Interview with Sebastian Kastrounis
Name: Sebastian Kastrounis
Hometown: Rhodes, Greece
Nationality: Greek / Dutch
Education: Bachelor’s Degree
Year of graduation: 2000
Current position: (where & since when)
F&B Manager – Hotel Elysium Resort & Spa
(Member of Harmony Resorts)
5star luxurious hotel, since 2011
1. Would you like to share some background information with us? How did you decide to study in the Netherlands? (e.g. youth, town you grew up, hobby’s, family)
I was lucky to be born in one of the most beautiful and sunny islands of Greece and probably of the world, Rhodes in the southeastern part of the Aegean Sea.
Rhodes is one of the most visited and popular touristic destinations of Europe since the early 70s. Since I was born and raised in this environment it was inevitable that I will get enough influences and positive vibes that will lead me to decide to get involved professionally in this exciting industry.
I was raised by a Dutch mother (from Leeuwarden!) and by my Greek father from Rhodes.
My parents raised me in the best way possible where both cultures and mentalities where the basis of the structure of my character and personality. All the values, the mentality and philosophy of life that have influenced me affected me in that direction and led me choose the way of lifestyle and the choice of profession.
I had to take the opportunity to go abroad and explore life by choosing to study in an international hospitality school where I could get all the best and positive experiences that would help me develop my personality and knowledge about life and professional wise.
It was one of my most important decisions where my parents motivated me to do so and I will never regret that. The result was only positive and productive for a lifetime.
I love interfering and meeting people and exploring their cultural differences and values about life. Meeting and getting to know somebody is an experience as itself and is very valued and fulfilling for everyone.
I value and love to see the world by traveling and exploring new places which is something that make me feel really rich spiritually and a better person that can understand the meaning of life from a perspective with its simplicity and human way.
As a person I am very social, open minded, positive about life and eager to learn new things all the time. I like to work collectively and cooperate with people (that’s why I loved doing PBL sessions at the former ISHML now STENDEN)!
2. How did you experience your student life at Stenden University? (e.g. away from home, people you met, pbl, real life learning, graduation)
When I made the decision to study abroad I was very excited to do so and was waiting for this moment to come with anxiety and positivism.
In the beginning I had a nice-weird feeling of the change where suddenly you are far away from your family and friends but at the same time the feeling of ‘’independence’’ and challenge of exploring and facing new experiences fascinated me and made me feel very positive and happy. The motivation was there and I was very delighted to make that choice to go abroad and explore the world in a different perspective something that my parents helped me to see into that direction because they wanted the best for me. And they were 100% right.
These 4 years were an amazing experience where I had the opportunity to meet characters and personalities from different cultural backgrounds and mentalities and ‘’learn’’ how to survive in the real world where you are more independent and have to deal with many challenges and situations which mature you and make you a better person. Of course there is the condition that you will have the will and the motivation to do so and have a positive perspective of seeing things.
PBL sessions where a nice experience and a very productive way of brainstorming and analyzing issues and cases of the real world within a group and that really helped me a lot and I can see it even now in my real daily life is something that you can apply and in your job and even in many other group sessions that you may participate in.
So what can we say about student life in Leeuwarden? Lots of parties…..parties…..parties….hangover situations (just kidding) and lots of homework…….If you know how to manage to balance your time in order to combine productive studying and having a good time as a student which you deserve the result will be only positive. So my advice to all new students is to take the opportunity to learn and take advantage of every second of their student life. After student life is finished and the real world will start with the procedure of seeking a real job and starting a new career all the things that you have accomplished and earned from your student life will help you with the new level of life that you will face ahead of you. Student life is a lifetime experience and you should experience it to the maximum with positivism and awareness and live each moment because it will never come back!!!
Last but not least the graduation day is a memorable moment where finally you realize that the end has come and all your sacrifices, study hours and difficulties have come to a point where you get the your reward and you feel that amazing moment that you will say to yourself…..I did it!!! I made it!!!! Your family will be so proud of you. On the other hand of course you will be sad that you have to say goodbye to all these 4 years filled with amazing moments, friendships and unique experiences. But that’s life. Every period of it has its beautiful and sad moments. But if you experience it you will become a stronger and more mature person. I will never forget the moment I was given my graduation diploma in front of a huge audience and my family and I was so proud of myself and the moment I had to sign it my hand was shaken from my nervousness……….At that moment I said to myself this is it Sebastian….game over…….real life starts now
3. Where did you fulfill your internship and how was your experience?
This was actually my top experience out of the 4 years of studies, professional and working wise. I learned so much about this business and I became after one year a much more wise and educated person. Theory is good but practice is all the meaning of these for years where you learn so many things that you cannot imagine.
I fulfilled my internship at the Hotel Intercontinental Miami in 1999-2000. Miami was a destination where I wanted to go so much and I was one of the two students that were chosen out of 40 applications. I was extremely happy when I was informed that I was chosen to do my internship over there.
It was an unforgettable experience where I gained a lot of experience technically wise but mainly I learned how to deal working and producing under pressure, and how to manage critical incidents and the most important how to manage to communicate with a wide range of people with different cultural backgrounds and mentalities in such a place as Miami. The diversity in cultural backgrounds is huge over there and management is a big seminar to work in such institution as the hotel is by itself. The hotel had 660 rooms 18 different f&b outlets and huge banquet and conference halls where they could cater up to 3000 guests. So you can imagine the daily adrenaline and rhythms of this hotel’s day to day operation.
