Ronen Nissenbaum (class 1989) recently-appointed Managing Director of Waldorf Astoria and Waldorf Towers in New York, came back to Les Roches International Hotel Management School to drop off his son, Max, who has just started on the hospitality bachelor degree program.
- How Ronen found his hospitality vocation
When Ronen was a young child living in Canada, he and his brother used to visit his uncle, who was managing hotels, such as the St Regis, the Park Meredian, The Helms Palace in New York.
‘We just fell in love with the lifestyle, with the glamour, and the food. And both my brother and I fell into the business because of it, despite my uncle trying to persuade us otherwise! He took us to the dungeons of the hotel, and said ‘this is what it is to manage a hotel.’ He showed us the work side as well as the pleasure side. But we’re both very stubborn…I decided to come here to Switzerland. I was looking for a school that taught in English, that was in Switzerland and had a great reputation and Les Roches was all that.’
- …And how his son Max caught the vision, too.
His son Max also grew up in the industry, close to his father and his profession. He excelled in practical learning and recently completed a 9-month stint at the InterContinental in Atlanta doing line-level work in reception, concierge and switchboard. That confirmed it for him: he would do a business degree in hospitality. “I then started to research schools, and obviously my father told me about Les Roches and I was curious. So we came over to visit it and I saw that this was the place for me.”
- Ronen’s reflection on innovation
People need to be talking about the Waldorf Astoria constantly. There needs to be new things happening. That needs to be communicated outside so that people can hear about it. Any event we do, we have to continuously innovate with new ideas, new service levels, and stay ahead of the competition, stay relevant in today’s environment.
Many properties have bee hives on their roofs, but we have been able to harness the fact that we have 700,000 bees, by adding a herb garden. And we take those herbs and add them into the menus in our Bull and Bear Restaurant. I think it’s incredibly important to innovate and bring out new ideas in order to stay at the forefront of people’s mind.
- Max’ reflection on innovation
I feel like my creativity is stronger than innovation if I consider them as two different elements. Innovation is something I want to develop more whilst I am at this school. Les Roches is filled with innovative people who are a great influence and inspiration to strengthen my skills in this area.
- Max’ reflections about which area to specialize in:
Well, I am more comfortable in the hotel part of the hospitality industry because having worked in a hotel for so long (well 9 months being so long!). I am open to learning more areas of the hospitality business, but the hotels are right now just my comfort zone. I’m more than happy to go out of my comfort zone to learn new things, to figure out if that’s more comfortable for me, but as far as I see right now, I see myself working in hotels.
…I would be very interested in getting to know the culinary side of the hotel business. In all honesty, I hope to see myself in management one day, but I don’t know where my career is going to take me.
As time goes on, I’ll figure out what I need to do and where I need to go, but I feel that this is a good kick-start to work this out.
- And if Ronen did his time again…
I think I would start exactly like Max with: ‘Not sure where to go. Let’s spread my wings and see what makes me feel comfortable. Which area do I enjoy the most?” And then go and specialize in the area that I enjoy the most. Perhaps culinary… Though I think finance, marketing entrepreneurship would ring more of a tone with me… but it’s a very individual question.
- Ronen’s advice to his son:
If I had anything to advise my son… it is that don’t ever underestimate the value of networking and your network you have with people.
Networking is not really linking in with someone on LinkedIn or being a friend with somebody on Facebook. Networking is really working that connection, staying in touch with that connection, talking to that connection. And hopefully if you do that with 10, 20, 30, 50, 100 people, which takes a lot of work, and a lot of effort, an opportunity will come from one of those networks that would be far more interesting and totally off the beaten path than you had ever anticipated.
- Max’s advice to his father:
Don’t worry about me because I feel as though I fit right in!
So, nature vs nurture. Do you think hospitality is something that runs in the blood? Join the debate on Google+. Anyway, that debate aside, we are super happy to welcome the first second-generation Les Rochian on campus and wish Max all the best in his studies!