Alumni Interview: Towering Heights

20 Oct 2015 | by Les Roches


les-roches-top-swiss-hotel-management-school-alumnus-omar-salahiWhen Egyptian Omar Salahi graduated Les Roches in 2010, he decided that by 2015 he would be Managing Director of a company. He achieved his goal, and is currently Managing Director of YouGo Egypt Group. Here he shares with us some valuable lessons for anyone else who is driven to achieve the same level of success.

Following graduation, Omar joined a Management in Training program at the Four Seasons, Sharm el Sheikh. This program lasted 18 months and Omar cites its usefulness in introducing him to managerial roles by enabling him to work his way up from line staff to supervisory roles into Managerial positions, in his case in Front Office and Housekeeping.

He then started his first job at You Go Egypt as Sales Executive, but after one year decided to move to New York where he worked as the Manager on Duty for the Soho Grand Hotel, in downtown Manhattan. His progress was solid and steady and in the absence of the GM he was tasked with assuming the overall management responsibilities for the hotel.

It is a mistake to think this sort of progress happens overnight. Progress has to be steady, but built on solid foundations, which is why an MIT program is an excellent post-graduation choice.

‘Basically, what’s on your mind can be in your hands. This was a goal I gave myself, once I graduated. I want to be an MD, to have this role. I travelled around the world and worked in 6 different hotel chains and 6 different cities. Where there is a will, there is a way, of course.

Working your way up from being a Sales Executive to Sales Manager. Then being Assistant Director to Managing Director. This is how I got my current job.’ He adds: ‘You have to be patient to start with. You are providing a service and have the chance to please people every day – this something phenomenal. You need to stick to what you want and you’ll reach your goal.’

Leadership is a vital skill in his work. He has 30 people who work with him – from divers and travel escorts, to guides and ticketing department employees. So people management is a key skill as well. With ultimate responsibility for sales, he himself does a lot of hard graft: phoning potential clients, attending conferences (we caught up with him in Dubai, where he was attending the Arab Travel Market) and networking. This is leadership that shows how it is done, not tells (whilst asking others to get on with it). It’s no surprise that he also cites ‘communication’ as one of his core skills.

Other key skills are being a team player (knowing how to manage relationships with people junior to you and senior to you), being sociable (trying to attract people is your job) and taking direction from others.

This last skill is often underrated. Omar says an MD needs to be able ‘to take direction from people above you, to guide you, to put you on the right track, so you can achieve your company goals.’ Again, it’s about communication – listening and learning.

It is clear Omar is ambitious, which is why it is no surprise that there is no such time as low season for Omar.

I’m based in Cairo. So, the recent political difficulties were a problem for the tourism sector. After the Revolution, it was a bit tricky with all of the politics…

During this period, business was a little bit slower than normal. So, I used the time to upgrade our software and online systems because we had to make the most of it. I also attended 3 conferences in London, Dubai, Berlin, in order to attract businesses, to speak to international Destination Management Companies, tour operators, cruise lines.

Omar credits Les Roches with helping him in his career.

Les Roches gives you a passport to a future career. It showed me things that I had never seen in my normal life. It helped me improve my communication skills and motivated me for the industry – big time.”

Aiming for the top? Find out more about our MBA in hospitality and MSc in Hospitality Leadership programs.

Les Roches


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