Mrs. Aileen Sequeira

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Mrs. Aileen Sequeira

Mrs. Aileen Sequeira, a remarkable personality in the hospitality education. She was teaching us Accommodations, she extended her role beyond the academics, taking on the responsibility of being the girls’ hostel warden. Mrs. Sequeira’s commitment to her duty was truly exceptional, evident in her late-night inspections after 9 pm, ensuring the safety and well being of all hostellite girls. What set her apart was not only her professional dedication but the genuine care she bestowed upon the students.

Mrs. Sequeira’s warm and ever-present smile became a symbol of comfort for those going through the challenges of late adolescence and early adulthood. In the pre-internet times, where connectivity was not as pervasive, she played a vital role in bridging the gap between students and their parents. If any girl hostellite was going around with a boy, parents got the scoop via a personal touch – a Diwali card with warm wishes and a gentle note about newfound friendships. This unique approach, coupled with her heartfelt wishes, added a personal touch to the communication, leading to a sense of transparency and trust between the institution and parents. When the girls got back after the break, the post-Diwali gossip was all about whose parents got the special card. Talk about creating a buzz!

Beyond her role as a hostel warden, Mrs. Aileen Sequeira was the examination incharge, managing attendance and dealing with the myriad of excuses that students presented. Undoubtedly, her journey at IHM Mumbai is adorned not only with tales from the hostel and college but also with intriguing narratives from her broader experiences in education. Mrs. Sequeira’s legacy extends far beyond her official duties, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts and memories of those fortunate enough to cross paths with her during their educational journey. Over the years, she was “Mom” to many. Boys and girls alike sought her out for advice, turning her into the unofficial campus counselor. Her secret? A killer smile that could melt even the toughest stress.

Mrs. Aileen Sequeira wasn’t just a name on the faculty list; she’s the author of countless hostel stories, Diwali dramas, and attendance sagas that turned IHM Mumbai into a home away from home.

She dedicated almost four decades to the Institute of Hotel Management, Mumbai, graduating in 1981 and progressing through various roles, from lecturer to Principal In-charge, until her retirement in April 2021. She started her career as a floor supervisor at Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai. Mrs. Sequeira wore many hats during her tenure – teacher, counselor, hostel superintendent, IGNOU coordinator, NCHMCT Examiner In-charge, and Master Trainer – reflecting her unwavering dedication to education. Holding qualifications in Hotel Management, Administration, and Teacher Training, she is a Certified Hospitality Educator. Additional post-diploma and Learning Facilitator qualifications showcase her continuous commitment to learning. Her passion for teaching and counseling has kept her young at heart, and in retirement, she leaves behind a legacy of dedication and influence in the field of hospitality education.

Ms. Aileen Sequeira, studied at St. Anne’s Convent and Loreto Convent in Chembur, Mumbai; continued her education at SIES College, eventually earning her degree, (a diploma program then) from IHM Mumbai in 1981. Her fascination with the glitz portrayed in movies sparked her interest in the burgeoning hospitality industry during the mid-1970s.

She says, “The hospitality and travel industry had just started its initial impetus around 1976. To be very honest it was the glamour of the hospitality industry as depicted in movies that first got me attracted to the thought of pursuing a carrier in hospitality. Also, a lot of students from the hospitality sector were being picked up by the airlines and were also getting opportunities to go abroad after 3 to 4 years experience. In fact at least 40% of my batch, mass migrated to Australia/Canada within 3 years.”

Choosing hospitality posed its challenges, especially facing societal norms that questioned women’s roles in the field. In a class of 120 students, where only 40 were female, Aileen’s decision stood out. She reflects, “It wasn’t easy because my mum wasn’t on board, but my dad supported me.”

Her professional journey began with a year at the renowned Taj group the Taj mahal hotel, Mumbai; where she worked as a floor supervisor. However, a chance meeting with Ms. Thangam.E. Philip, her former principal, altered her course towards education. Sharing her surprise at the unique job offer, Aileen recalls, “One evening while I was doing the Public Area rounds I met Ms. T.E.Philip. She was attending a function at the hotel. Being an ex-student I got talking to her. All of a sudden she asked me if I would be interested in teaching at the Institute as they were planning on starting a Craft Housekeeping and Front Office Course for people in the Industry. I was taken aback as I had never considered it. All I told Ma’am then, was I would consult my parents and get into touch with the Institute. Now those were the days with no computers or mobile services for communication. Ms. Philip in the meantime checked my records and sent a peon home with an offer letter to join the Institute and the rest as they say is history”.

Initially uncertain about a teaching career; Aileen’s reservations transformed into a passion during her 39-year tenure at the Institute. Progressing from a lecturer to roles like hostel warden and superintendent, she explains, “Initially hesitant about pursuing teaching as a career, I grew to love the job, finding joy in interacting with diverse groups of students. Appointed as the ladies hostel warden in 1990 and promoted to Hostel Superintendent within two years, my unconventional request to teach first-year students baffled our Principal, Mr. Shyam Dhargalkar. Despite the norm favoring senior classes, I insisted on connecting with freshers to understand them better. Ms. T.E. Philip has always been my role model, her discipline, integrity, punctuality, and sense of justice guiding me throughout my tenure at the Institute.

Balancing roles as a teacher, counselor, parent, confidant, and friend, I encountered various challenges. As Hostel Superintendent, I found myself rushing girls to the hospital in emergencies, from illnesses to attempted suicides. One incident involved keeping a student at my home overnight, at the request of her father, a high court judge.

Managing academics, I faced unique attendance challenges. For a first-year student struggling to fit in, I requested the college band to include him, helping him successfully complete the course. Another student, initially skipping classes for football matches, was turned around by a simple daily greeting routine, resulting in him becoming a manager at a Taj property. These stories encapsulate my multifaceted journey, embodying the essence of my dedication to students’ well-being and success”.

Looking back, Aileen feels content with her career’s path, stating, “When I look back at my career, I wouldn’t change anything. All the milestones kind of fell into place when I was ready for it.”

In her advice to young students and professionals she says, “Stick to a particular job for at least 2 to 3 years to learn the job entirely. Then, look out for a switch to a higher post or a bigger establishment. It also shows a level of loyalty to an organization. After a couple of years of experience in the industry, enroll for further management or entrepreneur evening or online courses to further your career. Be loyal to your organization. Careers are built on hard work, honesty, integrity, sincerity, and constant perseverance. Your work should speak for itself. Don’t project something you are unable to achieve, also learn from the mistakes of others. Think out of the box when faced with problems as our industry deals with human beings. Creativity and innovation are the way forward.”

Mrs. Aileen Sequeira’s story is one of resilience, passion, and dedication, highlighting the transformative power of education and mentorship in the hospitality sector. Her legacy inspires budding professionals to face challenges with determination and embrace opportunities for growth.

Dr. Laxmi Todiwan
Dr. Laxmi Todiwan
Founder Indian Women in Hospitality. She is a Professor, Corporate Trainer, Motivational Speaker and a Blogger. A multiple award winning hospitality professional with a career spanning over two decades; people engagement, training and development are close to her heart. She writes for hospitality journals, online platforms and columns in the local newspapers. Married to a Master Mariner she loves to write on the maritime industry as well as the lives and relationships of the fraternity. She expresses her thoughts on her blog and website, www.theiwh.com

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