As we invite new graduates to join the IoH Class of 2021, Alberto Del Cerro AIH discusses his graduate journey and why he thinks IoH membership is 100% worth it.
Tell us more about your current role and workplace
I am working as a Management Graduate at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London, a 1019-bedroom hotel located on the South Bank, overlooking the Houses of Parliament.
Where did you study and train in hospitality?
I studied a BA (Hons) in Tourism Management in my hometown, Málaga (Spain). It was a 4-year degree and I was lucky enough to do my 3rd year as an ERASMUS student in Southampton Solent University.
When I finished my degree, I undertook a Postgraduate Diploma in International Hospitality Management at Les Roches Marbella, one of the top 3 hospitality schools in the World. I would really recommend Les Roches to those who want a career in hospitality. What I liked the most is that we were able to combine theories with practical experience which helped me immensely when I started my career in UK.
Why did you want to come and work in hospitality in the UK?
I have always considered the U.K. as one of the best countries in the World to develop your career in hospitality due to its multicultural background and variety of opportunities. A major factor in deciding to move to the UK was the great publicity of the PPHE Graduate programme and being confident that it was the right step for me.
What I realised during my traineeship as Assistant GM in Tenerife for a 312-apartment hotel, was that in order to become a successful leader I needed to start understanding the basics of hotel operations across every department…. How can you manage a hotel without understanding the procedures entirely?
What stood out for me from the PPHE Hotel Groups you:niversitynext graduate programme was the opportunity to rotate across departments, from back of house to Finance, so that I could understand the whole process and apply my knowledge more broadly across the business.
How have you found the Graduate/management development opportunities at PPHE?
Looking back, I could not be happier with the choice I made coming here! I got to work in four different hotels at a Supervisor/Assistant Manager level in the below functions:
Meeting & Events – Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London – 1019 rooms – 32 meeting rooms, with a ballroom for up to 2000 pax.
One of the most interesting ones! Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London is a leading venue in terms of events, having seen so many different possibilities to cater for all our client’s needs. I worked through the whole cycle of the event, having the chance to work in the Sales, Planning and Operations Department. As a final project, I was given full responsibility to deliver a 522-gala dinner.
Food & Beverage – Park Plaza London Riverbank – 645 rooms
Having a 2 Rosettes Restaurant, Park Plaza London Riverbank is an amazing destination to learn about F&B. I worked as a manager in all the outlets, such as Breakfast, Room Service, Executive Lounge and the Restaurant. At the end of the rotation, I worked as Assistant to the Food & Beverage Director, being my final project to open an Illy Coffee shop as a temporary new outlet in the hotel.
Front of House – Park Plaza London Waterloo – 499 rooms
Opened in 2017, I worked at Park Plaza London Waterloo in Front of House & Housekeeping. I learnt all the rooms divisions procedures, working mainly as Duty Manager. My main project during this rotation was to assist the Executive Team delivering the new blueprint for the company to all employees: “We are Creators”.
Finance – Park Plaza Victoria London – 299 rooms
Learning from a completely different aspect of the business, my rotation at Park Plaza Victoria London included functions such as income auditor, Food & Beverage Controller, Credit Control or Purchasing. I absolutely enjoyed learning from a very experience Financial Controller, who took the time to teach me about budgeting, Profit & Loss, Forecasting, Payroll… very important learnings that I am sure will help me during my whole career.
The programme also includes special projects, your own mentor, leadership events, delivering trainings as an “Inspirator”, Management Skills Workshops and a course from the Institute of Leadership and Management in “Foundation in Management”
You also get to represent the business in different association events, volunteering…. An enormous number of possibilities that will shape you in every single way!
You have worked throughout the pandemic, what kind of work have you been doing during the times the industry has had to fully close?
When the pandemic started, I was finishing my finance rotation at Park Plaza London Victoria. I was contacted by the General Manager of Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London and given the opportunity to join the hotel team to support the NHS staff from April 2020.
