Allen & Overy, an international legal agency based in London, has several thousand lawyers and over 40 offices throughout the world. At the end of 2013, the Paris office, with its 300 employees, decided to recruit a Vatelien to redesign its office as well as its customer services. And that’s where we see Maite Berrier Cybal, who was hired as the Corporate Services Manager. Just like Mary Poppins, she transformed the lobby into a true front desk reception area, created a room service department, hired the entire F&B team and proposed clients services that a five-star hotel would not envy. This goes to show that all sectors of economics are convinced that Vatel alumni have the skill sets they need!
Tell us about your resume which had you “hunted” by Allen & Overy.
I graduated from Vatel in 2002, and for personal reasons, I had to stay in the Lyon area, even though, like all of my colleagues, I really wanted to start my career abroad. Vatel advised me to contact the Maison Dansard, who was looking for someone in Sales. I was immediately hired. My duties consisted in selling and organizing receptions, both for the general public and for businesses, for one of the most famous caterers in Burgundy. I spent two fantastic years with them, organizing all sorts of special events, in sumptuous venues, unusual ones, or even sometimes ones that were not at all adapted to this, but that’s what helps you learn.
After that, I contacted Georges Blanc, to be their Special Events Manager, where I also worked for two years, and where I met my husband. We both left for a year for Brussels, where I was hired by the Hotel de Luxe Amigo as their Banquet Coordinator. After that we came back to France, where, once again, I was in charge of catering services for the Tarte Tropezienne, where I had loads of fun discovering the most beautiful villas and yachts in the marina. Georges Blanc was one of our customers, and asked my husband if he could take over the management of one of his brasseries that was having trouble in Lyon.
So here I was, back in my home town again, where I was quickly hired by the Cour des Loges Hotel. I spent three years with other Vateliens, managed by Franck Sciessere, who was also a Vatelien and who became my mentor. I had the opportunity to be promoted and became the Assistant Hotel Manager. I was also in charge of commercial aspects and global sales, as well as being the Duty Manager. Two years later, I decided it was time for my to stand on my own two feet, and I decided to look for hotel management jobs.
I was hired to manage a Relais et Chateaux hotel in Epernay, in the French Champagne Region. Here, however, things did not go very well at all, as the hotel owners were terribly short-sighted and communication with them became impossible, so I decided to leave after only four months. A tough decision to make, as once again, I was on the job market, and without a contingency plan this time, but the Vatelien network was there for me when I needed them: I quickly had several job offers, including several to manage hotels. In these job offers, there was a headhunter who was looking for a Corporate Services Manager with a background in hotel management for a legal office.
So, as you were wondering what this could consist in, you accepted a job interview. So tell us about this job.
Responsibilities include supervision of different departments, including maintenance, cleanliness, the front desk, the restaurant, business trips, purchasing, photocopies, safety, internal events, etc. I don’t really know why, but I accepted the first job interview, and I discovered a world I had no idea of: an international company which, because it houses some of the most well-known lawyers and has international businesses as clients, wants to propose the same comfort and services as those in a five-star hotel to its clients and employees.
A comfortable budget, a free rein to reorganize the teams in place to achieve this goal, a good salary for Paris, and I was convinced to take on this new challenge. I’ve been working here since November, 2013. My daily tasks mirror those a hotel director has, with one important exception: I’m in charge of making sure things go seamlessly, I take care of my budget and purchasing, but the clients never see me at all.
My employers appreciate my work for two reasons:
- First of all, I never say no right away, and I always try to find a solution for every problem.
- Also, my past experiences in structures with limited budgets have taught me to be very price-conscious, and management always appreciates that.
What kind of actions have you rolled out?
I started off by completely redesigning the reception area, and I hired a Front Desk Manager from the Royal Monceau. Then I created a room service to optimize meals served during meetings: today we’re able to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner directly in meeting rooms, which really helps our clients save time. So I hired a Head Waiter who had worked at the Bristol and at Guy Martin, as well as captains to help him with efficient, quick and very elegant service. Today I’m proud to say that we have very high quality restaurant and catering services. There are still a lot of hurdles to overcome and I can’t imagine leaving without reaching my initial goals. In addition to that, I have a work environment that I’ve never had before. I think though, that one day, I’ll miss not working in a hotel and maybe I’ll go back.
Why did you decide to learn hospitality management and go to Vatel?
After a two year degree in Sales and Management at the Lyon III University, I decided to continue my education and specialize in hotel management. A friend of mine was a first year student at Vatel, and reassured me about tuition fees and explained how he was able to take out a student loan and how Vateliens were hired right after they finished their final internships.
I really appreciated the professional aspects of this curriculum, because after having spent two years at the university, I really wanted to do something “hands-on” in the workplace. With a degree in business administration, I needed professional applications, which I found at Vatel, because most of our professors were still working. They were always very transparent on how demanding this type of job was, which was an excellent thing, as they all assured us that we would be tested right at the beginning of our studies, while other schools want you to believe that a newly graduated person will become a manager as soon as he or she graduates.
What internships did they do and what did you learn from them?
I chose a very fun first year internship, which, with hindsight, was a strategic mistake, but I had so much fun! I spent four months in Public Relations and F&B at the Sofitel Capsis in Rhodes, Greece. In spite of everything, it was interesting, as English was our working language, with all different nationalities, hence accents, so my English really improved. From a professional point of view, I also began to do conflict management. So, all in all, a fun and enriching experience.
My final internship was my first real professional experience, and my first steps in my future job, as I paid special attention when choosing it. I went to the Hotel Bedford in Brussels, and was supervised by a a Vatelien - it’s a small world! I was in the conferences and banquets department in a hotel with 20 meeting rooms including a 2,500 square meter business center. A great experience, I learned a lot and I was well managed by someone who paid special attention to give me a customized internship to respond to the goals that I had.