Search

UCT Student Night Managers Excel After Hours

2 Aug 2017 - 13:15

Between shifts: Nontando Magxala student Night Manager.     Photo: Elaine Woodbridge

Two to three student Night Managers are employed during each vac period at mid- and year-end by Student Housing & Residence Life’s Vac Accommodation Office. They form part of the vac staff component looking after UCT’s guests in residence. These are both UCT students staying on during the holidays for a variety of reasons and commercial guests taking advantage of UCT’s vac accommodation.

We spoke to Nontando Magxala and Lovemore Vushe between shifts during the June/July vacation period.

What does a Night Manager do?

‘My shift starts at 4pm when I do a handover with the day staff,’ says Nontando. ‘I find out what’s been happening that day, and hear about anything I need to attend to that night to keep things running smoothly,’ she explains.

During the night shift Night Managers must remain alert and be ready to welcome new guests, settle accounts and do other administrative tasks, assist with guest inquiries, and handle the occasional emergency. They also manage the other staff working after 4pm including the Student Front Desk Assistant, night nurses and kitchen staff. When necessary Night Managers provide a vital link between UCT management, CPS, and the residences after hours.

There is a roster, and each night there is one Night Manager on duty. ‘We’ve become a family,’ jokes Nontando. To see to all the residences with guests, Night Managers must keep moving around so that each residence receives 2 to 3 visits per night. A regular task is to deliver staff meals but almost anything could come up, and the job requires a willingness to respond and assist in any situation. According to Lovemore, ‘Your car is your office. You spend 50% of your time alone and 50% responding to calls or doing rounds where you interact with others.’

After being up all night Nontando and Lovemore complete their last rounds at 6am and by 8am, after a hand-over with the day staff arriving for work, they are free to go and get some well-earned rest. Night managers are based in one of the residences where they have a room of their own during the vac.

Night glow: UCT campus after dark    Photo: UCT

Challenges

There’s no manual covering every possible situation, declares Nontando, ‘so you have to be quick-thinking and prepared to do almost anything to ensure guests have a good experience. You can’t lose sight of the fact that you’re representing the University and must always ensure guests are happy. Its most important to take charge and dilute any tense situations, always protecting the UCT brand while at the same time serving the needs of its guests,’ she says. She and Lovemore must also protect the morale of the other night staff and be a reassuring presence for them. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a firm stand when guests become unreasonable as would be the case in any hospitality situation. ‘I do my best to make people happy,’ she says, ‘but sometimes I do have to explain that we can’t do special favors for individual guests.’ A challenge can be managing guests’ expectations, especially first-timers who may have higher expectations upon arrival than suits student accommodation.

A common challenge for student staff is dealing with their peers – other students - who are staying in residence. ‘They try to get away with things because I am also a student, but I’ve learned how to be firm and do what needs to be done during my shift,’ smiles Lovemore. ‘I try to always be human and to have empathy but I know when to stand my ground,’ he says.

It can also be challenging keeping the balance between work and studies. Lovemore, who is holding down another two part-time jobs in a busy schedule of commitments - says that personal planning is essential.

High points

For Nontando, who is studying for a Masters in Social Work, the high point of the job is practicing being of service to others. ‘Everybody has to be driven by something, and for me it’s service. It speaks to who I am,’ she says confidently. ‘I love getting to know people, and there are many opportunities for conversation, which I enjoy,’ she says. Lovemore, who is completing his Masters in Social Development, is similarly motivated by being of service. ‘It’s the pinnacle of jobs available to students,’ adds Nontando ‘after doing this there’s nothing else you cannot do.’ Both Nontando and Lovemore appreciate the opportunity for self-learning and the chance to learn work skills.

Photos: Elaine Woodbridge, Zibhamuworx 

Lovemore is a night owl and enjoys being up in the early hours. ‘I don’t use coffee or energy drinks to stay awake,’ he declares ‘I don’t need them!’ He especially enjoys the quiet moments between rounds after guests have retired for the night, when he can think and reflect on his studies.

The opportunity to gain work and life skills is invaluable. ‘You learn to problem solve, how to give good customer service, to interact and resolve conflict, and grow as a person,’ says Lovemore. Leadership skills are in demand in the market and the role of Night Manager is good preparation. ‘It’s not just the money you earn,’ he says as an aside ‘but the pay is also nice. I’m helping to finance my education and I’m proud of my independence,’ he declares.

Thinking of becoming a Night Manager?

According to Nontando, the job would suit a quick thinker, who is open-minded but able to be consistent and who never compromises on quality of service; someone who is humble and empathetic towards others, but who knows the boundaries and has excellent communication skills’. After a small pause, she adds, ‘Guts and resilience are also necessary!’

To inquire about being a Night Manager in 2018, contact the Vacation Accommodation Office at vac-accom@uct.ac.za.