Grenadian Karen James Running The Bars At Sandals Halcyon Resort

    Pink Gin Beach Grenada– “They saw more in me than I saw in myself,” shared Karen James Rougier as she discussed her mentors throughout her 16 year journey in the hospitality industry. The now resort Bars Operations Manager at Sandals Halcyon in Saint Lucia recalled her intriguing introduction to bartending; “My first mentor at Tropicana Restaurant and Bar was Norris Brizan better known as Brother Norris. I was fresh out of the hospitality programme at TAMCC and he took me under his wing. I remember being wowed by the variety of alcohol and liquors there. I had never seen so many drinks in one place. Brother Norris made it a point for me to taste, learn the basics, experiment- but most of all he made learning fun. He really believed in me and hired me at the end of the internship.”

    After an exciting start Karen earned her stripes at various local hotels including Spice Island Beach Resort and La Source. By the time Sandals came around, as fate would have it, her experience and balanced attitude had prepared her for advancement. “The Sandals leadership culture was different- my managers were now frequently encouraging me to prepare for the next level. I just wanted to be a good bartender, but my seniors wanted more for me. They encouraged me to do management courses through the Sandals Corporate University, and gave me additional duties, and then I became a Supervisor.” 

    This culture of learning and opportunity within Sandals drove Karen to excel in ways she hadn’t imagined. “I remember my first Food & Beverage Director at Sandals out rightly saying to my then Bars Manager (Dennis Gilbert), ‘Prepare Karen for when you leave’, as though he was going to fire him. It wasn’t meant negatively but from a place of wisdom, foresight and forward planning.”

    She continued, “He is still the Bars Manager at Sandals Grenada, and he never shied away from teaching me, preparing me, counseling me- little did we know, years later my Saint Lucia opportunity would arise.”

    In 2018, then Food & Beverage Director at Sandals Grenada (now Hotel Manager at Sandals Barbados), Charles Langard did not hesitate in recommending her for the post. “Passionate, dedicated and humble are some of the words that cross my mind when it comes to Karen. She is always curious and open-minded in learning new ways. Well respected by her team- she is a silent warrior, who always exceeds my expectations. She has a bright future in the hospitality business and I wish her all the best she deserves. ” 

    Surprisingly Karen did not simply jump at the opportunity. “Moving to Saint Lucia was a difficult decision because it meant changing my family situation, but with the encouragement of my Bars Manager, Dennis Gilbert, my fellow team members, especially Reina Benjamin and of course my Director Charles- I know I  made the right choice. Most importantly, my husband and my son have made the move and we are all here together on this fascinating creole journey in Saint Lucia.”

    Adjusting to the creole language and culture has been the steepest part of the adjustment for Karen, “My biggest adjustment is the language and culture, their creole heritage is so rich and deeply rooted. The language is widespread and spoken by almost everyone.”

    Navigating this new environment can be challenging but they are certainly taking it all in stride and immersing themselves in the culture. “We’ve been to the Soufriere, Pitons, Pigeon Island and most recently enjoyed the national Creole Day celebrations. Saint Lucia has a lot to offer.” 

    In keeping with her life mantra, “The story of life has many chapters, never let one bad chapter spoil the entire story,” Karen is not letting any possible disadvantage overwhelm her. She has carried to her new role, the highly collaborative and democratic leadership she was educated under; “I did not come in thinking I knew everything. I value the experience of the team I was given and consult them in decision-making where appropriate as much as possible.”

    Envisioning her future, “I look forward to growing with Sandals and perhaps becoming a Food & Beverage Manager one day, but in the meantime, I am committed to sharing my knowledge and bringing along those I supervise on the same path of upward mobility.”