spicy broth. The preparation to making this dish from scratch has a lot of steps. Chopping, grinding of spices, meticulously preparing the fish, but the end result is so well worth it. This was the “special event’ meal we had at our family table and a conversation starter! What ways can SHFM members support Asian cultures in our organization or beyond?
This question brings me back to my family table. We Asians have such a vibrant, diverse heritage, along with our variety of language, food, and culture, I can still hear the lively conversations we had there. SHFM members can open the conversation to encourage a dialogue between all cultures to show how the hospitality industry, through the mission of SFHM, can help unite us all.


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