Sofitel Broadbeach General Manager Amery Burleigh with UQ students Stephanie MacKinnon
Sofitel Broadbeach General Manager Amery Burleigh with UQ students Stephanie MacKinnon
5 December 2012

University of Queensland student Ms Stephanie MacKinnon won the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to step into the shoes of a General Manager at one of Queensland’s premier hotels, a position many graduates dream of achieving.

A joint initiative of the School of Tourism and the Sofitel Broadbeach, the ‘GM for a Day’ program provides a tourism student with a rare insight into the running of a 5 star luxury hotel from the perspective of a General Manager.

The coveted opportunity included a full day of mentoring and dinner at the Sofitel’s multi awarded restaurant with General Manager Ms Amery Burleigh, as well as an overnight stay as a guest of the hotel to complete the experience.

Ms MacKinnon said the program provided her with the opportunity to see many sections of the hotel that she previously knew nothing about.

“I had the opportunity to sit in on a sales meeting, and see all the intricate details of how the hotel works,” she said.

“My day with Amery has definitely affirmed my love of the hospitality industry. She is such a strong, intelligent woman and she really thrives in the high pressure situations found within a five star hotel. It is my ultimate goal to be where she is.”

Having dinner with Ms Burleigh at Room81, the Sofitel’s renowned restaurant, was one of the highlights of the experience for Ms MacKinnon.

“The food was amazing and the conversation was even better. I truly learnt a lot listening to Amery's story, and I now feel more empowered about my own career,” she said.

Ms Burleigh said the ‘GM for a Day’ program was about putting students in real life business situations, and exposing them to the language and flow of a day in the life of the position to which they aspire.

“Every day of my work life is different – every day presents new opportunities to sell, entertain, learn, benefit and grow the business,” she said.

“It is how you handle each one of these opportunities that determines if you and your team are successful or not.”

The opportunity to mentor an aspiring student was very personal to Ms Burleigh.

“When I was a young manager in a luxury hotel chain in America, my General Manager sent me out to spend a day with all of the female General Managers in our city," she said.

Some were great, and some seemed to do relatively little. I wanted to be a General Manager that made a difference."

The ‘GM for a Day’ competition forms part of the School of Tourism’s Professional Development course, with students being invited to write a short application outlining why they would be perfect for the job.

Ms Burleigh chose Ms MacKinnon’s application because she specifically spoke about the challenges that women have being recognised in the hospitality industry in senior positions.

“My aim is to give Stephanie the confidence to strive for more than she may have before the experience,” she said.

As a guest lecturer at various universities, Ms Burleigh is often asked by students how they can get a job at a luxury property like the Sofitel.

“Getting a job in a five star property is not like getting a job in any hotel - the expectations are considerably higher,” she said.

“From grooming to communication, from experience to attitude, we look deeply at all on offer and to be honest, it is a very select group of people that get their foot in the door with a job offer.”

Ms Burleigh hopes the ‘GM for a Day’ program will help more students understand the high standards of experience and attitude that is required to be considered for a position in a luxury hotel.

Find out more about professional development opportunities with the School of Tourism at

Media: Claire Shuter, (07) 3346 9259 or