What I wish I could tell my 20-year-old self – Alumnus Mukesh Vasandani’s inspirational graduation speech

27 Mar 2019 | by editor


December saw the 2018 Les Roches Graduation Ceremony take place at Le Régent Congress Centre in Crans Montana, with 212 undergraduate students, 39 postgraduate students, 38 VIPs and almost 1000 guests in attendance. As well as celebrating success, the students had the chance to hear from guest speaker and alumnus, Mukesh Vasandani.

A class of 2000 graduate, Mukesh is Vice President Learning & Organisational Development at prestigious and ultra luxury hotel group, Kerzner International. Since graduating with a Postgraduate Diploma in Hospitality Management, his career has taken him to the Middle East, where he is now responsible for the learning and organizational strategy for 13,000 colleagues.

My father is Indian, my mother is Japanese, I grew up in Australia; my wife is French and we live in Dubai. I assume this makes me the poster child for Les Roches, perhaps that’s why I was invited to come back

In almost two decades since leaving Les Roches, Mukesh has gained maturity and wisdom through his experiences – the benefits of which have helped him build a successful career. “I think back to myself before I came here and what would I tell myself 18 years ago when I graduated. It really comes down to 4 points and I wanted to take a few minutes to share them with you all.”

1. Just 10 seconds of your life

“Many years ago when I started working as a training manager in a property, I came up with (back then,) a very creative idea to have a video on a recruitment website. I was extremely excited and I went to my boss and gave him this idea; he said ‘It’s a great idea, and I’m going to share with the people at the corporate office’. I thought nothing more of it in than it had been passed up the chain.

“A couple of months later we had a visit from our new senior vice president for the region. In a meeting with all leaders he spoke about the multitude of great ideas that came from this property, and how we was particularly interested and of this recruitment website idea, and wanted to thank XYZ (pointed to my boss) for coming up with the idea on his own.

I remember sitting there next to the hotel manager, a friend and mentor. I actually stood up ready to walk out and he told me (in only a way a mentor can,) ‘Sit down and shut up!’.

So I sat down and shut up.

After the meeting my mentor pulled me aside and asked me, ‘Was that your best idea? Are you done? Have you peaked?’ I told him “No, of course not. I have hundreds, thousands of ideas still.” And I will always remember what he told me so clearly, ‘This situation is 10 seconds of your life, don’t do something you’ll regret’.

You will come across situations in your career where you’re going to wish that you did something. It’s 10 seconds of your life, you will move on to bigger and better things.

2. Remember the cushions

“About 10 years ago I was at an opening, and one of the challenges of the opening was getting the right FF&E (Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment) in place. One of these items, was a cushion. To hear it from anyone in the design and technical team, this cushion was critical to representing the brand. The design, how it was placed, the material from which it was made; it was one of the hundreds of brand markers we had that made up the room fit out. We were a day away from the grand opening, and due to delivery challenges still didn’t have the cushions. Needless to say we were all stressing out.

That night before the opening I was talking to my sister – she went to the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, studied Law and is a non-profit lawyer for women’s rights – definitely swam in the deeper of our genetic IQ pool – and she asked me how I was doing. I told her, ‘I’m very stressed and aggravated, we’re trying to make sure these cushions arrive on time and we’re not sure if they will show up. How can we open this property without the cushions?! Without them the room is a disaster.’

After ranting on for a bit I asked her how she was doing. She said, ‘Well I went to this prison in upper east side New York; we have a case where a woman is being continuously abused by the guards. She’s been raped three times, we’re trying to make sure she can get proper representation, the State is not making things easy, but I’m positive that we can find funding. Anyways, that’s not important, I want to hear more about how you are, you sound very stressed out.

And I tell her, ‘It’s the cushions, we don’t have the cushions . . .’

I think we have a great responsibility as hoteliers, we create amazing experiences and everlasting memories for our guests, but we’re not saving the world, we’re not curing cancer nor are we sending people to the moon. We’re serving people food, providing them a place to rest and making them feel at home.

You will meet people throughout your careers people who have let that ego take over, and it can happen without realizing. Remember not to let that ego take over; remember where you came from, and why you’re doing what you’re doing.”

3. Savour the journey

“In my day the goal was to be the GM, where perhaps now days it’s to be in consulting or development! It’s definitely important to have goals, but I think it’s important not to get too caught up on them. Happiness is not the destination, it’s the journey. Don’t forget those people around you, your friends, your loved ones and your family. Don’t get fixated and say ‘I’m going to be happy when I get that promotion, or join that brand, get that beautiful watch or that amazing car’ – enjoy the journey.

We’re in the business of creating experiences for others, and through that journey we will always find happiness. Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right

4. Logic vs Heart

“We are taught from a very young age to follow logic, but I’m sure all your parents and faculty will tell you that the best decisions they made in life came from the heart. I didn’t fall in love with my wife based on logic, I didn’t find a job that I find very rewarding and would do every single day, based on logic.

“You have probably one of the best educations you can have here, the great support structure from everyone at Les Roches, but the most important thing I encourage all of you to do is remember to make decisions from the heart.  As you go through your career; remember to follow what your passion tells you. It’s not always about the promotion or the salary increase, it’s not always about the brand or the property, think about what’s important for you.”

The mind gives us values to live by, what you get from your heart defines what’s worth dying for.


As our class of 2018 head out into an exciting and ever-changing world, the expertise and ability gained at Les Roches, combined with the support of experienced alumni, ensures success is in their hands.

Thank you to Mukesh for sharing his invaluable wisdom, and here’s to the next exciting chapter for all of our 251 graduates. Congratulations!



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