Charles Muchangi, 35, is the general manager of Lake Elementaita Mountain Lodge. He specialises in hotel management, covering standard operating procedures; checklists and customer care; marketing; controls and revenue management; and modern trends.
The father of one shares his career path:
Tell us about your childhood and family life.
I was born and raised in Karurumo village, Embu County. I am the firstborn in a family of four; three boys and one girl. We were raised by a single parent. My mother brought us up in the best way she could as she sacrificed a lot to provide for all of us. She wasn’t rich but we never lacked food, clothing and access to education.
We grew up knowing that mom was the richest person in the world. We didn’t have a television set; we had a small stereo system. Mom bought us a reading table and a wooden bench that we used as our home library. This is where the culture of reading was instilled in me and my siblings.
The village setting that we grew up in was adventurous- we enjoyed child play, mango/avocado/tamarind seasons, visiting schoolmates, and attending crusades and cinemas at the nearby markets. We also played basketball during the school holidays.
Growing up the following principles such as honesty, patience, and hard work were instilled in me. These are the building blocks of my career path. To date, she always reminds us that tough times do not last- and that God is in control.
I attended Karurumo Primary School. Being the best boy student (class of 2001), I secured admission to Kegonge Boys High School (now St James High School). I scored a mean grade of B plain in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education.
Since I didn’t attain University Joint Admission Board’s cutoff point, I couldn’t join a public university as a regular student. I knew a parallel degree programme was not possible given my mom’s financial situation. One day my uncle brought me scholarship forms for Professional Training College in Japan. I filled out the forms selecting Civil Engineering, Tourism Management and Hotel Management.
But my application was not successful and I was later advised to apply for Hotel Management course at Kenya Utalii College. My application was successful and I joined the premier hospitality training institution to pursue a four years diploma course, Hotel Management. Five years after graduating from KUC, I joined USIU to study a Bachelor of Science Degree, Hotel Management.
Share with us your career journey.
During my training at KUC, I went for a six weeks Industrial familiarization programme at the 680 Hotel, a programme structured to aid students to acquaint themselves with hotel operations. I went for three management training internships; one at Welcome Inns in Diani, another at NAS Airport Services and the other one at Red Court Hotel (now known as BOMA Hotel).
When I graduated from KUC in November 2010, I got a job as a restaurant manager at Nyali Beach International Hotel (now known as Nyali Sun Africa Beach Hotel & Spa). After two years in NBIH I joined the 680 Hotel as a food and beverage manager. I then joined Hoggers Limited (Steers & Debonnaires) as a restaurant manager. After a stint at Steers & Debonnaires, I joined Safari Park Hotel & Casino as a restaurant manager.
In 2017 I joined 67 Airport Hotel as a food & beverage manager. At 67 Airport Hotel, I deputized the general manager. After two years and three months at 67 Airport Hotel, I got an opportunity to be the lead- preopening preparations, recruitment, suppliers’ selection, launch and pioneer general manager at The Frontage Hotel in Mlolongo, Machakos.
After a successful opening, systems set up and navigating the Covid 19 pandemic, I started seeking a different challenge. Through a mentor of mine, Mr Edison Komora, Lodge General Manager, Elewana Collection, I learnt of the position of General Manager at Lake Elementaita Mountain Lodge, a Hospitality outfit owned by Superior Homes Kenya, and that is where I am currently.
Superior Homes Kenya is the developer behind Greenpark Estate, East Africa’s first and best master–planned gated estate, and Pazuri at Vipingo, a master-planned residential and holiday estate located in Vipingo.
My scope of work includes looking after my team by ensuring that they are provided with a conducive working environment, planning and executing continuous staff training sessions as well as motivating and leading them by example.
It is also my responsibility to ensure a seamless flow of the Lodge’s operations, to ensure excellent guest experience at the Lodge and to take care of financial interests of all stakeholders and shareholders.
What do you remember most about your career journey?
When I received my admission letter to join KUC, there was a list of items that the college required students to report with. A white shirt, black trousers and black bow tie among others. When I read this section of the list, I saw “soft life.” In my mind, I thought that hotel management students attended dinners/banquets and cocktails from time to time in order to get exposed to hotel operations; to my amazement, this was a waiter’s uniform for practical lessons. I later appreciated the practical aspect because it polished me.
How has been your career progression over the years?
When I left Kenya Utalii College, I was ready for an opportunity in Front Office Management, Operations Management and Food & Beverage Management. I landed the latter because it presented itself first – five days upon graduation. I rose through the levels to full F&B Manager.
Securing the position of General Manager at Lake Elementaita Mountain Lodge, a development by Superior Homes Kenya, East Africa’s first and best master-planned real estate developer has so far been one of my greatest achievements.
What has been a key driver of your growth?
I owe my career growth to honesty, punctuality, discipline, positivity/optimism, team spirit and being a stickler for detail and people skills. I celebrate the rise in my career and value that I have added in teams and organizations that I have worked with. A can-do attitude has helped me succeed in roles and tasks that seemed difficult to accomplish.
I have made wrong decisions but I picked important lessons from all my mistakes. I have learnt that good things take time and easy come easy go – this has helped me to trust the process even when I felt like growth had really delayed. My principle all along has been, if it is to be, it is up to me. This helps me to keep pushing and to believe in myself.
Who are the people or relationships that you can single out for shaping your career growth?
Firstly, God has been faithful to me. My Mom and my wife have invariably believed in me even when imposter syndrome set in. I have worked hard to grow in order not to let them down. My mentors both at leadership and professional levels, my colleagues for inspiration and the various teams that I have been privileged to worked with have all played a role in impacting my career growth.
Key decisions you might have taken along your career?
Leaving my comfort zone and my family to go and work in distant places so that we can have a better life. In 2019, I left an employer without any other opportunity to hold on to for the sake of my wellness; body, soul and mind.
What would you tell your younger self?
There are no certainties in life but outcome; and that when man plans, God laughs.
What would you advise the youth in Kenya and Africa today?
Rome was never built in a day; we are products of what we do repeatedly; we should trust God and the process.
I have set out to give my best in my present role as the general manager, Lake Elementaita Mountain Lodge and to go back to school to further my studies. Life begins at 40 and thus for the next years, I wish to have enrolled for a PhD in Hospitality & Tourism.