Leader of the Future: Anna McAlary

By: Danielle Leroux

Spa Treatment Manager, Willow Stream Spa, Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver

Anna McAlary is the Spa Treatment Manager at the Fairmont Pacific Rim’s Willow Stream Spa and was recently a finalist for the BC Hotel Association Leader of the Future Award.

McAlary has worked for Fairmont for 13 years in roles that have brought her around the world from Alberta, to Bermuda, and now British Columbia. In her current role, she oversees all the massage therapists, estheticians, and bodyworkers, helps coordinate treatments being offered, and assists with other spa operations.

She began her career as an esthetician, later moving into trainer and supervisory roles and then management while at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.

“I have always been a fan of makeup and nails,” McAlary says. “My Grandma sent me for my first manicure and I naturally had an interest in the industry right off the bat. I went right into college for esthetics and it came so naturally.”

“The wellness industry has evolved into a major market allowing students to go in multiple directions.”

The wellness industry has evolved into a major market allowing students to go in multiple directions, but McAlary didn’t initially imagine herself in the role she is in today. “I didn’t have a clear goal of moving into management, but I really had a passion for training and the product lines. I love creating treatments. Being able to develop staff and see them become successful is very fulfilling for me.”

A spa director noticed McAlary’s potential and encouraged her to come back to Canada and start her management journey. “I have had directors who have been really supportive and shaped me in different ways,” she explains. “Fairmont has also provided a lot of incredible development opportunities. I take several trainings every year, from guest service, to HR, and more.”

“I take several trainings every year.”

McAlary has looked to these directors for mentorship when it comes to her own leadership style. “There is always one thing that stands out from a leader. I take that piece of knowledge from each of them. It is a big industry but a small world. I am still very interconnected with many colleagues and we are able to bounce ideas off each other.”

Personally and professionally, McAlary describes herself as a ‘go-getter’ and wanting to get the job done now. “One of my former directors would tell me to let it digest,” she says. “In a fast-paced, guest-facing environment, it feels like you have to make decisions happen now. But I’ve learned the power of perspective, sleeping on decisions, and trusting the process.”

“Communication is the most important pillar.”

This has helped McAlary develop into an intuitive leader who is connected with her team. “We have little check-ins to see how people are feeling and the general vibe of the facility. It is important to build relationships with the team and maintain professional boundaries but also not be scared to have open and honest conversations. Communication is the most important pillar of my own leadership and it is a huge focus when in such a large operation.”

McAlary’s advice for future leaders is don’t forget about self-compassion. “You have days when you can be hard on yourself and want to deliver results, but you also need to be easy on yourself. You are only human. We all make mistakes and we all have really great success stories.”

Outside of work, McAlary’s passion for wellness runs strong. She loves spending time in the outdoors and exploring the wellness modalities Vancouver has to offer.

As she looks to the future, McAlary wants to move forward into assistant director and director roles in the spa and is excited by the opportunity to create wellness or retreat programs.

Photo courtesy of Anna McAlary