Women’s Month Interview #4 – Alumnae of AHA – Bianca Barabas
How was your experience in the industry after graduation?
For me, it was a very exciting moment of absolute uncertainty because I had to choose from very different career opportunities and I am telling you, the pressure of choice overload is real. You know, you are constantly asking yourself, what department to go for, what company, what country? What is more important for me now? A more senior position, more money in the bank at the end of the month, flexibility? But what’s going to matter in 10 years? How could you possible know? Now I got news for you, this uncertainty does not go away. You can be absolutely in love with your choice and have a career change two years down the line – that’s just how life goes.
And you know, yes, I was a graduate with some exposure to very different aspects of hospitality, from Food and Beverage operations to Business Law which did help, this was the stepping stone, but the most important thing I got from American Hotel Academy was sense of professionalism and academic interest.
What skills should women develop or work on before they enter the industry?
The skills are the same whether we are talking about men or women. As a graduate, build on what makes you unique and be very confident on what you bring to the table. We can go into a long debate on gender blindness or gender awareness, but in the end – it all comes down to how good you really are.
What advice do you have for women who graduate?
Be honest to yourself – do not make the mistake of thinking you have a glass ceiling because of your gender. You do not. Yes, every now and then there are controversial news about woman in XYZ position, but for every nasty article you have a dozen of positive ones. But there is a lot of competition out there, so ask yourself: do I have all the information I need? Am I experienced enough? How do I handle office politics? Am I committed enough?
If you ever think you have been discriminated on any base, do call it out. But make sure you back your statement with facts. To make an allegation that you were not hired or promoted because you are a woman is as bad as saying you did solely because of your gender.
What is your biggest achievement so far in your career?
There have been interesting moments along the way but I am most proud starting this project called Teach me Something! to promote Learning and Development in the industry.
And you can say, well it’s not that big, there are only three articles at the moment, but it was really challenging. It took a lot of effort to reach out to people I looked up to and convince them to give me their time, to associate their name with a brand they knew nothing about. It really taught me how important your network is. As if I needed any proof, it showed me that cold calling/emailing does not really work, you need to get to know the person you are reaching out to. Do your homework and have something interesting, something different to say, you can apply this to any aspect of life. If it works out, great.
And you know, at least I know I won’t ever get my heart broken again – those 200 e-mails no one responded to really build on your resilience.