Silvia Serrano CCM is currently the Director of Finance & Administration at Real Club Valderrama in Spain which is one of the best known golf clubs in Europe. She has worked there for 8 years, firstly as Executive Assistant and then as Membership Membership before taking her current role. Silvia is one of only two women in Europe to have gained the CCM certification. She also currently sits on the CMAE’s Education Policy Board.
Here Silvia gives us an insight into her career history and the difficulties of sitting the CCM exam in a foreign language.
What prompted you to enter the club industry and what aspect of your previous career best prepared you for your current role?
I entered the club industry in the first place as just an “intermediate step”. When the crisis hit our country, the governmental agency I was working for closed and I began working in this industry while searching for another job related to my background.
I had the luck to enter the club industry at Valderrama and never thought I could apply so much of my knowledge and develop professionally in so many ways as I have done during 8 years in this wonderful club.
I am currently the Director of Finance & Administration and previously Executive Assistant and Membership manager, I have been lucky enough to work at some point in all departments of the club.
My background is Economics as a degree and Masters in Economics and Workforce development. Previously I had great experience of working in first aid and renewal of a natural disaster, in research and analysis, negotiation and high scale event planning. These experiences together with my love for technology development and procedure optimization, have been very useful in many areas of my roles at the club.
I was part of a cost optimisation plan in 2010-12, being able to research and build 5 year analysis charts and the negotiation with suppliers were key to master the plan.
In charge of events planning for 6 years at Valderrama; my experience in international events planning helped me not only to understand better our member & guests but also to anticipate cultural differences and needs.
As for the staff and departments, in the events I had to change my experience in the coordination of different entities in the distance, for smaller groups of people that make action take place much faster. Although the team personal contact in site was new to me, it was very useful and fun, definitely the best part.
Thanks to my technology passion and experience in procedure optimisation, I could collaborate with our General Manager, Javier Reviriego, in establishing new departmental procedures and the development of the website, member’s communication system and recently a new statements platform.
In my current position, my economic background and more technical knowledge, together with all the experience gained at Valderrama, is helping me to see the numbers more into a real frame than other economists that only analyse the number itself.
Last but no least, working in first aid and renewal of the Katrina during my masters scholarship in Mississippi, USA, has been the most helpful experience to learn to appreciate the team work, others people’s needs and how the contribution of every individual can make a difference.
You are one of only two women in Europe to attain the CCM designation. Why do you think the club industry is so male dominated?
Through my CCM pathway I am very happy to see that the European Club industry is no longer that male oriented. During many years it was an area more appealing to males; however many women are already working and studying in the industry and it will take just a few years more to list female names as General Managers.
I am very honoured to have got the CCM designation with my peer Debbie Pern, she is one of the few European female General Manager and has been a mentor to me through this process.
My club, specially my General Manager Javier Reviriego, and my family always supported me through my development in the industry and CCM pathway, and Debbie showed me it was possible.
Tell us about the difficulty in sitting the exam in a foreign language and where you were when you heard you had passed?
English is my second language and I am really lucky that at my club it is the most used than Spanish most of the time. However, sitting the exam in English was a real challenge, not only because you can not write your statements in a natural way as it comes in your own language, but mostly for those words that all the sudden you don’t know or the stress of the exam does not allow you to recognize or translate by context.
The best part was that we were trained to face them. I sat the exam together with other 3 Spanish colleagues, and Daniel Asis coached us through the whole process of preparing for the test. He helped us to prepare the material and mostly he helped us to prove ourselves with timing and the tiredness of working under such stress for many hours in another language. It would have been impossible without his coaching, Gracias Daniel!
A couple of weeks after the exam we were really careful with our phones, I received a voice mail from a great colleague of the association and when I returned the call I also left a voice mail saying to please call me no matter the time. I received a phone call late at night and a voice said: “Dear Silvia, CCM” I wanted to scream and jump and wake up everybody at home but I decided to first celebrate over the phone with my American friends that were already awake…
Real Club Valderrama is notably one of the top golf clubs in Europe. What difficulties does having such a high profile bring?
Working in such a unique place as Real Club Valderrama is a blessing in many ways compared to the constraints other clubs suffer.
However, the level of thoroughness and excellence make every detail a very important one. The level of expectations of our members and visitors does not allow us to relax at any minute.
I believe working in Valderrama also has an impact in your personal side, while at other jobs you can share with your friends, this job always has to be kept confidential thus preserving its enigmatic halo of privacy and exclusivity.
You are not far from Gibraltar. How do you think that Brexit will affect your local economy?
It is hard to predict how Brexit will affect our local economy; we have many British citizens that visit Spain from Gibraltar daily and many other that have a house in the area. On the other side Gibraltar has a relevant amount of Spanish labour force.
I want to believe Brexit will come with some additional agreements for special situations as Gibraltar that will be on the best of the British/Spanish citizens.