Serving others and its international outreach. These two predominant facets of the hospitality industry were what triggered Jean-Olivier de Sauvage's choice. He enrolled in Vatel in Nimes and received his Bachelor's Degree in International Hotel Management in 2010.
He was recently appointed as “Duty Manager” at the Jing An Shangri-La West Shanghai Hotel in China. Just like a “fire fighter,” Jean-Olivier is the person in charge of managing any critical situations: from unhappy clients to the most exceptional emergency situations. We asked him to tell us a bit more.
What is your current position?
In February, I was hired as a part of the pre-opening team at the Jing An Shangri-La West Shanghai Hotel in China as the Duty Manager. In the pre-opening period, the role I played was a bit different from what I now do. I work with the Front Office team to write operational standards as well as training and recruitment support documents. I also had additional training on how to respond to emergency situations that I would have to manage later on as a part of my job.
The 'Duty Manager' is the person who manages all emergency personnel in exceptional situations such as fires or natural disasters, medical emergencies, aggressions, etc. Another role the Duty Manager has to solve any issues, however big or small, that clients may be confronted with.
What did you do before attending Vatel?
Before attending Vatel, I graduated from a French high school with a major in math and science. Developing a logical attitude as well as being able to take quick decisions, that this major required, helped me when I was attending Vatel, and still helps me as of today. But the only high school course that has been of any practical use to me up to now, is English.
I chose to go into hotel management at the end of my junior year of high school. I really didn't know what I wanted to do as a career, and no friends or family members would have been able to imagine what I am now doing. When I was younger, I thought of becoming a Chef for a while, but that was it.
However, I was born into a Christian family and both of my parents worked in social services in order to help the under-privileged: my father is a social worker and for years opened the door to handicapped children or children from families undergoing difficulties. And my mother devoted her life to caring for the elderly in a retirement home.
This sense of service to others has always been an integral part of my life. These were the values I was raised with, and I embraced them, though I wanted to do something else with my own life. An activity that would allow me to travel and to have a true career. One day, purely by chance, I was reading through a brochure on the possibilities for high school graduates who want to continue their education. I quickly skimmed it until the last page and there was an ad for Vatel. It was like a revelation. What particularly struck me was the mix of practical and theoretical courses. With Vatel I found a service-related profession, but much more than that, exactly what I was looking for. That very night I talked to my parents about it, and told them I wanted to enroll in Vatel. I took out a loan to pay for my tuition and it was worth it!
What do you remember the most about when you attended Vatel? A story to tell?
So much happened during these three years in Vatel. There was student life on the Vatel in Nimes campus, the student organizations, crazy weeks when we were doing our practical applications, unique internship experience, the atmosphere when we were cramming for finals. And at the end, a degree, or should I say three? And then off abroad after having said good-bye once again to the other students, instructors and professors, who had become like a family to me.
To make a long story short, Vatel really changed me during my years at school but I can't forget the most important part:Vatel allowed me to meet the love of my life, who is also a Vatelien and Chinese. She is the one who gave me wings to travel so far and become the person I am today. And we got married this year!
Could you tell us about something that was done or said while you were attending Vatel (either in your theoretical and practical courses or during an internship) that still influences you today in your professional life?
I don't remember any fact in particular. But the different experiences acquired and accumulated throughout the years both when I was attending Vatel as when I first started to work, have all contributed to helping me make the decisions I have to do on a daily basis. The hospitality industry is a field where you never have learned it all. There are no bad experiences, as each experience contributes something positive.
What have you done since you graduated? What opportunities have you had?
As soon as I started studying at Vatel, I knew that I wanted to start work right after my Bachelor's Degree so I would remain in contact with clients. As I had to do my final internship, I had anticipated that and took advantage of the summer vacation between my second and third year to go to China for a month. Once I was there, I was able to land a one-year Management Training position in the Shangri-La Hotel Ningbo Hotel.
So I started off my third year with no qualms, as my management training had already been arranged. That's how in June, 2010, at the end of my third year, I took off for China to start my professional career abroad and begin this internship that had been waiting for me for a whole year as Customer Relationship Manager.
In June, 2011, when I had finished my internship, my manager gave me the possibility of staying in the same hotel where I was in charge of the Executive Club as the Horizon Club Manager. That's where I really had the occasion to affirm my managerial aptitudes as well as my customer relationship qualities and in 2011 and in 2012, I had the highest internal award at this level.
At the end of 2012, after having successfully built a good team and established loyalty for a large amount of clients, I gave myself another challenge, a new opportunity. That's how I started working in February 2013 with the pre-opening team of the Jing An Shangri-La West Shanghai Hotel as the Duty Manager, having taken advantage of an internal group promotion.