Behind her large golden green eyes and charming features is hidden the warm but determined personality of this very young Vatelien, who graduated in 2012 from Nimes: Virginie Ratajczak.
Virginie is one of these generous Vateliens, seeking responsibilities and international adventures. At the age of only 25, this beautiful young lady is already the Guest Relations Manager of the 4-star Novotel World Trade Centre Dubai Hotel, where she also has the difficult job of Duty Manager from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm!
An extravagant and ambitious personality!
Virginie, how did the opportunity to work in Dubai come about for you?
When I was doing my final internship in the five-star Villa Belrose Hotel in Saint Tropez, France, I met a guest who wanted to be married at the hotel. I went back to Vatel Nimes to finish my Master’s Degree and a few weeks later the Villa Manager presented me with the opportunity to come back and work as the Sales and Marketing Manager. I accepted his offer and once again joined the hotel staff.
I was thus able to get back in touch with this guest, whom I had met during my internship, to talk about his wedding. As we had often spoken together, he knew that I wanted to work abroad, and understood this well, as he was also an expatriate in Dubai. So we made a deal: if his wedding was a success, he would help me find a job in the Emirates. The wedding took place in May, and in June the Novotel World Trade Center Hotel contacted me to work as the Guest Relations Manager.
And you’ve had this job for a year now. Could you tell us about the hotel and what your job entails?
The four-star Novotel World Trade Center Hotel is the first Accor Group hotel in Dubai. It directly partners with the Dubai Congress and Conventions Center. With 412 rooms, it is a part of the Ibis World Trade Center 210 room hotel, located on the other side of the World Trade Center.
As the Guest Relations Manager, my job is to take care of our guests’ well-being and make sure there are no problems. I prepare the daily arrivals, especially the VIPs, and am in charge of various guest requests: birthdays or anniversaries, rooms for families, excursions, reserving restaurants, etc. I work closely with all the hotel’s departments who help me in my daily job of total customer satisfaction.
During the day, from 8 until 6:00 pm, I’m responsible for any customer complaints. This job is called the “Duty Manager,” meaning that I’m the person to contact for any emergency situations, whether they are human, material, environmental or anything else. So, not only do I have to make the right decisions, but I have to do this quickly.
What differences have you noted between the way work in done in France and in the Emirates?
In the hotel we work with a staff of 15 different nationalities, which of course, gives us open minds and patience, but which can sometimes seriously hamper the transmission of information.
Another big difference is that most staff members work nine hours per day, six days per week. That’s a long way from the French working week. Accommodations and meals, in 90% of the cases in the Emirates, are paid for by the employer.
French people are well-liked in the Emirates. They know they can count on us to serve good food and wine that goes with it. We are so seen as being distinguished and elegant. Because of this respect, French people are promoted more quickly to high-responsibility jobs.
What made you want to attend Vatel and what are some of your memories of your time at school?
The reputation of our School in magazines attracted me; stories of alumni who had successful careers all over the world made me chose this School as well as Vatel’s global progression. I have fond memories of the years I spent at Vatel, as they really made me want to work in this field and led me to appreciate the quality of our French know-how. Practical application weeks helped us to learn about each department in a hotel and understand how they work. Internships are truly a leap into professional life as well as a springboard for our future careers.
After a two-year vocational degree in Sales and Tourism at the Jean Monnet Lycee in Montpellier, I joined the Vatel Foundation year class and did my first Vatel internship in Guest Relationships and Front desk at the Almyra Paphos four-star Hotel in Cyprus and the second in Villa Belrose, but I already told you about that.
What projects do you have for the future?
Our hotel will be undergoing renovation work as of March, 2014 for nine months, though it will remain open. This would be a good time for me to do a cross-training course with the Revenue Management Department to consolidate my knowledge and understand the hotel’s profitability stakes. That will also give me a helping hand to apply later for a Front Office job in the middle of next year, still with Accor, should there be any openings.
I’m planning on being the Front Office Manager in two years maximum and the Operations Manager within five years. And in about ten years I’d like to work as a Hotel Manager! The idea is to remain at Accor, as when you work internationally, you’ve got a lot of cards up your sleeve. Accor Group has always encouraged its French employees to have a global vision and be mobile to open more doors for us. Today it’s Dubai, tomorrow we’ll see!
Thank you Virginie for answering our questions, and we hope you will have a great international career. Would you like to add anything?
Dubai won the Expo 2020 two weeks ago, meaning that the Emirates will be in the limelight and we can expect activity booms in all fields. Many hotels will be opening and I think that Vateliens have a role to play here. Vatel must continue to encourage its students to think globally.
About fifty Vateliens are listed as working in Dubai. Would you be interested in having a Dubai Vatel Alumni Club?
That would be great! Today, more than ever, you have to have a professional network.
Click here for Success Stories of 4 more Vateliens in Dubai:
Jenna LI, Meetings & Special Events Executive
Julien BONAFOUS, International Sales Manager, Hilton Hotels & Resorts
Julien BESANCON, F&B Cluster Manager
Sabine ACHKAN, Special Events Manager, Le Blanc