Lília Dias's story
I was born in Lisbon and when I was about 15 or 16, I had my first experience in hospitality at the Marriott in Monaco, as some of my family had emigrated close by, due the need for more opportunities and a better life. At the time I hadn’t completed the compulsory education in Portugal since I became pregnant at 17 and had my baby in France, reason why I now speak good French.
As a result of not having the documents that would allow me to stay in France legally (my family wasn’t Portuguese), I was “forced” to return home, but my family had a lot of financial and social needs, so it was imperative that I earn money to feed my daughter. In the neighbourhood where I grew up, there was an integration programme for young mothers who hadn’t finished school, so I applied for it considering I wanted to give my daughter the things I didn’t have at home, where it was unthinkable to have more than two meals a day.
I looked around for something in hospitality. I didn’t know Accor at the time but it was French and that was a good start because I wanted to move to France. I started in Mercure in 2004 as a trainee at 19 years old, in the housekeeping department whereas when I was in Monaco I helped in said department and kind of knew how to do it. Accor received me with great warmth and taught me almost everything I know. They took me on during a very difficult time of my life – I was young and they were like my family. I have given my daughter a different upbringing from mine, this company has changed my life.
When I started with Accor, they accepted me as I am and have always given me the opportunity to grow. When I began at this hotel, the only words I could say in English were ‘Good morning’ and ‘How are you’. When I moved from the hotel floors to the restaurant and came into contact with people more often, that’s when I started learning English.
My current manager told me there are lots of opportunities with Accor in Portugal. I knew what I wanted to do and with help, I prepared for an interview at the ibis hotel that was opening in Lisbon. I did the interview and then a position in the restaurant in Mercure turned up and she gave me the chance to take that.
I have a team of 13, plus me. It is a challenge to manage that many people but I like that – it makes me happy that no two days are the same; it keeps me on my toes. I need to discover something every day, to learn, so that I move on.
I love connecting with people. When I was young, I wanted to work as a flight attendant, meeting different people and destinations every day. When I started my career in hospitality, and especially when I became a receptionist, I realised that I could travel by staying in my city, because our guests come from all over the world and learning from them could be much more enriching than travelling.
I am such a rich person because Accor invests in me so that I can learn and explore; they have given me things no amount of money can buy. I come from a small neighbourhood where very few people have a job and with an awful reputation. My role here has allowed me to make something of myself.
My proudest moment was when I moved up to front office, due to my commitment to learning, and being a reservations manager gave me the boost I needed given that I love to organise and make things happen.
Ultimately, I would like to be a general manager, and I’m sure I’ll get there!
Being a Heartist® is to use the best of yourself to provide a wonderful experience to other people. We all have difficult days but I love what I do and I do it with my heart.
- Lília Dias
- Front Office & Reservations Manager
- Novotel Lisboa (Portugal)