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Robin Wicks, former Holiday Inn Sales VP and COO Europe, speaks to Birkdale Collective

Robin Wicks, former Holiday Inn Sales VP and COO Europe, speaks to Birkdale Collective

Birkdale Collective endeavour to bring the best advice possible for international students and as a part of that, we would like to share with you viewpoints of those who have been very successful in their industries.

Having filled numerous roles with hotel giant Holiday Inn, Robin Wicks is a go-to on advice within the Hospitality sector. Some of the simplest advice hits hardest here, for example, “don’t take a job you don’t like in order to accelerate your career.” Read on for more on this as Robin spoke to Birkdale Collective…

Can you tell us about your education and how that put you on your career path?

I went to a good Grammar School in the UK, specialised in languages at A-level and went on to do French and German at Cambridge University. Between school and uni, I looked for employment for the summer that would take me abroad, and got a job as a train courier taking people out to Austria by train every week.

Can you tell us a bit about your career, where you worked and the roles you held?

That holiday job was repeated every summer, with the same company, and after finishing my degree I stayed on working as a tour guide until I was 30.  At that point I took a position in the office with the same company. Various promotions followed, and I was head hunted to Holiday Inn as VP Sales for EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) at the age of 40.  For the next 15 years I was VP Operations, VP Franchising, VP Sales and Marketing and COO Europe. I left when my role became redundant at the age of 56 and spent another successful 10 years doing hotel management, advisory and development assignments through my own company until I was 65, when I decided to fully retire.

What advice would you give yourself before you hit 30 about your career?

Keep doing what you enjoy doing; don’t take a job you don’t like in order to accelerate your career. Have fun, go with the flow, and do a great job.

When choosing your next career steps each time can you explain how you felt when taking the next leap?

My career changes were always forced (by companies I worked for being taken over or going under). I always fell on my feet, and relationships built earlier always seem to have a way of paying benefits.

Hospitality being your main field in your career, what would you say are the main challenges of a career in that area?

Hospitality is a great career, with many different paths available to follow. If you work in a hotel or restaurant environment then long hours are the big challenge. I was always a corporate guy so didn’t have that problem.

What advice could you offer students now in terms of how they approach a career in the sector?

Getting a job within one of the big brands will be an advantage, and look very good on the CV. The big brands also offer the best career progression and widest range of opportunities.

Thanks Robin for your time, if you found this advice inspiring do have a read of our talk with former NHS Careers Specialist Alan Simmons by clicking here.

For more information about how Birkdale Collective can be helpful to students, click here.

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