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Musings on Smarts and Education

I recently visited Boston and stayed overnight at a hotel near Harvard Square. A little intimidated by the surroundings, I made a comment to a colleague that this place was filled with super-smart people. She said “we are equally smart, just in different ways” … and I recognized after some thought that she was right. All of us in hospitality are smart and nimble. We listen, we aim to please, we are collaborative and we make decisions that are designed to please as many people as possible. My colleague reminded me that there are different types of smarts. We may not be Harvard smart, but we are hospitality smart, and that is a valuable attribute that shouldn't be discounted. 

One often hears that hospitality is an industry that doesn't value education. It is true that many hospitality professionals rose through the ranks without the need for formal education. They started from the bottom and worked their way up, learning and mastering their positions through experience. This is probably the origin of the myth that education is not valued in hospitality. And I say myth, because I do believe that the industry values education.

Formal education does two things extremely well; it teaches knowledge and it teaches one how to think. Both are extremely important. I owe my worldview and ability to think strategically to my education. Most of us in hospitality who have experienced a modicum of success owe some of our accomplishments to our education.

Those who are successful also realize that if they aren't getting ahead then they're falling behind.  This truism applies to education and learning as much as it does to climbing the career ladder. One way to think of this is that we are always in competition with someone or something. With learning, if we do not continue to improve and expand our knowledge and abilities, we will be overtaken by someone who does. Learning cannot and should not stop.

You can see that I don't try to differentiate between learning and education. I believe that education promotes learning and vice versa. Additionally, I firmly believe that education and learning occur formally and informally. One need not go to a four year college in order to receive an education. There are other options. The accredited certificates and diplomas such as those offered at my institution, TISOH: The International School of Hospitality, provide shorter, lower cost, and adult-learning oriented education. The programs offered by the NACE Business Academy are other wonderful examples of focused educational opportunities that promote valuable learning.

I have heard people equate certifications with a master's degree. I can see why they think that. A certification is evidence of having achieved skills and knowledge determined significant by one's peers. Most likely, there are educational requirements, work experience requirements, and assessment in the form of a rigorous exam. Certification training is targeted, demanding, and consequently conveys significant prestige upon those who complete it. Sounds like a version of an advanced degree, right? Within the catering and events industry, the CPCE (Certified Professional in Catering and Events) is one such certification. Built from a survey of catering and event professionals, by catering and event professionals, for catering and event professionals, it is a reputable certification that should be considered by all in the field.

Education comes in many forms. The most important decision is not just selecting the right opportunity, but also making the decision to continuously pursue new ones. 

Donnell G. Bayot, Ph.D., CHE, CPCE, CFBE
Director of Academic Affairs
The International School of Hospitality
www.tisoh.edu