Monica Eisen’s love story with Runnymede started even before she was born. Daughter of an Old Runnymedian herself, she still remembers the move to the current school grounds and the close-knit and supportive environment which marked her schooling. Although she has travelled the world and pursued an extremely successful career in luxury hospitality, when asked she stresses that her closest friendships are those which started in Runnymede “ the values of Runnymede and the education we received have brought us together”. Now, some years after leaving the school she is Manager of the new Four Seasons in Madrid and looks back on her discovery of the hospitality business.
Like most children, Ms Eisen was unsure of what she wanted to study in higher education and what awaited her in the professional world. “ I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I was lucky enough to know what I liked”. Travelling, being able to interact with a people from international backgrounds and experience different cultures was what she hoped she would be able to do after finishing her studies, but the path to achieving this was not clear to her. Before being introduced to hospitality by her father when she entered VIth form, Monica admits she didn’t even know it existed. Her A-Level choices, (English Literature, French and History) where a perfect fit for her “they allowed me to study and understand how and why decisions were made, how cultures have evolved and the human influences which altered the course of history”. This knowledge has altered the way in which she approaches clients, rendering her more aware of her actions and perceptive to the behaviour and decisions of those who surround her.
When the time came for Ms Eisen to leave Runnymede and enter university, it was clear to her that hospitality was the right choice. Her experience at the Les Roches Marbella School of International Hotel Management was invaluable, the structure of the course allowed her to spend 6 months per year in internships and allowed her to “start feeling, start understanding” and acquire first-hand experience in the running of luxury hotels. When she started her work at the Four Seasons group fourteen years ago as an intern, she had already fallen in love with the philosophy of the company. “I read the fantastic book written by our founder, Isadore Sharpe, on how the Four Seasons came to existence, the values and the culture behind the extraordinary atmosphere and care of the company. Then I thought ‘I want to work for this company’”.
Her choice of the Four Seasons property in Lisbon as her first internship came about due to her desire to learn Portuguese. “ I had a Portuguese roommate at university and I thought it would be wonderful to be able to speak the language”. Her time there was an incredibly formative experience during which she got to understand all the positions within a hotel. She worked in every division (food and beverage, room maintenance, breakfast), one of her most vivid memories is her task of “cleaning all the wheels of the room-service tables”. Ms Eisen highlights the importance of this “how can you lead a team of people when you don’t fully understand their positions and roles within the hotel?”. She decided to stay with Four Seasons for her second internship, this time in London where she continued to hold different positions in reception, house keeping and later room service and banqueting. There she was met with the physical effort and mental challenge posed by the task of long hours cleaning guests’ rooms, identifying the role of housekeeping as the backbone of all hotels.
As she recounts her decision of her third and final internship at university she is unable to repress a smile “I’d been brainwashed”. She had felt so extraordinarily welcome in her previous positions within the group that she feared that she was progressively narrowing her horizons, so she began considering positions in Brazil and Russia. However, just as she was about to confirm the choice that would catapult her out of Europe and into South America, she receive an email from the Four Seasons Corporate Office. “The email said something along the lines of ‘What are you planning on doing next year? Please stay with the Four Seasons’. That’s when I realised what a caring company I’d been in, who’d been monitoring the movements of an intern and was devoting in training. That made me put aside all other ideas”. Then she began her work at the George V in Paris. After completing her cycle at Les Roches she held a position in food and beverage in the hotel before becoming Hotel Ambassador, in charge of the top VIP guests during their stay. Her time in Paris was an opportunity to “meet incredible people and develop a truly tailor-made experience”
The Old Runnymedian then spent 4 years as Sales Manager for Four Seasons for the United States and Latin America, developing relationships and strategies for the expansion of the group. When the opportunity came about to become Manager of the new Four Seasons in Madrid, Ms Eisen was overjoyed. However, with the coming of the pandemic, the hospitality has been one of the industries most severely affected and the opening date for the newly-renovated hotel had to be postponed. Monica and her team realised the challenge ahead and had to “come up with an alternative scenario that made sense. We had selected 200 people for our staff who were the very best in their field and who we would probably never see again. Luckily, we were able to convince the wonderful owner that we could run a successful operation despite the pandemic”. The hotel now brings hope to Madrid, catering to locals and adhering to a system designed by John Hopkins Hospital in order to ensure the health and safety of the guests. Despite the hurdle of the pandemic Monica and her team are enthusiastic, extremely happy to be able to materialise this “dream for the locals”.
Luxury is generated by how people treat you, and Ms Eisen stresses the importance of individual attention, time is the clients’ most valuable asset. This is what motivates the staff at the Four Seasons to create a magical experience. Conscious of the desire of many Runnymedians to enter hospitality, her advice to those wishing to enter the business centres around how demanding yet rewarding working in hospitality can be. “You have to understand that hospitality is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year business. While other people are on holiday, you may have to work. However, having said this you have the support of your company and your peers to achieve a work-life balance. Although I love my job I have something that is far more precious to me at home, my 15 month-old daughter and I feel well, happy and taken care of.”.
Angélica O, 13K