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Working during lockdown and promoted Manager - Vatel

Working during lockdown and promoted Manager

Damien, in Management Training at the JW Marriott, is trusted to overlook the Front office


Damien started his 12-month Management training at the JW Marriott Le Merigot in Santa Monica, California in July 2019. He quickly adapted to his new role and his manager reported his eagerness to learn, positive attitude and sheer passion for hospitality. Soon after, he was promoted to Front Desk Supervisor and trusted to overlook the front office by himself acting as Manager on Duty during the lockdown.

Damien kindly answered a few questions so we can learn about his experience:

Name of the property: JW Marriott Le Merigot
Location: Santa Monica
Your Position: Front Desk
Dates of employment: 22/07/2019
Job Description:

  • In charge of delivering a unique experience to our guests.
  • Creation and development of a loyalty program with personalized greetings, welcome gift, follow up of guest satisfaction.
  • In charge of Training new Front Desk Associates and creation of  a "Training Bible".
  • Participating in the weekly Manager meeting.
Any promotion? Front Desk Supervisor


What do you love about your current training? 
Working at the JW Marriott Le Merigot is more than a training, it is a life experience. I really learned so much alongside my Managers, Jessica Mahone and Ron Barba. All the team and people working at the hotel are passionate and don't hesitate to share their knowledge of the industry. That is why I really developed and improved my skills in a professional and personal way. I recommend to any student enrolled in the Vatel USA MBA program to consider doing their internship at the JW Marriott Le Merigot. They will also meet and work with the best General Manager that could exist, Damien Hirsch. According to ALL the people working here he is a best person to learn from. 

How did Vatel prepare you for the position you are currently holding?
Vatel gave me the opportunity to work in 4 different countries (China, Thailand, USA, and France). That helped me a lot by preparing me to understand and work with different cultures. I also worked in different departments: housekeeping, accounting, food and beverage, and finally at the Front Desk. It is very important to have a global vision of a hotel if you want to work in a managerial position, and since I am now a Front Desk Supervisor, I need to work with all departments and people from different countries. So I would like to say that Vatel prepared me perfectly for this first managerial position.

What is different working in the USA and at this property? 
If you are passionate and always do your best, you will have so many opportunities working in the USA. It does not matter if you are young or not, if you think that you have the skills to have more responsibilities, you will have them.

What will you take away when your internship is over? 
I am not sure yet what I want to do after this experience, but what I know is that working at the JW Marriott proved to me that I really love my job, and it is making me confident about the future opportunities in the hospitality industry.

What is your professional goal in the near future? 
My goal and my dream is to open or buy a boutique hotel with my brother in a maximum of 5 years. We are both passionate about entrepreneurship and hospitality, so it is an evidence for us to have our own hotel.


How do you deal with the coronavirus situation? 
I am still working so I am not really in confinement like most of the people. Unfortunately, the hotel laid off around 95% of the staff so there are only a few managers working along with the General Manager. The average occupancy is 5% and the situation is very sad. They closed all the facilities, the restaurant, the fitness center, and we only have a To-Go Menu for the food service. Since the F&B team is not working, I am in charge of the Restaurant/Bar, and the Front Desk. It is a very weird feeling to work by yourself in such a big hotel. There are usually only 4 staff working during the afternoon. However, it is a great opportunity to learn from this situation, for example, I did online classes to be able to serve food and alcohol and I obtained a new "certification". Also, I am working closely with the Front Desk Manager, Ron, and since we have a lot of free time, she is training me on a lot of things that we could not have done in normal times. So I would like to say that I am handling the situation pretty well but I am very excited to go back to normal and to talk with more guests every day. 

What kind of guest is staying at your hotel during this period? 
We only have a few guests staying with us and some of them have been staying with us for weeks since they are stuck and can't go back to their country. We also have some people who are taking advantage of the cheap rates and travel around. 

What are you doing to keep your guests safe from the Coronavirus?   
We are very careful about safety here. Every 2 hours we are disinfecting all the Front Desk, restaurant, elevator... We are also all wearing masks and gloves that we change regularly during the day. When a guest is checking out, the housekeeping team waits 3 days before going and cleaning the room. 

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