Cole proves quite the island ambassador
Sometimes you know what you want but you do not know the sacrifices you will need to make.
Cole Simmons knew he wanted a career in hospitality long before he entered the workforce.
After a fateful introduction landed him the role of concierge at The Loren, he took the accomplishment to get a spot at the Nobu Hotel Shoreditch, London.
Mr Simmons hopes his story will inspire other Bermudians to go the extra mile and act as ambassadors for the island.
“A lot of people who come here to work in the industry make so many sacrifices,” he said. “They're away from their family, sometimes they don't really know the language, but the sacrifice that it takes is so rewarding when you're representing your country overseas.”
The 28-year-old has been with Nobu since December. He started off hosting in the on-site restaurant and was promoted to concierge in two short months.
“I'd already been a concierge and I really wanted the opportunity to work for a five-star international hotel in that role,” he said.
“When they gave me the hosting position, I was really clear. I let them know that I appreciated it and that I'd definitely take the opportunity, but my real goal was to work on the concierge desk.”
Mr Simmons first moved to London in 2009 to study at Kingston University, graduating with a human rights law degree and a minor in journalism. Culture shock often comes into play when moving from Bermuda to a more competitive playing field, he said.
“People are busy; people are rushing; people are very competitive; and the landscape of any interview or internship that you go on, the magnitude of applicants, is so much greater.
“There are a lot of things that we may not have to put up with at home — perhaps taking a sacrifice strategically of lower pay, or perhaps working in a different department.
“At a much bigger hotel, you have to have the foresight to say, strategically this is a gamble, but I think that it's a risk that will pay off.
“That's when you put in the work. It's not easy but it's worth it.”
He is thankful that the hotel's general manager, Gigi Vega, took a gamble on him, promoting him to the upstairs desk.
He said other Bermudians should use the “great opportunities” they can find at home; the job at The Loren “just fell on my lap”.
While bartending at Port O' Call, he served Kelly Francis, HR director at Performance Solutions. Impressed with his customer service, she set up an interview at the hotel three months ahead of their opening.
“I had never worked as a concierge or in a hotel. You take that opportunity and you use it as a launching pad,” he said.
“I had an interview at the end of October and then they called me in London in November and I flew back the first week of January 2017.
“It was really a treat and a pleasure to have been given the opportunity to cultivate the skills it takes to be the first person you see as you walk through the hotel doors.”
He said he had been hardworking all his life.
“Although I grew up in foster care, I was given amazing opportunities. My aunt and uncle, Theresa and Christopher Wright, my aunt, Jill Burt, and my sister, Marica Burgess — they all invested in me and I wanted them to see a return on their investment.”
He said that the school he attended was seminal in his development.
“There is no teacher at Bermuda Institute that does not instil in you that you have to go to university,” he said.
“From a very early age, I was made aware — you're competing locally now but you will be competing internationally in just a few years.”
Just as helpful was a conversation he and other teens interested in the industry had with the late David Allen as tourism minister.
“I remember the advice that he gave all of us which was whether you're on a plane to New York or you're catching the bus to St George's, you're always a brand ambassador for your country. That's something I've taken throughout my life.”
One of the biggest lessons he has learnt, however, is the power of follow-through.
“When you're at school and university you don't necessarily understand that the professional world expects follow-through from A to B. It's important that you follow it through all the way or it's just not done. You're getting paid to complete things.”
It is that level of professionalism that earned him a place at Nobu's newest hotel, which opened last June.
“People who come to Nobu as guests are familiar with the brand,” he said.
“They've gone to our Monte Carlo or New York Nobu or Beverly Hills Nobu, so they really know what to expect from the overall experience.
“From top to bottom it has to be five star; relaxed and contemporary, but five star. There's no pretence here at all. The sense of detail here is what luxury is all about.
“One of the greatest strengths I've found once joining Nobu is the intent on all employees being taught the history of the brand.
“Nobuyuki ‘Nobu' Matsuhisa grew up very humbly in Japan. His success didn't come instantly. It's incredibly inspiring to see that he has built one of the most iconic brands on the globe. That inspires me and gives me a sense of pride every day I come into work.”