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This GM's an Easy Rider

JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai General Manager Michael Malik used to walk past the construction skeleton of the towering skyscraper that is now home to the hotel and dream of one day running it.

Malik, 39, achieved his dream, having been appointed earlier in the year to head up the Marriott International's flagship hotel in China at the Tomorrow Square.

The Harley Davidson motorcycle-riding GM first came to China 10 years ago and has worked in both Beijing and Shanghai as well as Chongqing.

It was during his first stint in Shanghai in 2000 that he saw the construction of the building that has become a landmark.

"I took a cab to the Portman and walked all the way to the Bund and I stopped here (the JW Marriott) and saw it was under construction. I thought it would be nice to work here," he says.

"Ten years later I am back working here, so you have to be careful what you wish for," he jokes.

Malik grew up in Hong Kong and began his career there with Marriott 16 years ago, starting at reception.

It has been a steady climb up the ladder, with Malik becoming the general manager of his first hotel at the age of 33.

"I have risen through the ranks, I am an operations guy, I have worked in a lot of departments and I think I know what a lot of our guys do on a daily basis," he says. "Hopefully, it helps me to make their lives easier so they can spend more time with the customers and caring for their needs."

He started in April and oversees a 342-guestroom hotel with 610 staff. He also oversees management of 255 serviced apartments.

It's been a busy time. Malik has overseen the upgrade of the 38th-floor Lobby Lounge and is planning refurbishment later this year of the cafe and rooms.

Malik explains that the redesigned lobby uses what the Marriott describes as the "Great Room" idea, which gives guests a feeling somewhat similar to that of being in a living room.

"The Great Room is somewhere they can come to sit, but also somewhere they can come to entertain and to enjoy food between meals," he says.

In keeping with his background in hotel operations, Malik is a general manager who is highly visible to guests and hotel staff.

"I like good, old-fashioned customer interaction and I don't like sitting in the office, I like walking the floor talking to our customers and associates," he says.

The Marriott Group describes all of its employees as associates, Malik explains, in recognition of their crucial role in ensuring a successful experience for guests and, therefore, the overall success of the group.

He points out a group of staff beginning their induction, saying Marriott spends a lot of time ensuring associates are happy because if they are enjoying their work, the customer will have a good experience.

Having himself come through the system, he says even those starting their first day on the job can see a career with the group.

"We work our way through the ranks and a lot of our guys see that and see the opportunities in the company. We are all about developing local talent," he says.

Malik fits well into the international environment of a hotel, coming from a family where his mother is Singaporean and his father Iranian.

A fluent Cantonese speaker, he also speaks Mandarin, the language he uses at home with his wife Linda, who comes from Shenyang, capital city of Liaoning Province.

Both keen on motorcycles; the couple have hit the roads around China on his Road King. Malik is part of the Harley Owners' Group based in Shanghai.


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