BU graduates can find themselves in a vast variety of working environments but prepared by a range of exciting, challenging and immersive work placements, they are equipped with valuable real-world experience. BU alumni and Red Carnations Hotels VP, Suzie Thompson explains her story:
“I decided to attend university after doing a ski season in the Austrian Alps, where I worked for First Choice Ski in a hotel. I decided a degree in Hospitality Management was a great way to fast track a career in travel and hospitality.
“I chose Bournemouth University as it had a great reputation for hospitality and tourism. I was also keen to choose a course which included a work placement year. I completed my work placement in 2001 at the Holiday Inn Oceanfront, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in the US. It was a fantastic work and life experience which ultimately led to my graduate employment.”
Suzie also enjoyed the way that students were able to focus on specific areas of interest through project and group work, and often remained in Bournemouth out of term time, working as a supervisor in a local bar in Bournemouth, where she was able to meet fellow students studying other subjects and continue to enjoy the beach and nightlife.
She said: “Bournemouth is a safe and beautiful town, with a fantastic beach and excellent nightlife. The friends I made at BU are still my closest friends today, and the academic staff were good fun - I still see a few of them at industry events!”
Relishing the chance to travel and learn simultaneously, Suzie joined the BU Ski Trip to Alpe d’huez, and found opportunities at BU to work overseas: “University life was ultimately responsible for the independence and confidence I needed to build a successful career in hospitality.
With an initial interest to progress towards hotel management, Suzie quickly found through her studies on BU’s BA (Hons) International Hospitality Management degree that her interests lay in the sales and marketing of rooms, over food and beverage: “On graduating I joined the IHG Graduate Programme where my first position was Reservations Manager at the Crowne Plaza in Cambridge.”
From there she went on to become a Destination Manager in London for leading travel website, lastminute.com, where her passion for marketing and distribution flourished, before moving to a position as UK Director of Sales at a sister agency. Suzie joined Red Carnation Hotels as VP Marketing in 2011.
Suzie explains that digital marketing is fast-paced, ever-changing and requires marketers to learn something new every day. At Red Carnation Hotels, she leads a team responsible for the marketing strategy of 17 luxury boutique hotels in the UK & Ireland, Switzerland, South Africa and USA.
Offering advice to future graduates wishing to pursue a similar career path, Suzie says: “Choose the right work placement, be prepared to start at the bottom. Be nice to everyone, network always and take every opportunity to ‘stand out from the crowd’ that comes your way."