Studying hospitality management: A first step towards a career in luxury

October 14, 2017 •

5 min reading

Studying hospitality management: A step towards a career in luxury

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The price tag on a Louboutin shoe is enough for many to pop their eyes out. Yet, if you can see beyond the cost associated with these ionic brands and admire their heritage and history, you may be ready for a career in luxury. Today, we discussing with Raphaële about her internship at Hermès in Geneva.

Could you introduce yourself ?

My name is Raphaële Cline; I am 22 years old, half French half American. I was born in Switzerland but I lived a couple years in the US as a baby and grew up in the UK. I have now been living in Switzerland since about 12 years.

In my free time, I like to engage in creative activities such as drawing or taking pictures. I dream of taking dance classes. I also like to socialize with friends a lot, I love being around people. Finally, I love to travel. I am so interested in discovering different cultures, meeting new people, learning new languages. I am very open minded and curious in that sense.

What made you choose EHL?

Graduating high school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my future yet. All I knew after spending many years in a local Swiss school was, that I wanted to be in an international environment surrounded by people from all over the world. I also wanted to be sure that the diploma I was studying for would give me a broad choice for careers later on.

When I discovered EHL, I felt like I belonged there. The academic program responds exactly to my interests, there are numerous committees which students can gain very valuable experience from, it’s highly international, and it includes two internships in the program which allows us to define our interests for our future career.

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How does a day at Hermès look like?

I am currently an intern in the Communications department of Hermès Geneva. This department consists of several sub-divisions, such as Media, Press, Public Relations (PR) & Events and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). My focus is mainly on CRM and PR & Events.

There is no typical day in my internship. When I’m in the office, I handle a lot of CRM, meaning I need to optimize the database, make sure there are no double files, update customer information, correct obvious mistakes in the files and so on.

I also handle most of the billing concerning PR and Events. In parallel, this means I am in direct contact with the company’s main suppliers for our events, such as model agencies, transportation companies and our main champagne provider to name a few. My daily activities can range from billing, CRM, to finding inspiration from Pinterest for events, and making decisions with my superior on different aspects of each future event.

When I’m not in the office, I’m at an event. I would say a good 40% of my internship will happen on site. These events happen all over Switzerland. Hence, I travel to different cities, help with the set-up, help during the events, make sure everything is running smooth, and help with the clean-up. For example, an event I’ve already done is the private Rendez-Vous for the companies most valuable customers. This consists of a fashion show in-store to present the new collection to just a few customers at a time. My job was to be backstage with the three models and three hostesses who were there to help the models change quickly in between runways. I was responsible for checking the final look before the model would go out, check if there wasn’t an accessory missing, if the hair was in place and if the clothes were put on well.

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Where did your interest in luxury brands come from?

As a child, I always dreamt of becoming a wedding dress designer. I was fascinated by these dresses and started a sketch book quite young to put on paper my different dress design ideas. Whenever I walked in front of a wedding dress shop, I would stop and admire the beauty of each dress. As I grew older, my interest expanded into fashion designing, I would love to watch fashion shows on runways and admire different luxury brands.

Now, a fun fact about myself, I wouldn’t say I’m interested in luxury brands. I’m interested in Hermès as a brand, because they do things differently. I learned about them during EHL’s career fair which took place on campus the semester before leaving on internship. Hermès is a family-run company, still independent, who managed to escape from getting bought by LVMH. They have values I strongly identify myself with, they value quality over quantity and every single product they sell is hand-made by one person. Every detail is considered.

Furthermore, they don’t aim to be the biggest and most well-known brand. They banned marketing from their vocabulary. Their products don’t have the logo all over the place. In fact, it is not so easy to recognize Hermès products if you don’t know the brand well enough unlike many brands nowadays. In a world which is full of mass-production, pollution, and decreasing quality, I find the Hermès values extremely important personally.

In what way can EHL help you to be successful in the luxury brand industry?

As mentioned above, EHL gives us so many opportunities to grow. Not only are the courses useful and relevant to our work experiences, we also got to experience a first operational internship which shaped us.

Furthermore, I have become part of many committees throughout my time at EHL which has also offered me valuable experience. One of the committees is Young Hoteliers Summit (YHS), a Student-organised Summit which happens once a year. As part of the core team, I am learning how to organize a huge event which involves hospitality schools from all around the world and industry professionals. The pressure is big, but the experience is so valuable. I have learned so much from it already. I truly think it is a big help for my internship, as I am assisting during many Hermès events.

Finally, I would say the strict policy at EHL concerning dress-code, as well as the professional side to our school has helped me to succeed at Hermès. I have learned a great deal about how to present myself, how to dress and how to act in a professional environment.

What has been the most challenging experience in your life?

I would say the most challenging experience is managing my internship and YHS at the same time. It is the first time that I am doing an internship with so many responsibilities and new things to learn.

Furthermore, it is also the first time that I am in charge of organising such a large event, involving big players in the hospitality industry. I have to manage a full team of organisers, communicate with EHL departments, think of details and not forget anything, be proactive, and schedule regular meetings.

All this with a 9am to 6pm job which requires me to travel as well. It’s a very big challenge that I willingly took on.

Any recommendations for future American students?

My first recommendation would be to travel! Open your minds to new cultures, different ways of living, unusual cuisine, and be curious!

My second and most important recommendation is to never refuse a challenge because you’re afraid you wont manage it. If you have the opportunity to take on a challenge, seize it! I have done so many things in my life I never thought I was capable of doing before trying. Nonetheless, I believed in myself, did my best and succeeded.

And if you do happen to fail at something, the experience is always worth it, and no matter what, you learn something from it. Don’t be afraid of failure because sometimes they are the biggest and most enriching life lessons.

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EHL Alumni 2019