Not everyone can rise to Assistant Manager of one of Dubai’s busiest, most popular dining concepts within 5 months. American alumnus Michael Mauro, who graduated in December 2014 has done just that and shares some wise advice for anyone also aspiring to fast career progression.
- Tell us one of the most surprising things about your job.
One of the most surprising things about my job is that I expected to be head waiter for some time, and one day, my General Manager comes up to me and says ‘put a suit on’, so now I’m training to be an Assistant Manager and I do most of the manager duties. So, pretty much I’m a full-grown manager, just out of school.
- How did you manage to get the job? How did you move up the ladder?
I had an internship from Les Roches at ZUMA Hong Kong. It was a one-year management training program, so I worked every department there from the restaurant floor, to the bar, to reception, HR…and I worked very hard. I was fortunate enough to work there for 11 months and they gave me the opportunity to work another 2 months as Assistant Manager in Training in Bangkok.
And when I went back to Les Roches, I promoted Zuma and got other interns to join the programs. Originally, I was meant to go back to Zuma Hong Kong and the HR Directors had a conversation, and well, the person from Dubai poached me and I decided to take the job here.
- How do they respect you?
My team is like Les Roches. We have over 50 nationalities here. People from Europe, Africa, Asia. Les Roches gave me a good sense of background, because I can actually use that experience of dealing with many different nationalities, with the experience I had in Hong Kong.
When I first arrived in Dubai, I remained quiet, got to know the team and gave them the respect they deserved. I worked very hard and when I did actually get promotion to full on supervisor and wore a suit to work every day, they respected me because I took the time to get to know them. And at the same time, I worked to the level that ZUMA demanded me and then continued to push myself more than what is was expected. I went to work every day, learnt what they did. And by doing that, I gained their respect because I showed them that I’m not here to direct them and push them around, but here to work together with them as a team.
- What are the three top attributes you need to do this job?
You need to be quick on your feet, expect the unexpected and work very hard.
- What are the three main responsibilities of your position?
I am in training. My responsibilities include overseeing the floor, making sure that the reports are done in morning and evening and also setting up the floor plan for the actual team of servers and executing service as it happens.
- You graduated 6 months ago, what’s next?
I will stick with Zuma for the while. I am very happy with the company. It is going to be expanding in the future, so I see a lot of growth with it. But for now, I’m just going to work hard where I am at to get full promoted to Assistant Manager and learn as much as I can, because even though we graduated we still have to learn every day.
But eventually I would like to move back to the US, work there and start my own company five years down the road.
- Did you see that you would go into F&B? How did that come about?
I always knew I wanted to work in F&B. Before, I worked in Chicago, then Hong Kong and Bangkok in F&B. It was the only thing I wanted to do. I have a passion for food and for the whole culture of food. I get along with chefs -that makes my job easier, so yes, after graduation, it was the only thing I wanted to do.
- One best thing about working for Zuma?
It’s nothing like anything you’ve ever seen. If you go there, you’ll see that we are completely full every single day, 364 days of the year. And you really push your limits. There are days you want to quit, there are days you want to celebrate, but honestly it’s a place that’s like nothing you’ve ever worked before.
- What advice would you give to students who are graduating now for when they go out into the real world?
The moment you graduate the school, you are at level one. Don’t think that immediately you are going to become a manager. You have to work really hard and you have to start from the ground up because as Les Roches students we need to respect other people and not just think we went to an amazing school. It’s better to start from the ground up because when you do, you know everything and then no-one can question your ability to do your job.
In terms of my future plans for the next two or three years, this is it. I got my dream job. I want to sell myself within this company. And also with my career. And it takes time. And 2 or 3 years down the road, I’d like to see myself as a restaurant manager and some form of senior management and continually rise up the ranks until I reach the role of General Manager – possibly further. We’ll see what happens.
I’d like to give a special thank you to all the ZUMA teams in Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Dubai because without them and their guidance, none of this would have been possible.