Name: Peter Schmidt
Type of school & final school year: 2012, HLT
Current position: Manager, Inflight Services at United Airlines
Dear Peter, how did you become who you are now? What were your most important career steps?
Right after graduating from Bad Gleichenberg in 2012, I had the opportunity to complete a Rooms Division Management program at the Waldorf Astoria in New Orleans, LA, USA. Thinking back, this was one of my most significant career steps as it gave me the opportunity to build my brand and network outside of Europe and therefore significantly expand my career opportunities. The program in New Orleans lasted 1 year and I was then given the opportunity to stay with Waldorf Astoria and transfer to the Berlin, Germany property as a Personal Concierge. I continued to stay with Hilton Worldwide Hotels & Resorts for roughly 5 years and while doing so developed my career towards Rooms Division management positions. After my last property with Hilton, the Hilton Vienna Plaza, I decided to start my own business on Route 66 in Arizona, USA. It was there were I learned how to build a brand, perform target group and market analysis. The opportunity came up to sell the property and I moved on to work for Fairmont Hotels at their Austin, TX property as the overnight hotel manager. This position entailed a lot of responsibility as I was solely responsible for the entire overnight operation of a 1048 rooms luxury property with roughly 50 team members on the shift. I continued my career with Fairmont for 3 years and then moved into the aviation industry with United Airlines in Chicago, IL.
What are your 3 most important ToDo’s?
Emails – I check them 24/7
Recognition – My goal is to recognize at least 1 flight attendant per day for their outstanding work
Coffee and 15mins – More of a ritual but could be considered a to-do. I need to have 15 mins in my office in the morning, drinking my coffee without anyone talking to me in order to start my day successfully.
What do you love most about your job?
Versatility, interacting with an international workforce with the most diverse cultural backgrounds and the ability to travel the world whenever I want to.
You decided to start you career straight away in the US. What that always your goal to conquer the world? Which were the biggest challenges at the beginning?
Yes! I always knew that I had to find my path outside of Austria even though I love Austria and it will always remain my home, no matter where I live. I have been a huge fan of the US ever since I was a child, especially because it is so diverse and ever-changing. It is that diversity that continues to make it interesting for me to this day. One of the major challenges with the US is the legal one. Obtaining a work visa or permanent residency is particularly difficult in entry-level positions which makes it that much more difficult to start one’s career in the US. This was no exception for me however as with so many things in life, it is one’s own grit and resilience that make the difference between yay or nay.
What is so fascinating about an international career? Is it easier to move up the career ladder abroad? If yes, why?
That very much depends on the foreign country as well as the industry one is in. In general, my impression has been that employers in the US are more open towards younger managers and leaders compared to employers in Europe. I believe this is very much a cultural thing as well as rooted in the different economical systems. Overall, someone that posses‘ a bright mind and excellent leadership skills, can have a great career pretty much anywhere, it all comes down to grit and resilience, once again.
Which subjects, that you had at the TSBG, were the most beneficial ones for your career?
Certainly, the languages (French, merci beaucoup Prof. Mag. Nagler and English, thanks a bunch Prof. Mag. Thier), RWCO (Rechnungswesen, in particular being able to read profit & loss statements as well as being able to calculate percentages of any kind without any kind of calculator – thank you Prof. Mag. Ulbl) and last but not least Concierge as it gave me a great overview of hotel front of house positions and provided me with the opportunity to build my first network.
You have recently changes the company and now you are working for United Airlines. You are in charge of teams in Chicago and London. The aircraft industry is experiencing a massive transition. On the one hand the demand for flying is at an all-time high and keeps on growing – excluding the Corona Lockdowns –, on the other side there is a massive need to take actions concerning sustainability and the CO2 Footprint. As an insider, what needs to be done to create change?
The last few years have shown businesses that becoming more climate friendly and reducing their ecological impact is not only good for the environment but if done right, can be extremely lucrative for business. At the end of the day corporations exist for the very reason to turn a profit. If a corporation is smart in a way to leverage their eco-friendly ventures towards increasing their bottom line, they can create a win-win-win. United Airlines is working hard in becoming a leader in sustainable air travel without relying on traditional strategies such as carbon offset. We are using technology including AI to our advantage in order to automate repetitive processes and conserve CO2. We are furthermore investing in new aircraft, United will be the first airline in the world top launch the new BOOM supersonic aircraft in 2029. This aircraft will operate on 100% sustainable jet fuel and will cut travel times nearly in half. The route from NYC to LHR will be 4 hours instead of the current 7 ½ hours.
Besides the sustainability, which are the biggest challenges of the aircraft industry?
Customer service! There are a few carriers out there that have become pretty good at customer service but all of them are still far away from the level of service we are used to see in the luxury hospitality industry. This is not just a challenge; I rather like to see it as our biggest opportunity especially here at United Airlines. The day will come were every major airline offers a nice and modern fleet, but it will be then when leaders in the industry can differentiate themselves by offering world-class customer service.
As already mentioned you are in charge of team in two location, which requires a high amount of leadership. Which characteristics are the most important ones for a team leader? Concerning the touristic education, is there enough focus on leadership? What could be improved regarding the future?
Respect, dignity and appreciation for one’s team members are amongst most important qualities a leader should possess. In addition to that, leaders always need to be one step ahead, constantly learning and working on developing themselves. A credo of mine that I try to incorporate into my work on a daily basis comes from Conrad Hilton and says: „Success seems to be connected with action, successful people keep moving“.
Leadership is hard to learn as it is a skill that often comes naturally. Many people choose not to lead and are more comfortable within other roles. That is completely fine, and I believe that individual assessment centers, such as the Myers-Briggs Type indicator, could be an added benefit in order to customize certain parts of the education to people’s specific needs.
As we all know, the best way to learn is from the mistakes and successes of others. Do you have an example of your personal career do’s and don’ts for our TSBG family?
Most of these may seem quite generic however I came to find out that these things in fact cannot be taken for granted.
- Be open minded
- Take risks
- Show professionalism at all times
- Dress to impress
- Become and expert in your field
- Want more for yourself
- Show resilience and grit
- Try different careers to find what suits you best
- Stay on top of industry trends
- Negotiate salaries
- Invest in continuous quality higher education
- Stay in a job because it is comfortable
- Be closed minded towards diveres cultures and ethnical backgrounds
- Accept a salary offer if you feel it is beyond your value
- Think you know it all and give that impression off to peers around you
- Bring your personal life into work
Vielen Dank für das Interview!