Alumni Spotlight - Jadine Glitzenhirn

Jadine Glitzenhirn

After a career in business, Jadine Glitzenhirn made the decision to return to education, and so enrolled at UWL (then Thames Valley University) to study a BA (Hons) in Tourism Management.

After graduating in 2000 she went on to forge a successful career in the global tourism industry. Jadine took the time to share with us her experiences on the course and how she was inspired to follow her dreams.

What made you decide to study Tourism Management?

I was born in Monserrat and planned to go back there eventually, so I thought, 'what can I study that would be useful and helpful for my country?' I considered business, but having had a background in that already I wanted to combine it with something else. I decided on Tourism Management because I like interacting with people and I also used to run a Bed and Breakfast in Germany, so it seemed like a logical path to take.

Due to a family tragedy, I had left school without any O Levels or A Levels and so I went to college to do the Access course. It was one of my college professors who encouraged me to go on to university. I chose Thames Valley University as it was practical – my mum lived in Slough. My daughter Natalie had also studied Law at the University.

You came to the University as a mature student. What did it mean to you to come back to studying later in life?

Like me, a lot of the mature students really wanted to be there – it was their way of proving something to themselves. It was hard for me to be back studying at my age. I told the younger students who were fresh out of school to make the most of their education now so that they could go out into the world prepared and ready. I tried to nurture and encourage them.

For me, I had to give up my education due to family circumstances, so I didn’t have a choice. I came back to study to prove that I could do it, and in doing so it elevated me to higher levels.

For many students, the opportunity to go on a work placement is an integral part of the course. What was your experience like on placement?

For my second work placement, I was fortunate enough to go to St Lucia, where I worked at Club St Lucia on the reception desk. On my second day the hotel manager walked past and, listening to me, he said, 'Why has this woman been placed on reception?' The next day he moved me into a middle management role.

On one occasion, Club St Lucia was overbooked, but they had a sister hotel in Antigua and so gave me a project to market that hotel. They told me to target 12 guests who were willing to go to Antigua, then arrange the flights and everything else for them. I speak German and one evening, when I had returned to Club St Lucia, I was translating German for some guests at an event. My Supervisor said, 'How long will it take you to get ready and go to Orange Grove?' This was a 62 room hotel owned by one of the partners at Club St Lucia.

I thought that I was going there to translate, but when I got there I was told that I was going to be the new Manager of the hotel! I had to go home, pack my bags and come back to start managing the hotel that same night.

When the placement came to an end, the hotel offered me a job. I declined, as it was important for me to return to University and successfully complete my degree. During my final year, we went to the World Travel Market . It so happens that the owner of the Orange Grove was there. When he came over and I introduced him to my lecturer, he said, 'this lady saved my hotel.'

What memory stands out from your time as a student?

When the volcano started erupting in Monserrat I was on my first student work placement at Going Places in Maidenhead. I remember thinking 'What can I do to help when I’m not there?' I started fundraising in the local area and a reporter in Maidenhead got to hear about it and a story was published in the newspaper.

I then decided to do a gala evening at the Students’ Union. The Governor of Montserrat was the guest speaker and we ended up having 350 attendees. It was a fantastic evening and we raised lots of money, which went towards a scholarship fund in my grandmothers’ name to support high school students in Monserrat. Around eight students over the years benefited from that.

What was your first job after leaving the University?

Whilst I was doing my dissertation I went out to Monserrat and interviewed the Chief Minister and the Director of Tourism. I also interviewed a man who was in the process of building a hotel but knew nothing about managing one. I applied for the role as his Hotel Manager and got the job. During this time I had won an award at TVU for Best Improved Student but, as I was in Montserrat working, my mother and my brother went to collect it for me.

My very first event as manager of this new hotel was a luncheon in honour of the Duke of York. A friend from Antigua trained my staff to support the event, and my son-in-law sent his amazing chef from his restaurant in St Lucia to prepare the meal. I eventually left the hotel when a member of the owner's family came back to take over managing the hotel. I then returned to St Lucia to help my son-in-law with his business.

What has been the highlight of your career?

There have been so many. I remember once being on a plane going back to Monserrat and Richard Branson was on the same flight. I brazenly walked up to him and whipped out a brochure for Monserrat and he signed it, then actually took the time to speak to me about Monserrat.

I worked in Monserrat’s tourism department and then started my own business as Tourism Consultant. Whenever the dignitaries came over it was my job to meet them at the airport and show them around.

Did you face any challenges working in the industry?

When I worked for the tourism department, things became difficult at times. However, although I was having a tough time, I just continued to do what I needed to do and concentrated on getting the job done. I was able to overcome that by keeping my mind focused on the job, which was to get the best possible outcome for Monserrat.

What advice would you give to current UWL students and to those about to graduate?

If you have the chance to go on placement, you should, as it is really important. If you do so, then be the best you can be, let everybody see what you can do and give it your all. If your employer asks you to do something, then give it 300%. This is the same in life, not just when you’re a student.

When you begin to look for a job after graduation, try and find something that’s your passion. Then you’ll never feel like you’re doing a day’s work in your life, as you’ll just be following your passion. If you enjoy working with people then hospitality is a great industry to be in. Throughout my career I used to bend over backwards for people and, as a result, I got good reports. For example, I used my initiative and observation skills to try and fix things before anyone asked me to do it.

My life has been a journey – beginning from leaving school with no O Levels – to having an incredibly fulfilling career. I’m so proud of what I was able to do for tourism in Montserrat, as well as providing work for others. I would just encourage everybody to keep pursuing your dreams, even if you come across difficulties, keep fighting on as it’s worth it.

Jadine is now retired from the tourism industry and a full-time carer for her mother, as well as keeping herself busy through various charity work. She is Co-Chair of the Slough Carers Partnership Board, as well as being on the Slough Housing Services Resident Board, and the Slough Older People's Forum. Jadine is also a member of the South East England Forum for the Ageing (SEEFA) Policy Panel, which has taken her to the House of Lords to make representations for issues concerning older people. When her friends joke that she is not really retired, Jadine modestly replies, 'I am just giving back to society.'

Find out more about the London Geller College of Hospitality and Tourism