|Antoine Berberi H88|
Where does an MBA in Hospitality Management from ESSEC take you? Over the following months, several alumni will answer this question by sharing their stories on the MBA blog!
Antoine Berberi (H88), Area Managing Director of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (a Thompson Hotel) in Los Angeles, shares his experience.
What drew you to work in the hospitality industry and study with the MBA in Hospitality Management?
I had just finished my undergraduate studies (BS) in the US, and majored in Business/Marketing. I was looking for a graduate program to get my MBA. By chance, I met a first year student of IHMI in Paris (while I was visiting my sister), and he mentioned the new school (IMHI) which was a joint program with Cornell/ESSEC and suggested that I go and meet the current director, who was at the time Paul Beals. Basically, after I ended up spending the entire day on the ESSEC campus meeting with Paul Beals and other students, I was encouraged to apply while there and go back and start working in the hotel industry since the school required a 2 year minimum hotel experience. In other words, I credit Paul Beals for convincing me that the hotel industry was an industry that I would enjoy, and my two years at IMHI confirmed that to me. And the rest is history...
Could you describe your career path after your graduation from ESSEC? What is your current role and responsibilities?
I was one of the few students who was interested in hotel operations, and I was lucky enough to be hired by Hilton International as a corporate trainee (the company had visited the campus and I was retained from those interviews we had at the school). As I had an American passport, I was sent to Washington DC to work at the Hilton property there. Less than two years later, I was promoted to Reservations/Yield manager at the Hilton in Toronto. A few years later, I was promoted to Front Office Manager in Eastern Canada. I then moved to InterContinental Hotels where I spent 12 years, starting in New Orleans as FOM, Miami as Director of Operations, Bali as Executive Assistant Manager, Dubai as Resident Manager, and Abu Dhabi as General Manager. I then moved back to the US where I managed the renovation of a Westin in New Jersey. Then I decided to go with a smaller luxury lifestyle and boutique hotel company, so I joined Thompson Hotels in New York City, where I opened several hotels. Then I was transferred to Los Angeles to manage the Thompson in Beverly Hills and then moved again to my current hotel, the Hollywood Roosevelt (also a Thompson Hotel). Currently, I am an area managing director managing the largest asset in the company and overseeing a number of small properties in the area. Thompson Hotels merged with another company, and a third company was formed (Commune Hotels and Resorts), with close to 50 hotels.
Was there anything particular about the MBA in Hospitality Management that helped prepare you for your career path or qualify you for your current position?
Actually, most of my classes were relevant to my career, although not so much early in my career. Because it is a post-graduate program, the classes were geared less towards specific operational subjects and more towards macro and strategic subjects. One of the courses that we took was actually extremely important and probably critical to our success, and that was the Ethics course. We learned to deliver quality work under pressure and to work together with people from various backgrounds and nationalities as teams, which prepared us to get into this industry, which is always stressful and requires good people skills and flexibility....
What advice would you give to our new students just entering the program? What advice would you give to our new graduates who are beginning their job search?
Be patient and take your time to learn the business. You must be able to be mobile and flexible. There is a lot of competition out there, and for the first few years of your career (regardless of what direction you take and if it is operational or not), you must build your reputation (hard work, ethics, flexibility and caring for people). It is the only thing that will carry you forward. It is a very small industry and everyone knows everyone else. A CEO once told me and found it to be very true: Don't follow money, let money follow you!