Hong Pham was a child in Vietnam when she discovered the pleasure she took in family trips that included hotel stays. “The rooms were so nice and fancy, and if there was a restaurant, we didn’t have to cook,” she fondly recalls. As she told LODGING, although her attraction to the industry was based on that childhood impression of the luxury and fun so evident in the front of the house, her education and real-world experience in the hospitality industry shifted her professional interest to the back of the house. She is now poised to pursue a career in revenue management, with the help of the AMEX, Ecolab, Handlery Hotels, and Opening Doors scholarships given through the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation (AHLEF)—part of the $1.3 million that AHLEF has awarded in scholarships to 344 hospitality students this year, 75 percent of whom are women.
Pham began her steps to a career in hospitality while still in Vietnam. All along, she received encouragement from her mother—her father had passed away when she was young—including when she decided to move to Singapore to complete her associates degree, and, later, to the United States with the intention of working in the industry before continuing her education there.
Pham continued her work and education in the United States with an internship at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. “I worked first in room operations, then housekeeping—for a year each—before I decided to stay and continue my studies while also working part-time,” describes Pham, who is now working for Marriott International. She says her plan is now to complete her hospitality studies at Florida International University, then continue on to pursue her master’s degree.
She says she’s enjoyed the many positions she’s held while simultaneously pursuing both education and career. “I’ve worked at the front desk, housekeeping, events, and sales. But I really fell in love with revenue management—the challenge of examining numbers, figuring how to strategize and improve performance. I feel that’s where my future is,” she says.
Pham maintains that combining work and schooling is an effective way for those such as herself contemplating a career in hospitality to find their place among the many positions in the front and back of the house. “Based on my own work and experience, I think working part-time while in school gives you the chance to see what you want to do—work at the front desk, events, food and beverage, whatever.”
Her advice to others in terms of career planning is straight out of the business school primer: have a five-year plan, and work actively toward it with the help of a supportive network. “Once you figure what you want to do, talk to your manager/leader and share what you want to do. I’ve been helped in my career by amazing leaders; they listen to me, ask how they can help me grow my career, and give me the chance to move up,” she says.
Pham, who has held various hospitality positions and received several certifications from AHLEF, is now entering her senior year at Florida International University. She plans to complete her education within the next two years to become a hotel revenue manger.