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Career profile: Eugenio Pirri, VP of people & organisational development, Dorchester Collection

Posted on from Changeboard

Get to know your peers in the global HR community through our career profile series. Today, we talk to Eugenio Pirri, VP of people & organisational development at Dorchester Collection about the challenges of a global career, why he pursued HR, and how chocolate chip biscuits helped him get to where he is now.

Basic details

Name: Eugenio Pirri

Job: Vice president, people and organisational development

Current employer: Dorchester Collection

CV in brief:

  • VP, people & OD, Dorchester Collection, 2011 – present
  • Regional director HR Europe, The Savoy & Fairmont Hotels & Resort, 2007 – 2011
  • HR director, Fairmont Olympic Seattle, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, 2005 – 2007
  • HR director, Westin Los Angeles, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, 2004 – 2005  

A day in your life

Tell us about your job and organisation

Dorchester Collection is the ultimate hotel management company, with a passion for excellence and innovation, honouring the individuality and heritage of our iconic hotels. We manage 10 hotels across the globe with over 3500 employees. In my role, we are responsible for all aspects of HR, L&D, guest and employee engagement, innovation and corporate responsibility.

Who do you report into?

I report into Christopher Cowdray, the CEO of Dorchester Collection.

Tell us about your team

I have a small team of four highly skilled individuals covering organisational performance, learning and development, recruitment and team coordination. We then work with the hotels directly all of which have full HR teams at all levels.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

Talent development, without a doubt! Seeing people grow, learn, transfer, take on new responsibilities and show us how to deliver the ultimate guest experience is a real thrill for me.

What is the most challenging part of the role?

Time. I can be impatient at times and I get excited when new opportunities present themselves and I want to come up with strategies and solutions to resolve it. Sometimes I just wish we had more time not only for me but all the great people I work with.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I start each day with a quick review of the strategies and initiatives within to get a gauge of where I need to turn my attentions.  I always communicate with the hotels, some more than others, pending the day and need. As our remit is quite wide, I look at where I can gather feedback or push forward to ensure we meet the necessary outcomes.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

It’s all in the mission statement! Words like passion, innovation & individuality. Those words drive my personal values as well, which means I get to do what I love each day. That is just fantastic.

Perks and downsides of your role?

Perks – the people and the travel. We have a great team, great employees throughout and magnificent hotels – I love it when I can visit them personally and see where it all happens.

Downside – I already said time was an issue, so I will stick to that.

What skills are essential for the role you’re in?

Listening and adaptability. As we are a smaller hotel company compared to others, we do not have large departments and divisions; therefore we need to work seamlessly with the hotels to get the job done. By listening to their needs, we adapt our approach to make it happen. Being nimble is key!

Career path

How did you get to where you are now?

I started as a room attendant in housekeeping in hotels and fell in love with the industry. From there, I worked in seven different departments before joining HR as a coordinator. Within two years, I was the director of HR and from there, took risks, moved to different countries and eventually I ended up in the UK.  The rest is history.

What were your best subjects in school? What and where did you study?

I would say french and social studies. Learning about different histories, cultures and languages always appealed to me and has served me well throughout my life and career. I grew up in Canada and did all my studies there, including hospitality administration at Vancouver College.

What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?

I first worked at McDonald’s as the french fry guy, and I moved into management a year later. It was great – I loved the people I worked with and the job was really fun. I did it to earn extra money, but in the end, learned about yield management, time management and people management. It turned me on to the industry and I have never looked back.

Have you followed the career path you set out to?

Yes. I love hotels and feel so lucky to work in them. We are a great industry and creating ultimate guest experiences is truly magical.

What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?

My challenges were around moving and leaving family and friends. Although difficult at the time, it has proved to be so worthwhile in developing me both personally and professionally. I am not over all of my moves and miss people a lot, especially back home in Canada, but I visit often and they visit me too.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?

I found out the interviewer loved chocolate chip cookies, so I sent her a batch I made personally after the interview. I got the job!

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

When I was 17, I was awarded Manager of the Year for the McDonald’s I worked at. I was very proud and discovered then that this was the industry for me.

Do you have any career regrets?

Nope…  life is too short for regrets. Take a risk; that’s my philosophy.

What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?

Take the transfer! Put up your hand and say: “I will do that, I will move there, I will challenge myself”. Taking risks (albeit calculated) can be rewarding and you will surprise yourself most of the time.

What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?

Buy more property. Housing prices are just too high nowadays!

Either/or

  • Coffee or tea? Coffee! A world without Starbucks would be very sad indeed
  • Jam or marmalade? Jam – raspberry for sure!
  • The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Neither… I like country music
  • Mac or PC? PC – I am traditional with technology
  • The Guardian or The Times? The Times… feels more real
  • BBC or ITV?  ITV – go Downton!
  • M&S or Waitrose? M&S – they have it all
  • Morning or night? MORNING… always
  • Rain on snow? Snow – I’m from Canada!
  • Sweet or savoury?  Savoury – crisps rule.

Favourites

  • App: My flashlight
  • TV show: The Good Wife
  • Band: Too many to choose from
  • Song: “Gloria” by Laura Branagan
  • Book: The Hunger Games.
  • Sports team: Vancouver Canucks – hockey
  • Thing to do on a Friday night: Movie and dinner
  • Place to eat: Anything sushi-related works… Nobu overall
  • Holiday spot: Tokyo… I love Asia.
  • Piece of advice you’ve been given: Do your job like you’re not afraid to lose it!

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