Saturday, September 20, 2008

Patrick Sibourg, GM of Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside Hotel

Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside Hotel’s Patrick Sibourg began his career in the hotel industry at the age of 22 as a general manager. He tells us about his meteoric rise to the top.

AS we sat down in the mock room in the Borneo wing for the partly finished Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside Hotel for the interview, Patrick Sibourg the hotel general manager, looked warm in his jacket. But when asked if he was used to the heat of Malaysia (he has only been here in Malaysia for the past nine months) he grins and nods.

“I’ve worked in Indonesia for 13 years,” says the French hotelier whose wife is an Indonesian citizen. When he had to make a decision to move either to China or Malaysia, it was easier for his wife to be in Malaysia.

Not that he minded making the move to Malaysia. With the almost similar lifestyle and culture, Malaysia wasn’t that big a change for him.

Getting Lucky

Sibourg got his lucky break right from the start.

He studied in a famous hotel management school in Switzerland and after he graduated in 1979 he started looking for a job in a hotel in France.

And when Sibourg landed an interview with a hotel owner, he was given the job which he immediately said yes to.

“I signed the contract with the owner and went to the hotel. The general manager was shocked to see me as he wasn’t informed that I was joining the hotel,” Sibourg laughs and added that the manager had to give him a room anyway.

“Two days later, the owner of the hotel gave me a call and asked if I had a pen and some paper and he needed me to write a letter. Wait, this gets better! He wanted me to write a letter of dismissal to the general manager. There was nothing much that I can do but to hand the general manager the letter the next morning. I can imagine that he wasn’t too happy about it,” says Sibourg before bursting into laughter.

Two days later, the guy left and Sibourg became general manager of the hotel at the age of 22.

“So when people ask me if it was hard for me to work through the ranks to reach my current position or what sort of background I was from, I have to honestly tell them that it wasn’t too hard at all. I was general manager from the time I started working in a hotel!” he says.

Once in a hotel kitchen where he worked for a few months, the chef who had been giving Sibourg a tough time asked him what he wanted to do in life.

“I told him I wanted to be GM and he asked me when, to which I answered ‘As soon as possible’. Six months from then I hired the same person as my executive chef,” he says while adding that the chef was so happy for him.

Sibourg also admitted that he was grateful for the people working around him as they had given him lots of invaluable advice as he hasn’t got much experience when he first started working. Sibourg stayed on in the hotel for another six years and went on to work for another nine years in France before he moved to Asia in 1994.

He also did a short stint in Cuba before coming back to Asia again.

Asian Connection

Sibourg loves Kuala Lumpur because it’s a cross between Jakarta and Singapore. It’s a balance, he says, that combines the freedom of Indonesia and the cleanliness of Singapore.

When asked if he prefers Malaysia (compared to Indonesia), he jokingly says, ‘I’ll never say that because my wife is Indonesian. If I do, there will be war at home tonight!”

It took Sibourg a lot of time before he got used to his new lifestyle in Asia.

I love Kuala Lumpur says Sibourg at the balcony of the Borneo block

“When I first arrived in Surabaya, Indonesia, from France there was someone who was supposed to pick me up from the airport. Turns out that they forgot about me.

“I was stuck in the airport for three hours while I waited my pick up. Throughout that time, all I thought of was if I should take the next flight back because I really wasn’t used to the environment,” he says.

Now Sibourg calls Indonesia home and he even owns a house in Bali.

“I love the peaceful environment and I consider Bali as my second hometown, it’s my favourite holiday destination. But now with the Malaysia My Second Home program, I am considering getting a place here as well. A friend of mine has been telling me all sorts of nice things about Penang,” he smiles.

Sibourg’s 22 year old daughter is doing her training in Jakarta. He also has two young girls, age 7 and 5.

When asked if his eldest daughter aspired to follow Sibourg’s footstep, he says that she wanted to do ‘something like what daddy is doing’.

His daughter has now finished her studies and is looking forward to a job in either Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia. Sibourg also thinks it’s easier for a French national to get a job in Southeast Asia.

Tree for a child

When asked about the challenges he face while at work, Sibourg says while he face many challenges at work there is nothing harder than having to get through two divorces.

“It’s a tough decision and the two times I got the divorce, I ask myself what can I do with my life? It’s always a question of what to do, where to go and with whom?” he says while adding that he is now happily married for the third time.

He also spoke passionately about A Tree For A Child, a programme supported by Accor Group that is developed specifically in protecting children in need.

“This program allows us to help the orphans and at the moment, we are taking care of 17 children from Kompleks Kebajikan Rukaiyah Amal in Bangi that we hope to eventually employ to work in the hotel,” says Sibourg.

Instead of giving them a sum of money, Sibourg explained that they want to create job opportunities for them and when this program takes off, all hotels in Kuala Lumpur will also be able to participate in this program.

The hotel is also in the midst of developing more environmental friendly measures to ensure that they do their part. Apart from a few electricity saving features in the room, Sibourg also plans to use rainwater collected from the roof of the hotel to water its lush gardens.

Sibourg is getting used to the local food and he found his favourite in Nasi Padang. He has also recently discovered mamak food. When asked if he would rather go back and work in Europe, Sibourg says, “I don’t think so!”

Source : STAR
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