In 2011 I was announced as the winner of the Olive Barnett Award . This was a very special moment for me as the Award recognized many talented front-of-house employees in the UK under 30 years old. By winning the award, I secured a grant to use towards my development, which allowed me to study both at the Ecole Hotelier de Lausanne and at Cornell University.
Although both experiences put me on the radar in the industry, the real turning points in my career were working closely with a few colleagues, who encouraged me to apply for the award and meeting some key people during the competition. Their guidance, ideas, knowledge and skills have helped me grow and move ahead quickly. This handful of people became my mentors, their experience and advice provided the most valuable insights I gained about work and life more than I ever learnt from textbooks or classroom lectures.
This worked well until one day something even better happened. For years I had followed Danny Meyer, a New York City restaurateur who through his book had constantly inspired me to work in the industry. For years, his book lived on my bedside table, and I wished I could get him to sign it. I was shocked when I heard that one of my mentors happened to have a connection in common with Danny Meyer who could arrange a signed copy of his book, but she didn’t only passed the contact to me, she almost put her reputation on the line and talked very highly about me to her connection. She continuously promoted my work anywhere she was in the world to anybody she thought could help me advance. Until this day, I still receive calls from people who got my number from her when she thinks they have a business opportunity for me.
She is more than a mentor; she is a sponsor. My heart missed a beat when I received an email from the HR Director of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), Danny Meyer’s company offering me the opportunity of a short work experience in New York with his team. I had the most amazing time and even travelled back with a signed copy of his book.
By Assia Riccio, Founder of Evolvin’ Women
Assia Riccio is the Founder of Evolvin’ Women, a unique and innovative online network designed for women in hospitality or aspiring to start a career in the industry with a wish to make a difference.
Assia is the former Learning and Development Manager at Jumeirah Restaurant Group (JRG) in Dubai, a division with a portfolio of 30 plus restaurants where she developed the L&D strategy for over 1000 employees.
Assia is a member of the advisory board committee for the Ecole Hôtelière Helvétique in Dubai as well as a member of the Dubai Women’s Business Council and Executive Women.
She works with several international non-profit organizations where she offers consultancy on women’s leadership and diversity in organization.