Tomas Brandeis CPA, director of finance, South Pacific, Hilton Worldwide.
It was his very first job, earning the minimum wage, that taught a would-be cook from Prague a lesson he has never forgotten – the importance of customer service.
Born and bred in the Czech Republic when it was still under communist rule, Tomas Brandeis, now director of finance for Hilton Worldwide, could have lived his life within those limits, except for a stroke of luck – his mother was a travel agent and his father a flight purser with Czech Airlines. It inspired a desire to become a citizen of the world.
“My dream was to be a famous cook, so I went to the hotel high school where cooking was part of the curriculum. I also had to work as an apprentice at the Intercontinental Hotel in Prague.
“My first experience with five-star hotels was as a trainee cook – I spent one month cutting onions and the next making crepes.”
After high school, he spent three months in Chicago as a busboy and waiter earning the equivalent of A$2 an hour.
There he learned the importance of guest satisfaction, as it was tips from satisfied customers that kept him alive.
A wiser Brandeis returned to Prague to complete a degree in hotel management. A summer job at the local Hilton hotel led to him joining the company he’s worked for in eight different countries to date.
“To enjoy such a career as I have, you do need to enjoy people. That’s what the industry is about,” he says.
“I did two years as a management trainee and then packed my bags and hit the road, first to the historic German city of Weimar, then on to France and the UK.
“I loved working in Paris, although I was actually working and living at the airport hotel!
"One benefit was that I learned to recognise all the airlines and all their aircraft. While I was there, I saw the Concorde’s last flight. Such a beautiful, magnificent plane. I miss it still from the sky.”
Brandeis then decided to see the other side of the world, taking a post at the Hilton Hotel in Adelaide in 2004. He met his wife, Sarah, there and she has been supporting his career ever since.
Next stop Melbourne, “which I rate as the most livable city in the world,” says Brandeis.
“It has great culture and great sport, and a fascinating blend of Australian, European and Asian influences.”
From Melbourne, he went to Singapore as an auditor for Hilton Worldwide, covering Greater China and South-East Asian regions. Then on again, to a tropical island in the Indian Ocean, to look after finance at three five-star resorts in the Maldives and two in Sri Lanka.
The Maldives brought Brandeis two lifetime firsts: a working uniform of shorts, short sleeves and bare feet, and the opportunity to dive with whale sharks: “You are snorkelling a few metres away. You cannot get any closer to nature than that.”
Another stint in Singapore was followed by his most recent move – south again to Auckland, where he’s been based since February. And in between it all, he has found time to gain more qualifications.
“My work is demanding and so is having a young family [Jack, 5, and Isabella, 6 months], but while it might sound strange, I treat my studying as a hobby. I like learning new things,” he says.
This article is from the August 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK.
- 2014 Director of finance, South Pacific, Hilton Worldwide
- 2013 Became a CPA
- 2011-2014 Director of finance, Singapore, Indonesia and Philippines, Hilton Worldwide
- 2012 Master of Commerce, Deakin University
- 2009-2011 Director of finance, Maldives and Sri Lanka, Hilton Worldwide
- 2010 Master of Professional Accounting, Deakin University
- 2007-2009 Regional financial controller, South-East Asia and Greater China, Hilton Worldwide
- 2006-2007 Director of finance, Hilton on the Park, Melbourne
- 1998-2006 Progressed from finance trainee at Hilton Prague to eventually be financial controller, Hilton Adelaide