“If someone had told me that when I graduated from Vatel I would be directly working for the Sofitel Senior Vice-President of Sales and Marketing, I wouldn’t have believed them! But in the hospitality industry, everything is possible!
That’s right. Everything is possible when you graduate from Vatel like Scott Gordon did in 2011. Today he’s the Special Projects Manager Sales & Marketing for Sofitel Worldwide, and he’s not going to stop there!
What made you want to attend Vatel and what are some of your memories of your time at school?
My love of the hospitality field started when I was doing the mandatory French “discovery internship” at the end of middle school, in one of the most legendary hotels in the world, La Mamounia in Marrakesh. Once I had finished this internship, I was convinced that I wanted to work in this field. Plus, as I had grown up in Marrakesh, I had seen the city change and considerably upgrade its offer for tourists. But I still had to decide about higher education. I thought about Swiss schools, doing a two-year vocation degree in tourist management, and of course, Vatel in Paris. After I had gone to a Vatel Open House Day, my decision was quickly taken.
When I was doing my Bachelor’s Degree, the quality of the theoretical courses in addition to the excellent operational stages in the “practical application” part of our curriculum really impressed me. I have fond memories of this period, both from a professional and from a personal point of view. In particular I remember the quality of our Human Resources Management courses and Spanish courses. Unforgettable moments. And what can I say about the practical application courses, which were one of the assets Vatel had when I was making my choice? Difficult moments in the kitchen, where you had to be precise and exacting, but true moments of happiness with our clients. So in a nutshell, Vatel will always have a special place in my heart.
What internships did you do in school? What jobs did you have?
I did my first year internship at the Plaza Athenee in Paris as a kitchen steward and then as a Captain in the Alain Ducasse gourmet restaurant. I wanted my first experience to be in a Parisian Palace. Probably a child’s dream. The Plaza Athenee taught me an enormous amount of things on the bases of the Art of Hospitality and services that a 3-star restaurant in the Michelin Guidebook must offer.
For my second internship, I had the opportunity of taking part in the pre-opening period of a hotel. I think every hotel manager should have this opportunity once in his or her career. I took part in opening the Park Hyatt Aviara in San Diego, California. The hotel was formerly a Four Seasons and the Hyatt Group had recently acquired it. My experience as the “Food & Beverage Supervisor” was a very enriching challenge: standards to be rolled out, a new team, etc.
What kind of opportunities have you had since you graduated?
After I graduated from Vatel, I wanted to discover the hidden side of hotel management, also known as the back-office. So I decided to postpone the operational part for a while, in order to focus on something completely new for me, Revenue Management. I started looking for a Management Training program that a lot of large hotel groups offer.
I had the opportunity of landing an interview with the Sofitel HR Manager who was launching the “Sofitel School of Excellence- Management Training” program. I was really enthusiastic about this program: 4 months of cross-training, meaning I would be able to work in all hotel departments and 8 months of specialization. So I flew off to Dubai to spend a year at the Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach Hotel, a magnificent 438 room hotel located in the best part of the city.
For my first four months of cross-training, as I already had experience in F&B, I wanted to focus on accommodations. So I work in all the departments: Housekeeping, Conciergerie, Front Office and a lot in Reservations to prepare the specialization I had chosen: Revenue Management. The eight months I spent as the Assistant Revenue Manager / Junior Business Analyst were very enriching. I learned a lot in this new discipline. But I especially was lucky to work in a perfectly adapted hotel: with 438 rooms and six restaurants, it included complete Revenue Management.
During the year I spent in Dubai, I also prepared my entrance to the ESSEC MBA program (IMHI). With good bases from the three years I spent at Vatel, I wanted to gain further knowledge in administration and finance and to specialize in Real Estate Finance. Real estate has always had a key role to play in hotel management. Nowadays, many groups are changing their real estate strategy. Specializing in this subject will, without a doubt, be really useful for my future.
How did you get the job you are currently doing?
I’m doing my MBA in a work-study program. Sofitel allowed me to continue this adventure in the Accor Head Office in the Sofitel Worldwide team as the Project Manager for Sales, Marketing and Distribution which includes Revenue Management.
Could you tell us about the job and responsibilities at Accor?
My main mission is to make sure that all projects entrusted to me are delivered correctly, within the deadline and respect the budgets. The key role in my job is to “steer” operational effectiveness by giving support to internal and external projects in all the departments (Marketing, Distribution, Sales, Pricing and Revenue Management).
I’m also in charge of what my manager calls “P.P.I.I.: Planning, Processes, Implementation, Insights.” You could say these are the main missions an internal auditor does. For example, drawing up the budget for the Sofitel Worldwide Sales & Marketing department. I’m in charge of scheduling all the necessary stages to make sure the budget is correctly prepared. Here, my goal is to optimize the current process used. Once the process is either created or optimized, then I have to make sure that it is put in place and used correctly. And last but not least, “Insights” mainly consists of doing research, such as an analysis of the competition, with the goal of making my department the highest performing one possible.
This is really an exciting job. The projects that I work on are quite varied and because many of them are transversal, I’ve had the opportunity to work with quite a few departments in Accor Group.
What are you short, mid and long-term projects?
In the short term, there are some opportunities to continue with Accor Group but in Asia this time. I’m looking forward to discovering this continent from a professional point of view. I’d like to continue in my current line of work. Project management is interesting and I’m sure I’ve still got a lot of things to learn.
After having acquired solid bases in Sales, Marketing and Distribution, in the mid-term, I think I will look for a job in hotel development and real estate finance.
For the long term, it’s hard to say. Sometimes you change your mind and careers also are the result of chance meetings. For the moment, I love my job and I’m working really hard at it. For the future, we’ll see...