Teven Yan is an SSTH Alumni since 2012 and currently working as Director of F&B at The Westin Qingdao West Coast Hotel of the Marriott Group. In the alumni interview he tells his story and gives valuable tips for the current EHL students in Passugg.
Teven, please introduce yourself and tell us about your career after graduating from SSTH.
After my bilingual Bachelor's degree at the Chinese University, I decided to study the PGD program at the EHL Passugg (SSTH).
I did my internship at the four-star Hotel Grischa in Davos. After my graduation I worked for the former Starwood Hotel Management Group and Hilton Hotel & Resorts in Switzerland and China. Since the merger of Starwood and Marriott, I have held management positions at the Marriott International. The cities and provinces where I have worked are Davos, Zurich, Zhejiang Huzhou, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Chengdu, Shanghai, Qingdao and now the Westin brand of the Marriott International Hotel Management Group.
Why did you decide to study Hotel Management?
The reason I chose hotel management was not that I loved this industry very much, love could be cultivated later. The real reason at that time was that I personally wanted to pursue a career in which I had professional confidence and certain plans.
Although looking back at that time, the professionalism I thought barely scratched the surface, but at least I had an initial plan. This is what I would like to share with SSTH fellow students and alumni, when you first step into the society, you are probably not sure what kind of career you want to be engaged in. Be confident. Your confidence refers to your major, resources, social networks, hobbies, and even visions, then you know how to get started. It ’s okay if you are in the wrong job, do it first, and the one that really suits you will be waiting for you.
I gained my first professional experience in human resources. To this day I am very happy to have built up a sound knowledge in this area. After all, personnel management is still a decisive professional competence today, as a catering director. I enjoy learning and am always learning, which ensures my professional advancement and my skills at work are at a high level. That makes me proud.
The professional experience in HR has made my working style "careful" and "mindful":
Careful: I work carefully at every moment of the day and during the entire working time. Every word I write or every number I write down is my responsibility. I set high standards for myself because I strive for excellence. This ultimately gives me confidence in everything I do.
Mindful: In HR, I learned how important it is to respect, nurture and support employees. Only with mindfulness towards others can I get ahead with a team. Feelings and ideas of the team members are important to me, respecting them is the highest commandment for me.
My change to the F&B department has been very inspiring for me since the beginning. Within a short time we managed to turn a restaurant business that was in a crisis into a well-running business with a 40-person team. We have a very good connection within the team and can rely on each other very well. I had already employed several interns who are now operations managers.
What is your job as F&B Director?
My main task is to take full responsibility for all matters in the catering business.
Daily operation and promotion of activities, kitchen and food hygiene as well as operational management, food quality and cost control are other important parts of my job. Ordering tens of thousands of food and beverages and procuring frequently used materials are also part of my job. I prepare daily, weekly and quarterly reports, collect data, make the annual business strategy and market planning and so on.
My work ranges from small things, like passing an oil stain on the fridge door, to big things, like creating the business strategy and keeping the annual budget. That's how versatile my work as F&B Director is.
This year the effects of the epidemic are very big, has your hotel taken appropriate measures?
- We are not only producing in the takeaway area with even more stringent hygiene measures, but are also refining our food range. We have also lowered our prices to make the offer more affordable for a large number of people. Catering is so essential in these difficult times.
- The whole concept of our prevention against epidemics has been put to the test and is strictly implemented by the hotel so that all guests and staff are safe at all times.
- We have already focused on the time after the pandemic and are trying to keep an eye on and support the recovery of the market. We are trying to promote pre-sales with large scale actions in order to be able to continue with normal business after the pandemic.
- The most important thing at the moment is that human resources are reduced to a minimum and that only the really necessary personnel are used. This is the case with us in the area of delivery service and production.
- We handle our food and inventory very carefully. We have also created an after-work promotion and temporary menus to ensure the efficient consumption of all ingredients.
The epidemic is a big blow for all of China and the whole world, especially the entertainment industry and tourism have to expect big losses. Every single enterprise is now called upon to make the best of it. I will try to maintain stability in my area and, as in every business, to break through all obstacles.
What advice do you give current SSTH students?
- Start first in the second row, learn the explanations from scratch and then move up to the first row. This way you have an overview and background knowledge of all the steps at all times.
- Do an internship abroad, the loneliness at the beginning teaches you a lot about your own personality and lets you progress in a completely different way. Furthermore, future employers highly appreciate these experiences abroad.
- Never forget where you come from and where you learned everything. Think about this when you hire new employees or trainees and remember the time you started. This brings more understanding and gives a better relationship of trust.
- Try to stay with an employer for a while. Even if the family business calls, the external experiences are essential for the future and give you innovative new ideas.
- Be friendly to others and treat each other in good faith. Less appearance than being is the motto. You inspire more with concrete actions than with boasting.
- Travel around the world and get to know more places around the globe.
How did studying in Switzerland improve your life and career?
I have learned to be very efficient, to be alone in a positive sense, to study in a focused way, and to travel. The intercultural exchange with my many foreign fellow students has given me a lot. I understand the different cultures better, know how to achieve success together with you and know the needs and background of other cultures.
The many basic technical skills I learned at the EHL in Passugg help me to prove myself in my profession to this day. The mastery of international languages, cultures and management will be the future to achieve good management positions.
In spite of the high pressure, a lot of learning material and many exams, I can say today that it was all worth it. I would not like to have done without the practical courses, such as service and kitchen, as these have given me a better understanding of how to work in the international market. The label training and management subjects are still very important for me.
The many cordial fellow students were always open to answer questions and provide help. The community also made learning easier and the social life on campus made me feel at home.