Keseenee Soobramaney started out her career as a primary school teacher in Mauritius and jumped into hospitality when she came to Australia in 2017. She was drawn to the trade as her Indian Ocean island home relies heavily on tourism and hospitality.
Keseenee was awarded the Outstanding Student of the Year in Higher Education, studying a Bachelor of Hospitality Management. She completed the degree as part of a masterplan to work her way to a PhD. Kesseenee is also a qualified chef, completing her Certificate III and IV in Commercial Cookery.
Calling on her lived experience, Keseenee became a mentor and leader in the Melbourne International Student Association, helping new arrivals helping settle in Melbourne and navigate classes and assignments. She’s also been on the higher education committee for the past two years.
Reflecting on her outstanding student award, Keseenee says ‘I think it was the extra little things that I did that helped me be outstanding student. It means a lot, I feel valued and proud, and it means that all the hard work and sacrifices so far have been acknowledged and recognised. It also confirms my belief that all my teachers and family had in me throughout the years, their time and support invested in me to achieve my goals have been fruitful.’
‘Hospitality is one of the pillars of the economy,’ she says. ‘I thought why not get into hospitality, get a bit of experience and if I'm going back to my country, I have something important to contribute to the economy as well. I was doing teaching but maybe it could be getting back to my country and then doing teaching in hospitality because we have hotel school there.’
When Keseenee first started her course, she had a summer job at an events company, but when she moved into a restaurant, her natural aptitude for hospitality was highlighted. Starting as a waiter and thrown in the deep end of service, she quickly picked up skills and was soon promoted to floor manager and then restaurant manager.
The working experience complemented her studies perfectly as Keseenee immersed herself in the food and beverage operations subjects in the hands-on classroom of St George’s restaurant at the Preston campus.
‘It was actually a good time for me to learn at the restaurant while I needed some training as well at work, so it was complementing each other. That's why I think it was easy for me to pick up things and grasp everything. I really enjoyed it. You get to do different part of the operation, like front of house, bar and pass. And then you understand how the flow works.’
Along with learning the crucial basic skills, Keseenee completed two major projects which immersed her in other sides of the sector.
In one project she worked with a business on software for its payroll and taxation needs. At first the idea of accounting was unappealing but it was an eye-opener and ‘actually one of the best experiences’. The other project was working with Darebin nonprofit organisation DIVRS, organising an event for them to attract and retain volunteers.
Keseenee credits her Melbourne Polytechnic teachers for encouraging her to achieve and reach her goals. ‘They were behind my success because they've always supported and motivated motivated me. If they come up with an opportunity about something extra to do, always let me know. And I always say yes because I know it is going to benefit my future career. They were really helpful.’
Because Keseenee also managed to qualify as a chef while studying her degree, Keseenee is now putting her cooking skills to work, gaining experience in a café kitchen.
‘It was a lot but I did it,’ she says. ‘Now I’ve got my experience in front of house and restaurant management, so I'm getting experience in the kitchen and the industry. I think the pandemic has a lot to teach us as well, especially the hospitality industry in terms of coping with the rules and regulations, management skills, staff shortage, how to be innovative and keep the business going. So I think it’s a good time to learn and then get the experience.’
Next step is to do a Master’s degree, then teaching hospitality.
‘But I also have a plan to open my own cafe. That’s my 10 year plan. And if I can fit a PhD I will. I have always wanted to do a PhD.’