‘We Really Enjoy Hosting Internships for Bachelor’s and Master’s Students’
— You graduated from the Higher School of Economics with honours. Can you tell us about your major and what you wrote your thesis about?
— I got into the Higher School of Economics’ Faculty of Management in 1996 after receiving excellent marks on my first entrance exam. At that time, whoever graduated from school with a medal was admitted to the university. Studying at HSE is difficult, but I nonetheless began working in the hotel business while I was still a student, which helped tremendously when writing my thesis. I wrote about marketing in the hotel business, and my thesis used hotels to look at problems of positioning, ensuring market leadership, and working with clients. I graduated from HSE in 2011 with a major in marketing.
— Why did you decide to study at HSE in particular? What affected your decision?
— The decision on which university to go to largely depends on the applicant’s preferences, which are also affected by others’ recommendations. I graduated from high school with honours and studied a lot of math, which is why mathematics was my main subject. I was also really interested in economics though. I got into both the Higher School of Economics and Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, but I ultimately chose HSE thanks to the recommendations of my parents, friends, and people whose opinion was important to me and whom I trusted. I can confidently say that I made the right decision!
— In your opinion, what do applicants need more of to feel confident studying at HSE? What kind of preparation is needed?
— I think preparation can vary. Everyone studies at different schools with different teachers and a different subject level. The main transition, though, and the most important one for high-school graduates, is probably psychological. This is because in high school, you have everything clearly scheduled and planned out (you go to school, come home, do your homework, participate in extracurriculars, etc.), but then you are given a certain freedom at the university that you might not be used to. No one checks if you did your homework, attendance is not strictly controlled, and the illusion arises that it’s all free time with no restrictions or obligations. It’s really important to understand that the university isn’t high school. It has a different teaching style that requires more diligence and self-control. When you enter the university, you have to psychologically prepare yourself to work independently and you have to learn to plan your time a lot better. This doesn’t mean you need to be closed off by any means, but the problem is that this false sense of freedom and independence has let a lot of people down. I knew people who did really well in school – capable and talented people – but without enough diligence and organizational skills, weren’t able to achieve what they were hoping to at the university. The university not only prepares a person on a professional level, but it also makes him or her develop personality traits that will be very useful down the road. It’s important for students who are entering the university to understand this. It will then be much easier for them to study and achieve the academic successes they were hoping to achieve.
— Can you talk about your career? When did you decide to go into the hotel business?
— I got a job as a night auditor with Marriott in 1998 when I was still a sophomore. I worked in financial oversight and accounting. It was really interesting work. I had to rearrange my schedule a little because it was third shift, but I got good experience and was still able to go to practically all of my classes.
— What skills and knowledge from the university have helped you most in your work?
— Higher education provides you with a good foundation and a certain view of the realities and processes you encounter in work and life. More specifically, though, the university exposes you to an entire array of different subjects, and this broad view of things really helps you later in life. As concerns my work in particular, it’s difficult to identify a single subject that played a particularly crucial role in my career. But I can definitely say that an HSE education – which requires you to be able to take in large amounts of information, structure your knowledge, and prepare for exams in a fairly short period of time – is priceless. All subjects are important and each plays its own role.
— Do you keep in touch with HSE?
We keep in touch with other HSE alumni, and we meet from time to time. I still play basketball for HSE’s team in the Moscow Basketball League, so a big thank you to HSE leadership for keeping the team intact and giving students the opportunity to play. It’s a healthy and all around terrific thing to do!
— HSE’s Tourism and Hotel Management concentration in the Experience Economy: Hospitality and Tourism Management Master’s Programme has a close relationship with hotels controlled by Interstate Hotels & Resorts. This includes Hilton Leningradskaya, Marriott Grand Hotel, Marriott Royal Aurora Hotel, Marriott Tverskaya Hotel, as well as Holiday Inn – Suschevsky and Holiday Inn – Lesnaya, of which you’re the director. This cooperation includes workshops, internships, and study tours. What do you think about the internships in particular, as well as your overall collaboration?
