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Elham Bolooki, Academic Advisor and Senior Instructor at Dubai Colleges of Tourism, makes a case for careers in hospitality in the UAE. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai: From being a naughty child to a senior instructor at Dubai College of Tourism now, this Emirati inspires students by teaching them to pave their path to a successful career.

Meet Elham Bolooki, 28, an Experiential Learning Manager and instructor at Dubai College of Tourism, who trains students to take up a career in the hospitality industry. With a master’s degree (MBA) in International Hospitality from The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, she is setting a positive example for other millennials to explore new avenues.

Elham, who was awarded ‘The Rising Star’ at the 2017 Middle East Hospitality Awards, said she grew up thinking she would pursue a career in musical theatre but ended up making a mark in the hospitality sector. “Never say never,” said Bolooki.

“I completed high school studies at 17. I started applying for universities to pursue a career in musical theatre. I did receive an acceptance letter from the University of Miami for a double major in Business Administration and Musical Theatre,” she said, adding how she loved singing and drama in her school days.

But there was a delay in getting her government scholarship, so she decided to stay back and pursue a degree in hospitality instead. “I did not realise I would love the subject so much. In fact, I have to thank my sister Ahlam who asked me to consider a programme in international hospitality at The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management.”

Elham started her career working for a leading UAE-based hospitality group where she was first selected to be part of the Future Leader Programme. Here she worked in different departments such as the ‘Rooms Division’, ‘Food & Beverage’ and ‘Events Operations and Human Resources’. She also worked in prime hotel properties of the group, including one in Spain, before joining Dubai College of Tourism.

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Elham Bolooki says she has gained a lot of experience in different sections of the hospitality industry. Image Credit: Supplied

“Needless to say, I gained a lot of experience. One of the things that makes me very happy in my job is the fact that I am helping Emiratis and expatriates find a suitable career in the hospitality industry and grow.”

Why her job is fulfilling

Elham says, “As an experiential learning manager, I have a job that fulfills me a lot. Let me give you an example. I once had a really shy student with limited vocabulary in English. He was struggling to do simple things that we were training him for. Nine months later, he was presenting at the World Association of Chef Societies. It was a very proud and emotional moment for me. He was in front of the camera making his presentation and teaching young students. All I did was make him practise whatever he was being trained for again and again. So when you see your students flourish and grow, it is very gratifying.

“There is no better time to join the hospitality industry than now. It is an extremely dynamic industry we work in. It is also a very enriching industry as we meet people of different cultures from around the world everyday. So it’s extremely diverse, dynamic and exciting to work in the hospitality sector now. Anyone who loves to meet, greet people should join our industry.”

Family influence

Elham said her mother was a big influence in her life. “My mother was a working woman and so I was inspired to be financially independent myself. My sister Ahlam, who is Director at the Emirates Festival of Literature, is also a very inspirational person in my life.”

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Elham says her family has played a major role in shaping her personality and career. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Elham said her sister is on a mission to inspire as many people as possible. In January 2020, she co-founded Mangroves 4 Mankind, a licensed social enterprise established in the UAE with an aim to combat climate change by conserving and restoring mangrove ecosystems in every possible coastal city around the world. “Her leadership is inspiring to me. I hope to make a big difference to the community like her some day.”

Elham said she was diagnosed with scoliosis, following which she turned to yoga. Scoliosis is a medical condition in which a person’s spine curves sideways. “I have adopted yoga to rectify this as much as possible. It has changed my life for the better. I want to impart yoga to as many people as possible for I have seen the benefits of this first hand. My mother also did yoga and meditation. So growing up seeing her take care of her mind and body inspired me to do the same,” she said, adding that she was thankful for being in the right environment - both within her family and her country.