After she got her Postgraduate Degree from Vatel Paris in 2011, Caroline Fournigault decided to complete her studies with an MBA in Vatel Los Angeles that she obtained in 2012.
Her dreams then led her to the Miami Sofitel then to the New York Sofitel where she works as the Assistant Executive of the Vice-President of Operations in Sofitel Hotels in America.
Caroline, since February 2014, you’ve been working at the New York Sofitel. How did this opportunity come about?
The job I currently hold is the result of lots of work, but also a bit of luck. I finished my studies in Vatel Paris in 2011 and then decided to complete them with an MBA in Vatel Los Angeles. That’s where I also met my boyfriend, Adrien Malajmare, who also went from Vatel Paris to Vatel Los Angeles.
When we got back to France, we only had one goal in sight: leaving to go back to work in the United States asap! It wasn’t as if we couldn’t get jobs in France - I was working as the General Housekeeping Assistant at the Warwick Hotel Champs Elysees just a week after we got back, but we were both hooked on the American Dream.
And then as luck would have it, a friend of one of Adrien’s cousins who had worked at the Miami Sofitel put us in contact with the hotel’s General Manager, Mr. Balendra Nagesvaran. After a few interviews, we were both hired, but as interns. So we took the risk of starting again from zero, with very tight salaries. We both worked hard, as our passion for this field and desire to succeed in it was like a guiding light. Sofitel Miami appreciated the work that we both did, but was unable to sponsor us because of the cost of a work visa in the US.
But in the hospitality sector, taking risks and being humble always pays off! At the same time, Mr. Balendra Nagesvaran was promoted to the New York Sofitel as the ‘Vice President Operations Sofitel Americas.’ He decided to give us our chance and sponsor us for an American work visa. So that’s how we started in February at the New York Sofitel. Myself as the Executive Assistant, and Adrien as the F&B Assistant Manager.
So you are living your American Dream.
That’s exactly it. This new job is very interesting. I’m constantly in contact with all VIP guests, both French and foreigners.I’m in charge of all their requests. I also process customer satisfaction and customer complaints. I manage the agendas of Mr. Balendra Nagesvaran as well as that of Mr. Marc Pichot, the Hotel Manager.
Mr. Balendra Nagesvaran is a very demanding person and I thank him for that. That way I improve every day. So I’m sure that there are still bright prospects and many dreams that will come true...
So you still have a lot of dreams?
Thousands of them! Hospitality and the American market are changing so quickly that I’ve got the feeling that all the lights are green and that opportunities are endless. ‘Dream big,’ as Mr. Balendra Nagesvaran often says.
So let’s keep on talking about dreams. When you were a student in Vatel Paris, you did your final internship at theDisneyland Paris Dream Castle. What did this bring you from a professional point of view?
Well, we’ll go back to the beginning then. After a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Languages, in English, Spanish and Italian, I enrolled in Vatel in a parallel admission. It was a trip to Morocco with my family that made me want to do this.
The Foundation year not only gave me all the theoretical aspects I was missing in terms of hospitality related knowledge, but also the very basics of these jobs, through practical applications. This is really one of Vatel’s assets. With the application restaurant, you’ve already started your active life, without having to wait to do your first internship. So you’re faced with what really happens in the workplace and you learn how to manage this.
The two following years taught me to have the mind-set more of a manager, thanks to very realistic case studies. We’re taught to think like future leaders, which is one key aspect in jobs we’re learning to do.Most of our professors also were in the hospitality and tourist management fields. They brought us that intangible little “extra”, thanks to their professional conduct and experience in the job.
For the Postgraduate program, we had two internships. For the first one, I had the opportunity of working in Saint Barthelme in the Caribbean islands as Captain in the Toiny Hotel. For my second one, I was at the Disneyland Resort Dream Castle in Paris as the Floor Housekeeper. I learned a lot from both of these internships.
After that I left for a year in Vatel Los Angeles. That’s where I fell in love not only with Adrien, but also with the States. This was a turning point in my career. Courses were intense, but oh so ever interesting! All the professors had so much experience. American style education is a real mind opener. It makes you think about things outside the box; that way anything is possible.
Then I had the opportunity to do my internship at the five-star, five-diamond Ermitage Beverly Hills Hotel. I was the Housekeeping Coordinator. At the end of this internship, I was promoted to Assistant Housekeeping Manager. This internship allowed me to hone my leadership, something that you have to have when you’re a manager.
We can feel how much you love the States. But do Americans love the French as much?
Americans love the ‘French touch.’ That’s something they really appreciate. Sofitel thus has a client base that is already established, though of course we have to maintain it. Adrien and I are like ambassadors of the French art of hospitality that Vatel teaches.
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