The hotel drafted an exceptional training program for me where I had to go through 12 departments within 12 months and I started from the lowest level in the hierarchy of each department and over the time I was given responsibilities and was running my own shifts. It was a thrill. Not easy but an amazing experience. At the end of my training I felt like a grown up mature man. Of course I still had a lot to learn, because knowledge never ends, till you are getting really old you still learn from life, but the knowledge and experience I gained within that year was unforgettable and very decisive for my future professional path.
4. How did it feel when you graduated? How was the switch between ‘being a student’ to ‘being an employee’?
As I said above the moment I got my diploma in my hands I was very nervous and proud of myself….. The next step was to take a small break and start planning for my upcoming future. First I had to complete my military services which is obligatory in Greece and then to enter into the real world, the world of professionalism and start working and being part of the biggest industry of the world….the hospitality industry.
The switch was not that hard because when I did my internship I really felt like working as a professional employee and gained so positive experience that helped my confidence and self-esteem which is an essential factor in order to succeed in this difficult full of demanding industry. The motivation was very high and the eagerness up to the maximum level.
5. How did your career develop since your graduation? Did you face any major challenges?
After I completed my military duty I started searching for my first job. I was pretty lucky since I got my first job offer right after I completed my military service. I got an offer as an Assistant F&B Manager Trainee – Controller in a big Cyprian hotel chain. I had to travel and live in Cyprus for almost a year. After that I returned back to Greece and had an offer to be part in an opening of a new hotel where my position would be Maitre d’ Hotel and had to organize many things since it was an opening. After that, another challenge appeared where I had an offer from an international hotel chain in Rhodes, for the position as F&B outlets supervisor. I stayed there for a year and then I moved to another Greek chain with 800 rooms and 2000 beds as an Assistant F&B Manager. I was in this position for 4 years and then was promoted for the position of the F&B Manager where I was responsible for 200 staff 12 F&B outlets and a huge volume of operation business and leisure. The experiences and challenges that I faced all that years were innumerable. After that I got an offer from a 5star deluxe hotel for the position of F&B Manager and I am there since the last two years. All the hotels I worked so far were 5 stars . The one I am at now is one of the top luxurious hotels of Greece and the level of service is extremely high.
In the real life-hotel business you apply some theory that you learn at the university but trust me the flexibility and on the spot decisions might differ by far of what it is supposed to happen theoretically and how you have to realize and solve a problem or a difficult situation. The service standards might have many similarities all the over world but the way you have to approach and deal every challenge you might face on a daily basis will differ and will have its own special way to deal with. That’s why I love this job because you have to deal with people and challenges on a daily basis.
When you put all your experiences, knowledge, personality and character together then the outcome is to be a good manager with perspectives. Put that into your mind and you will become a successful manager. Please do not forget that the major challenge in this business is to be able to handle people’s behaviors, characters and personalities. In order to succeed for yourself and for the organization you are working for the biggest key factor is to be able to be strong and capable to face the unexpected challenges on a daily basis and be above all human. The human approach always works out. Keep the necessarily distance and balance but always use the human approach. Because don’t forget we are all humans with emotions strengths, weaknesses and needs.
6. Was it always your dream to become a F&B manager?
My dream was and still is to be a person that will love what he does. The position does not matter. Now I am an F&B Manager, yesterday I wasn’t and tomorrow I won’t be. What matters is to love what you do and to be good at it. Whatever you do is very important to do it with motivation and eagerness. Because this job is tough and you will sacrifice a lot of free time from your personal life you have to be sure that you like it. Because the path won’t be easy. You have a lot of responsibilities, stress and anxiety. But on the other hand lots of experiences, meeting new people, traveling and exploring the world. Take a scale and weight your needs and dreams and make the right decisions. Whatever you decide no matter the position do it because you love it and you will be happy for it.
The hospitality sector is a people industry, so an F&B Manager must be a people oriented person who thrives on providing outstanding service to guests and understanding what they want and is aware of different cultures.
In addition I would like to underline that the success in the hotel industry lies under the thoughtful leadership. Two of the tenets of my leadership philosophy are ’’to treat everyone equally’’ and to ‘’to know your employees and understand their needs’’.
7. Do you have any advice for current Stenden students?
My advice that I would like to give to all the Stenden students is the recipe of life and the formula of success……….
’’Dedication, love, commitment and passion to the ever-changing industry that you are part of’’
It is a formula that has proven its worth.
8. Do you have a favorite motto/quote in life?
’’παν μέτρον αριστον’’
Métron áriston – “Moderation is best”
The phrase dates back to antiquity and first stated by the wise man Kleovoulos from Lindos as “Metron Ariston”, which means that it is best to avoid the extremes and keep the meter in every aspect of our public and private lives. On occasions where neither too much nor too little is a good choice.
9. If there is anything else you would like to share with us, feel free to do so.
Above all be yourself, never underestimate the power of knowledge and realize all your goals and dreams in life without being afraid to do so and vindicate what you deserve in this life. Life is too short to waste time in useless things and always be positive for every second that passes by.
Be healthy and strong and I wish you all good luck with your future, which you are the only ones to define.