— We naturally find it really interesting to host internships for bachelor’s and master’s students because people are given the opportunity to see how hotels operate on the inside, that is, to see the practical side of how their knowledge can be applied. When people complete the internships, they are able to develop their own impressions, and they might also find future jobs and an interesting career. This is a huge plus and it’s very important for both the hotel and the intern. Both are interested in the hotel finding quality staff, and the students had clear prospects at hotels that operate under world-class brands. Working at these hotels provides excellent experience that will help people become high-class specialists. We are happy to support this programme, and we’ll continue supporting it.
I also enjoyed being on the State Accreditation Committee when students of the Experience Economy: Hospitality and Tourism Management Master’s Programme defended their theses. I really liked a lot of the theses. They were substantive and informative, and they included a large amount of data and analysis; that is, it was clear that students had spent a lot of time preparing their work and that they know their topics well. This speaks to the high level of preparation HSE provides!
— What positions do the interns hold?
— We allow interns to work in various divisions of the hotel. Everything depends on the students here, since they all have a wide range of work experiences and different desires when it comes to improving upon their skill set. Some arrive to the internship already having experience working at hotels and knowing what they’re interested in, which is why we focus on a person’s desire to bring what they can to the table and work in this or that division of the hotel. We have incredible professional development opportunities, plus employees get excellent foreign language practice. English is in really high demand, and a lot of clients come from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Japan, and the Middle East. People often say ‘the world is getting smaller,’ which is true. After all, it only takes three for four hours for a tourist to get from Germany to Moscow. So working at a hotel not only allows you to practice foreign languages, but it also gives you great experience communicating with people from different countries and cultures.
— What is your development forecast for the hotel business in Russia over the next several years?
— The Russian hotel business has great potential, particularly for the countless hotels that are opening up all around Moscow. Russia is hosting the World Cup in 2018, so there will be an incredible number of new hotels opening up for the event. Sochi is a perfect example of this, as it’s a city that didn’t have a single high-quality hotel (aside from the Radisson, maybe). Sochi was named the capital of the Olympic Games and everything changed. Over the last Christmas holidays, it was impossible to book a room in Sochi’s Krasnaya Polyana; they were simply booked up. People have always had, and will continue to have, a need to travel. This might be for vacation or for business. Even though various communication technologies are popping up – you have video conferencing, Skype, etc. – nothing will replace the importance of personal communication in business. If you want to close successful deals and contracts, you have to travel, meet, and talk in person no matter what. And the hotel business is very prospective in this regard. I don’t see any downward trends for the hotel business. Even now, under difficult economic and political conditions, hotels’ business remains at a very high level. Sure, we’re seeing a drop in the average cost of living in certain segments, but business is still high, work is plentiful, and the hotel business remains very popular and interesting.
On the other hand, the hotel business might offer its employees not only interesting and prospective work, but also certain perks as well. A big plus for people who work at hotels is the opportunity to stay at other hotels in the chain. Hotel employees have the right to so-called Employee Rates, which allow them to log in online or use a special code to book a room at inside prices, which are sometimes five or six times cheaper than open rates. In other words, personal travel is many times cheaper for hotel employees. This is why working in a hotel is not only a good opportunity for gaining practical experience, but it’s also an opportunity to see the world without spending a lot of money.
— What might you tell students who study hotel management and hope to achieve the same successes that you have?
— Above all, I think you have to be hardworking, honest, and driven. If you have a goal you’re working towards, and if you work honestly and at a high level, then people will definitely notice you, value your work, and give you further development opportunities. Good staff are always valued. I don’t know of a single good hotel or other good organization that wouldn’t offer development opportunities to a person who gives it their all, wants to work, and wants to achieve success. Naturally, these types of people are of great value to an organization, especially when they have a good education. Any employer understands that a degree from the Higher School of Economics says a lot. This is a huge plus and serves as an excellent background for anyone who wants to build a successful career. We are thrilled that HSE has the Tourism and Hotel Management concentration in the Experience Economy: Hospitality and Tourism Management Master’s Programme, and we sincerely hope that graduates of the programme join the ranks of the highly professional teams at our hotels.