Graduation: Master in International Management, class of 2018
Career: Deputy Manager of CARLO IV

Olga Mantilla is one of those people who never stops looking for new opportunities. Originally from Colombia, Olga began her hospitality career in the United States. The beautiful resort town of Ocean City, Maryland, attracts thousands of tourists from New York, drawn by its miles of sandy beach and vibrant summer festivals.

A couple of years ago, Olga relocated to Prague with her partner. Some people would have been disoriented at such a move, but Olga seized on the opportunity to continue her education in Europe, expand her knowledge beyond the hospitality sector, and gain a broader perspective on the strategic development of business. After years of living abroad and working with clients from all over the world, Olga was looking for an international university, and UNYP offered a great mix of cultures.

“I was also looking for a university where I could make good connections for the future – the network you create is one of the most important things you gain from doing a Master’s degree. I found the double degree that UNYP offers with Bolton University to be very beneficial. It was good to have academic input from the UK, combined with everything UNYP could offer – a great mix of two universities. I was interested in the business development part of the program; that’s why I chose a concentration in International Management. UNYP’s program is unique, and the American style of teaching combined with a very international body of students was another plus. I couldn’t find all the “ingredients” I needed in any of the other universities here in Prague.”

“Hospitality is my passion, and it always will be. The hotel industry has changed a lot in the past decade. For example, right now the big hotels want to expand their footprint around the world, acquiring and opening new properties on a franchise basis.”

After finishing her first degree at University Externado in Colombia, Olga did an internship at the Intercontinental Hotel in Mexico, on the island of Cozumel. She started working in the financial department, then in the sales department, and then moved to operations which combined sales with food and beverage. Intercontinental sent Olga for training in the United States, where she received her M.I.C.E. certification as a qualified meeting planner and wedding planner.

Diploma in hand, Olga moved back to Bogota to work as a food and beverage director in the biggest hotel and congress center in the north part of the city, with over 30 meeting rooms, 300 rooms and a gastronomy center including four restaurants, three bars and a coffee shop. Before long, Olga was promoted to Director of Operations, and shortly after that she was offered a fantastic opportunity to open the first two DoubleTree by Hilton hotels in Colombia. While working with the Hilton franchise, Olga developed an interest in business development and change management transitions.

Moving to Prague was life-changing for Olga, especially after she started to learn Czech.  “I was surprised to see the differences between the Czech culture and my own. The way people socialize and build relationships at work. Not being able to speak Czech made me feel more at home at UNYP, because there I was able to be myself – however, I went to Czech classes every day to push myself to integrate. I was surprised to see the differences between the Czech and Colombian cultures – especially the way people socialize and build relationships at work. Being at UNYP felt like home since there were people from all over the world. In addition to our common studies, we had a common goal to learn Czech daily to integrate better, and we got lots of help and motivation from our Czech classmates.”

Olga’s dissertation focused on the role of middle managers in the successful transition of a hotel from a branch to a franchise. While researching, Olga had the opportunity to meet the director of the hotel, who offered her a job right away. She started as Director of Operations, and was recently promoted to Deputy Manager.

In your opinion, is it essential to have some work experience before pursuing your Master’s degree?

“I believe that you see things very differently after you’ve had some work experience – even if it’s only one or two years. You can’t entirely rely on books, and the soft skills that one acquires during work experience are tough to teach in the classroom.”

What do you love most about your work, and what is your biggest challenge?

“I am a very charismatic, coaching and strategic leader, and I teach my team by example. I also love to create a unique experience for my clients. A hotel is like a city; anything could happen here, and you have to be prepared, because every day is different. However, the experience I’ve been gaining over the past year at CARLO IV is more about learning to manage employees of a completely different culture. People in the Czech Republic can be very hard on the outside, but once you get to know them, they open up and are very friendly and caring. I create a family out of my team, and do everything to guide them. The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic is only 2%, so people don’t care much about the competition, and this makes it tough to find hardworking and reliable people. But employees in my hotel do care, and they fight for what is best for their clients and team – they love what they do.”

What advice could you give to prospective Master’s students?

“I value my Master’s degree because I wanted to get everything I could out of it, and I did.  If you don’t want to work hard, then don’t do it; you’d only be wasting your money and time. Professors are there to guide you, but you need to do the studying yourself, and also learn from other students. Debates with your classmates are preparing you for your future teamwork skills. If you are unmotivated or lazy, it could affect your future career as well as your current grades – you never know which of your classmates will become the president of a successful company.”

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