Degree and University: Hispanic Studies – Bristol University – BA Hons
International Hotel Management – Oxford Brookes University – MSC
Graduate Placement Scheme: Vita Futura – Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Vita Futura is Starwood`s graduate management programme. It provides trainees with a unique insight into the world of hospitality and offers the chance to be actively involved in the management of the departments you work in. For further information visit www.starwoodvitafutura.com
Reasons for doing graduate scheme: I knew I wanted to go into the hotel business but wasn’t sure which area to specialise in so I was looking for a fast-track route to experience as many departments as possible in order to identify which path to follow.
The Vita Futura scheme enables graduates to spend time in a variety of different hotel departments getting a feel for which ones they enjoy before having to make their mind up on an area to specialise in. This gives you an ideal grounding for a career in the hotel business as you are able to understand how each department operates without having to start at the very beginning.
Which placements did you choose and why? I chose two specific departments, Food and Beverage and Rooms Division, and had a number of placements within those departments. In Food and Beverage I had placements in the Bar, Room Service, and Stewarding, and in the Rooms Division I had placements in Front Office, Housekeeping, and Sales.
I already had background in restaurants and kitchens but I wanted to expand my knowledge into Hotel F&B and learn about the Rooms side to broaden my experience. I then choose to go into Sales as I believed I would be best equipped to become a General Manager if I fully understand how to control and attract revenues and drive specific business segments into the hotel.
Tasks carried out during placements? The majority of my placements within F&B and Rooms were purely operational with roles including guest services, cleaning rooms, stewarding and working in the kitchens. This provided me with a fantastic insight into the operational challenges of hotel, and how the different departments function together. Within these departments I was also required to do various analytical projects to find improvements to processes and services.
The sales placement was slightly different and my first role in sales was to devise a marketing strategy and co-ordinate the Millennium New Year’s Eve Gala dinner at One-O-One, the hotel’s restaurant. My background in each of the different departments enabled me to pull together a strategy that was operationally feasible and that would also drive sales for this big event.
Impact on career progression: Doing the Vita Futura programme has without doubt speeded up my career progression within Starwood Hotels & Resorts. I was able to gain valuable experience in a number of different departments quickly and effectively, and I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now without having done the programme – it was definitely the best thing to do to start off my career.
- Working with the Sales team at the Sheraton Heathrow. Heathrow is a very competitive marketplace for hotels and definitely the best place to learn about hotel sales.
- Working with the Middle East Market for Starwood’s Central London hotels. I learnt a huge amount about the Middle Eastern culture, travelled to many interesting places, and developed some fabulous relationships.
- Moving to Madrid and working at the Westin Palace. This was a huge challenge for me, I needed to adapt to the culture and way of working in this hotel but I loved every minute of it.
- Returning to the Sheraton Park Tower as Hotel Manager which is was where I started my hotel career as a Trainee!
Personal Gains: Moving to Madrid was a huge challenge but it taught me the importance of respecting local and individual hotel cultures.
Qualities needed for VF? To join the Vita Futura programme you need focus, energy and enthusiasm. You need to have the desire to work in the hotel industry and a strong direction so you can see how all the placements you do will influence your final goal. Adaptable social skills are also a must. You need to have the ability to adapt one’s style to work with everyone at the hotel at all levels, from the operational staff to the Senior Vice President of the company.
Advice for people wanting to do VF? You need to show willingness to do everything from the smallest task to the large projects as you will be judged on everything you do, no matter how small in importance. You must also always be aware of the first impressions you make on people. Whether you are working in operations, finance or sales, first impressions always count. Also, remember that just because you have done the Vita Futura scheme it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get a top job – you still have to be prepared to work hard afterwards!