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Muses of a Trainee

publication date: Jun 6, 2011

Muses of a Trainee | By Andrew Lo

Muses of a Trainee | By Andrew Lo Andrew Lo is a trainee in Rooms Division at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London. A recent graduate of Stanford University, he majored in International Relations and minored in Economics. Despite not having gone to hotel school, Andrew has a real love for travel and hospitality. He has previously interned in Finance and Marketing at the Four Seasons Hong Kong. Andrew is also a self-confessed foodie, and will never turn down the opportunity to dine.

I can't believe college is over. I remember that sunny day in June of this year when I said my goodbyes to all my friends that I made during my four years in Palo Alto. At that time, the most likely question on everyone's mind was, "What next?" Many of my friends headed off to work in finance, consulting, tech, or pursued graduate studies. I got a real kick out of saying I was going to work in the hotel industry, because it was simply different. Although my college did not have a hospitality program, I was determined to pursue my passion for hotels.

Here are some of my thoughts:

I think that the hospitality industry provides all the usual challenges of running a business, along with perks like opportunities to travel and interact with people from different parts of the world, unpredictable experiences, and an interesting lifestyle in addition. It surprises me to find that there are relatively few future hoteliers, compared with future doctors, lawyers, bankers and engineers, in liberal arts colleges and universities.

Perhaps this is due to the incorrect assumption that one needs to have a degree from a hotel school in order to break into the industry. While there are specialized hospitality-related skills that one is not likely to pick up from a liberal arts program, the truth is that a hotel is like any other commercial organization. It is a business that requires people skilled in management, accounting and finance, marketing, sales, and communications. The unfortunate reality is that many students in elite schools do not consider careers in hospitality, as other professional options are more attractive and obvious. As a result, there is a dearth of graduates from elite universities in the industry when in fact such talent is very much in demand.

Another problem is that many college graduates are unaware of the numerous opportunities that exist in the industry. Looking outside the realm of traditional hotel management, graduates can also assume roles in areas such as real estate development, project finance, and marketing.

Each hotel is a mini company, and each chain is a multinational corporation. According to Randy Goldberg, executive director of recruiting for the Hyatt chain, many students don't realize that a job in hospitality can be a lucrative way to avoid that office cubicle. He says that a front-office manager at the Hyatt Regency Chicago can be making between $60,000 or $70,000 a year, and a general manager can expect an income in the six-figure range, depending on the size of the hotel.

At Four Seasons, a recent graduate will likely start as an assistant manager making about $40,000 per year. It may not seem much to begin with, but there is a great deal of upside. It is not unusual for hotel general managers to live at the hotel with their families, in addition to receiving private school tuition for their children, and a personal chauffeur, among other benefits, in addition to salaries of $200,000 - $300,000.

During my college internships at Four Seasons, I thought I would be at a disadvantage to the rest of my intern class who all hailed from different hotel schools all over the world. Over the course of my internship, I learned that the traits required to succeed in this industry are good interpersonal, problem-solving, teamwork and time management skills, combined with reliability, and the capacity to take initiative and work under pressure. These skills are really no different from those required in banking or consulting. Not surprisingly, many senior level executives in hotel companies have had experience in hospitality, travel and leisure consulting. Frits van Paasschen, CEO, spent eight years at consulting firms McKinsey and BCG before assuming his current position as leader of one of the world's iconic hotel companies.

So, imagine yourself in an occupation with all of the usual challenges, but that knows no geographical boundaries, and gives you the chance to meet people from all walks of life, from John Doe to leaders in business, politics, entertainment and sports.

Is it saying too much to suggest that this sounds kind of fun?

Andrew Lo

  • i | "Checking Into the Hotel Industry." Businessweek.com. 17 August 2006. BusinessWeek. 12 January 2009. www.hospitalitynet.org

  • ii | O'Brien, Jeffrey M. "A Perfect Season." Money.cnn.com. 22 January 2008. Fortune. 12 January 2009. money.cnn.com>

  • iii | "Frits van Paasschen." Starwoodhotels.com. 2009. Starwood Hotels & Resorts. 12 January 2009. www.starwoodhotels.com


Email: andrewcl88@gmail.com

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