Attention to detail drives the general manager of the Bankside hotel London to explore the many facets of a career he truly loves. He talks to Emma Lake
Did you study a hospitality-related course at school, college or university?
I studied at the International Hotelschool in the Hague, followed by the Driving Hotel Revenue certification at EHL, which forms 25% of its MBA in hospitality management
Did you do an apprenticeship or undertake work experience in hospitality?
As part of my bachelor degree I undertook both an internship (six months in housekeeping at the Rome Cavalieri, a Waldorf Astoria hotel in Rome) as well as an apprenticeship with Danish facilities management firm ISS in its hotel division.
What was your first job in hospitality?
When I was at college I worked part-time at the restaurant and bar of a local golf club.
What initially attracted you to working in hospitality?
The flair of five-star hotels, meeting well-travelled guests and listening to their stories and recommendations of destinations. There is something special about hotels striving to create an environment that should perhaps be slightly better than the home of its guests.
The human nature of our industry, working as a team to create meaningful memories, is what it is all about. I've always been a perfectionist. When I was young, I witnessed a general manager rearranging flowers in vases so they visually aligned and I thought to myself "this is an industry for me!"
Who was your first mentor or role model in hospitality?
Roberto Payer, a renowned Dutch hotelier and general manager of the then Hilton Amsterdam. He was the general manager rearranging the flowers. He would often comment on Dutch news items and act as a representative for the industry and his words and views on leadership truly inspired me and still do to this day.
Could you talk me through the roles in your career in hospitality to where you are now?
While studying hospitality management and completing my internship in Rome, I had the opportunity to join the housekeeping team of Hilton in the Hague as part of the pre-opening team. Housekeeping was the perfect department for me as I could work shifts outside my study hours in the evenings and the weekends. This led me into the facility management world and I progressed through that route.
As I had reached a management function by the time I was graduating from the Hotelschool, it made sense to continue on that path. When I reached the level of director of hotels for ISS in the UK, I realised that I was drifting too far away from my passion. It was at this time that Wayne Androliakos, Janet Roberts and John Wagner at Cycas Hospitality saw the potential in me and offered me a way back to directly working in the industry.
In my career, I have never been afraid of making a radical change and stepping sideways in order to move forward in the long run. It is those decisions, often supported by mentors or those who support me, that have led me to love what I do every day.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Every industry and place of work had its challenges and perks. What for me has created happiness is finding a company or a person who you can work for and who makes you happy. If you have fun at work and you love what you do, everything becomes easy. Do not stick around if you do not find this happiness. Do what you love and the rest will follow.
Most importantly, do not rush. If you have the right people around you, they will recognise when you are ready to progress.
What are your career goals?
In the immediate future I am working towards a position where I can have a positive and significant influence on our industry. I love working with people and developing successful hotels and it's my dream to do this on a wider scale. In the more distant future, my goal is to curate a set of hotels of my own with a service and hospitality mindset that aligns with my experience and values.
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