Since then, I have helped mainly in the Food and Beverage and Front Office departments, ensuring the hotel can welcome essential workers and other guests.
I had the chance to work as a Duty Manager, Night Manager or Executive Manager for the whole building! A great opportunity to showcase everything I learnt in the last few years. I feel like in the last months the Executive Management of the hotel have been making sure I am stretched to ensure I continue growing, both giving me responsibilities and as well mentoring almost on a daily basis. I have learnt a lot lately about Health & Safety, Leadership Skills, Managing Teams, Compliance… a whole range of skills to make sure I am ready for my next role within PPHE Hotel Group!
I am extremely grateful for having the chance to help during these extremely difficult times. It has been a great learning curve this year with a unique challenge of operating a 1000+ bedroom hotel with a smaller team than usual!
How have you used the time when you’ve not been able to work to help develop your career?
With other leaders in the company, I have been doing company management workshops and coaching during the whole year, by the Talent Development & Learning Manager.
I have also used this time to get my Personal License which was an important addition to my knowledge and will be useful in my career.
In addition to this, I have continued to regularly meet with my programme mentor, the General Manager at Park Plaza London Waterloo. I strongly recommend anyone considering starting a career in hospitality to get as much advice as possible from senior leaders during the journey, as a good mentor will guide you along the way and make you see the bigger picture. I am very grateful to my mentor as his guidance has been key during my whole journey at PPHE Hotel Group.
How are you preparing for hospitality reopening, hopefully in May?
We have been working very hard on our “Reassuring Moments” & “Re Connect & Re Create programme to be ready to welcome our guests & teams in a safely manner. This programme is certified by the SGS organisation, a leader institution in Health & Safety.
As we have been open during the whole pandemic, we have been able to test and try all our procedures, therefore I believe we have an amazing advantage on our competitors as our teams are already trained and prepared for the “new normal”. I honestly cannot wait to welcome our guests again, see the smile on their faces and return to normality as I am sure we are all looking forward to enjoying our freedom again.
What have you missed most about hospitality closing?
It´s all about the people!
I got into hospitality in the first place because I believe in our industry, we are enabling the public to meet, relax, enjoy, discover new places & cultures… We interconnect the whole world and I love to be a part of it. Now more than ever because of the current worldwide situation, we are all appreciating more how hospitality is beneficial for our social relationships and wellbeing in general. I am sure that, not only us as professionals, but also our guests are looking forward to coming back (safely) as soon as possible!
What positives, if any, do you think the challenges of COVID-19 will have on the hospitality industry?
I think the pandemic has accelerated the effort to modernise the hospitality industry, with companies making huge efforts in processes such as online check-in or digital keys. It has also re-designed the F&B and M&E Operations, which in my opinion will be safer, cleaner, and more controlled than before.
For those currently studying hospitality, who may now feel nervous about their future careers, what advice would you give them?
Where there is a crisis, there is an opportunity! We are already seeing companies preparing to re-open and hiring new team members, and I think the industry will fully recover over the next couple of years. It will be a great time for anyone starting their careers, because the market will create a lot of positions as it bounces back.
We are opening up the opportunities for 2021 hospitality Graduates to join the IoH Class of 2021, what would you say to someone considering joining?
It is 100% worth it! I have been to a couple of events and it is an amazing chance to connect with leaders from other companies and learn from other points of view. You also have webinars, the ‘Mentor Me’ programme, online library, guides, newsletter… a must for anyone who wants to get the most of hospitality.
How did it make you feel that your employer sponsored your membership over the last year?
I feel very thankful for the massive investment that PPHE has done to ensure that we as graduates get all the support we need to be inspirational leaders in the future. Now it’s our time to give back to the Company!
Is there a particular element of your membership you have found most valuable?
I love the fact that you can re-watch past webinars, as most of the times I have very different shift patterns, therefore this functionality lets me watch them at my own pace.