By choosing to leave a traditional finance program and enter the world of hospitality, Kristina Shmarenkova’10 has met her own criteria for her dream job: “to travel the world, have adventures and get paid for it”. In this interview she discusses the advantages of her bachelor degree in hospitality management with a specialization in marketing.
Choosing Hospitality Business over Traditional Finance
Before Glion, I was already into my second year at a state university of finance but I had a feeling I wanted to do something else. One day, I sat down and listed everything I wanted my dream job to be. In a nutshell, I wanted to travel the world, have adventures and get paid for it. By coincidence, my neighbor had just enrolled at GIHE and was flying to Switzerland the week after to check out the place. I tagged along feeling skeptical, but instantly fell in love with the school and came back a few months later as a student. This was a 180 degree turn in my life, but I was adamant about my choice. I wanted an international career and no mind-numbing routine. Hospitality requires constant self-development and pushes you to break out of your comfort zone. Every single day brings situations that require resourcefulness and flexibility. And every day is full of excitement and new discoveries. And if that is not enough, hospitality spans the globe, there are career opportunities in every single country.
Hospitality Degrees are Different
At Glion, the course was very well-structured, my two internships came in handy and it was a good balance of hands-on experience and theory. The job experience I gained before graduation helped me get a Management Training position. I should also mention that Glion Alumni all over the world form a massive and powerful network. Whenever there are interesting job opportunities, they are shared within this network. The friendships you make in Glion become significant business connections with time.
The Greek word for “hospitality” is philoxenia, which translates as: “love towards strangers.” It’s a term that implies genuine care and sensitivity towards other people; tolerance and adaptability. If you have this quality, the rest will come naturally, you will have an extremely rewarding career, provided you are ready to roll up your sleeves and work. But without this built-in desire to connect with people, it’s better to opt for a different job.
The Glion Experience in Switzerland
The Glion campus really impressed me. After all these years, I am still convinced I haven’t seen a place more beautiful. And meeting all the students from all over the world was exhilarating, all these different cultures gathered in one place, it felt like the world as I knew it was transformed forever, having become multidimensional and exciting.
Furthermore, Glion is for life. The memories you create and friendships you build stay with you wherever you go. Glion is inspiring, creative, vibrant and fun. It’s intellectually stimulating while remaining a safe and nourishing environment.
Choosing a Marketing Specialization
I chose the marketing specialization because I was always curious about the power of words and images, how to harness it and shape the consumers’ perceptions. There is a great deal of psychology in it as well, which makes it a fascinating discipline. Even if I further pursued my career in a parallel field, I have acquired some important knowledge on consumer behavior that I successfully apply in Sales Management.
Hospitality Internships in Portugal and Paris
My first internship was in Food & Beverage (F&B) in a gorgeous Ritz Carlton golf & spa resort in Portugal called Penha Longa. I still look back at those 6 months as one of the best times of my life. It was a cross-training in F&B, which found I had no particular interest in, but it taught me a lot about flexibility and self-discipline. And most importantly, it taught me how to fit in a team and become part of it, an essential skill in hospitality.
My second internship was at the Westin Paris, a historical Starwood property. It was a truly amazing opportunity, especially since every young girl dreams of living in Paris. I learned French and got my first glimpse of how the sales department works. I am pretty sure those 6 months defined my future career, as I was given enough responsibility and room for initiative to inspire me and spark my ambition.
My Career 4 Years after Glion
A few months before my graduation, I had been selected by Hyatt Hotels for a Corporate Leadership Programme, a hands-on, cross-departmental Hotel Management Training with a focus on Sales and Marketing. It brought me back to Paris for another 18 months.
In 2012, I embarked upon a new adventure with Rocco Forte Hotels in the Middle East, where I stayed a little less than a year being in charge of Leisure Sales. Since all my previous experience was limited to Europe, this year was full of discoveries. I had to learn new ways of doing old things and most of the time I had to learn by doing and rely a lot on my intuition. Doing business in the Arab world revolves around forming personal relationships, so after this year I could probably write a book on networking. My next career shift brought me to Germany, where I have been living since 2013.
Currently, I am working for Rocco Forte Hotels at the Charles Hotel Munich as the Sales Manager. I’m in charge of Sales for the UK, France and Russia + CIS, the latter being the largest of my markets. I am actively developing the medical tourism segment, a very important source of business for our hotel and I am frequently on the road visiting my Key Accounts and building relationships. As it turns out, Russia has much in common with the Middle East, it’s a relationship-based business model and I am very grateful for the year I have spent in the UAE, as nothing could have better prepared me to embrace this business paradigm.
To me, the key advantage of Glion was being exposed to so many different cultures and backgrounds at the same time, it developed the necessary cognitive flexibility needed in hospitality, where you need to adjust to different management styles and approaches and balance the needs of your clients and the goals of your company.
At present, I am very happy working for Rocco Forte Hotels and I see my career developing in Sales with this hotel group. In the future, when I will have sufficient experience, I would love to be a part-time lecturer at Glion Institute of Higher Education. As I have said before, Glion is for life, it is one of the places that feels like home to me. And I would love to spark the enthusiasm of future hoteliers and help them to be prepared for this challenging and exciting world of luxury hospitality.