Jacek Bialy's Story
I did not expect to enter hospitality. After I had finished elementary school, I decided to go to technical college; it takes a year longer to graduate but you finish with specific trades. My original plan was to work in the kitchen but when I was applying to the school, the secretary looked at my papers, looked at me and told me I would be better going into hospitality; I would still learn F&B but would get more comprehensive knowledge.
Even though, I probably didn’t know what hospitality was at that time, without a shadow of a doubt, it was one of the best decisions I made in my life. I was able to go to school and work at the same time, and then I had an advantage when I entered the labour market because I already had five years’ work experience in comparison to my peers and I had the fundamentals of cooking, preparing drinks at the bar, serving food, plus hotel administration.
There were two reasons I joined hospitality: people and travel. I love working with customers and when it comes to my team, I am more concerned about making people feel good about themselves than making them feel good about me**; that’s key to me. Travel was always my passion. My father was a seaman and he would bring me maps of the countries or cities he had visited; I would study them and had lots of fun with that.
Straight after graduation, I left Poland and went to the UK, where I stayed 12 years; I was meeting people and expanded my experience. I travelled a lot and went on various holidays but that wasn’t enough for me, so eventually I took a trip, 80 days around the world – like Phileas Fogg. They say that travel broadens the mind and widens your horizons, and it really does. Every journey I made, I gained experience and I discovered new cultures, which helped me relate to guests from all over the world.
The most notable change in the industry has been use of technology: it brings us together faster, it lets us create more tailor-made experiences for our guests, it makes our day-to-day work easier. I have been with Accor since 2005; I joined the company because the Accor values are close to my heart – trust and respect. Accor made a cultural transformation of the group when it placed people at the heart of what we do. We are called Heartists now. Diversity and creativity make us stronger and unique. I like to think of myself as a host, I greet the team, I greet my guests, I greet everyone at the hotel, and I do it with the same passion.
In my spare time, I play basketball and I see many similarities between team sport and hospitality; we have to trust one another, that way we are better as a team, and respect each and every person. My long-term aspiration is to be limitless; I don’t put a limit on what I could do or where I could go. Limits like fears, are often an illusion.*
My advice to people in the industry is follow your heart and never give up on your dreams. No one knows you as you do, because only you spend hundred per cent of the time with yourself, so it’s paramount that you do what you love. Dare to challenge the status quo; just because you are new to the industry and I have 20 years of experience, that does not mean you cannot be right. If you believe in yourself, I believe in you, and that is very important. Some say ‘think outside the box’; I say why do we need a box? Put in the work and you will be rewarded. And never quit – it will be a bumpy road at the start, but obstacles should not stop you and that applies to whatever you do – not just in work but in life. If you quit once, it becomes a habit.*
To someone who is looking for their first job, do what you love to do. Try and do it with great passion and commitment; There are no shortcuts in life, you must expect great things of yourself before you can do them*. Hospitality is a challenging but it is rewarding. And don’t take my word for it – come and have a look yourself, try things out and then you will know whether or not you love them.
“I failed over and over in my life, and this is why I succeed” *
* – various quotes Michael Jordan
** – quote John Maxwell
- Jacek Bialy
- General Manager
- Novotel Gdansk Centrum (Poland)