In 1991 alumnus Jeroen Douwes [F 1996] gave an interview for the New Straits Times (Malaysia) about his ambition and his choice of school. In a conversation with Jeroen, we look back at his enormous ambition as a young man, his convincing choice for the Hotelschool Maastricht and the role of the study program in his career.
You said about Hotel Management School Maastricht: “the hotel school is one of the best in Holland and the quality of education is similar to that of hotel schools in Switzerland, a popular choice for hotel education”. How do you look back on that? “I had a fantastic time in Maastricht. A good basis in a unique setting. My board year at Amphitryon taught me a lot. The dedication of teachers is special, such as the fact that Ankie Hoefnagels remembers me in response to that article.
“The education at HMSM is a great foundation. For me, the common thread is service; I have converted the enormous hospitality that you learn at the hotel school into customer focus. That vision has brought me a lot and still does. But the hands-on mentality that is a must as a hotel professional, still works in my favor every day. "
In the article you express the ambition “to become a hotel manager four years after graduation”. How did this ambition develop? “After the hotel school I worked at Inter Continental Hotels. At the time, they had a Corporate Management Development program “Fast Track” in which only 6 talents per year are included worldwide. I was selected for this program from 3,000 registrations in England, where I was doing an internship at the time. During this 10-year program, I ended up as a trainee at the regional headquarters in Paris as a financial analyst. There I decided to focus on finishing my MBA and eventually ended up more in the consulting and legal sector. ”
Another ambition of Jeroen was his international focus and with the ultimate goal to work in America (quote "because there are not many hotels in Holland and I want to broaden my experience"). Jeroen eventually completed his MBA at Chemonics International in Washington. After 9/11, the situation at the company changed and he continued his career in the Netherlands. “I got that international ambition from home. My father worked for Shell abroad. At the time, the HMSM was not yet used to so much international ambition, but in the end I arranged an internship in Kuala Lumpur myself. I think it is good to see that the program has acquired a more international outlook and content.
Despite my ambition being high, I've never felt too good to take things on and start at the bottom. When I started at the Inter Continental Hotel in London at the time, I was first allowed to stand in the second basement in the washing-up kitchen for a few weeks; Scrape burnt boilers with a putty knife and sweep the pavement while celebrities checked in behind you. That was a good lesson, to experience all facets of the service, to know what these jobs entail. It taught me to appreciate everyone who contributes and to take care of everyone in the process to keep the whole "machine" running smoothly. "
Jeroen is currently CEO at L&E Global, an international alliance of employment law firms in 25 countries. “This life lesson is very important in my role as CEO. I am responsible for the entire department but I appreciate all parts of the process. I also still make use of the customer focus that was taught to me at the hotel school: putting the customer first and discovering and fulfilling his needs is still my challenge.”
“I always remain connected to the Hotel Management School Maastricht. Despite the fact that I don't meet so many other alumni on a business level, I do have very good and warm private contacts with my former fellow students. At the moment I am working with an other alumna with an event agency to organize our annual meeting with all lawyers online.”
What is the last piece of advice that you would like to share?
A quote from a speech by Ghandi in South Africa in 1890: “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so. ” At the time, this text was also in the kitchen at the hotel school, perhaps it still is?
Sharon Opstal left to travel for a year after graduation, and to this day lives and works in M’pai Bay in Cambodia!
Sophie Bozon combines travelling in her van with setting up her own business, 'Virtual Sophie'