It’s a far cry from Dubai but these days Anna Giannakou is happy to call Norwich her home – and City College Norwich her workplace.
The Operations Supervisor at the Hotel School is originally from the Greek island of Evia. She then went on to study hotel management and work for top hotels in Athens for a number of years – something of a culture shock, having grown up in a small town.
A friend, who lived in Dubai, then suggested she apply for a job as cabin crew for Emirates Airlines, widely regarded as the world’s best airline. ‘I really enjoyed working in hotels but I wanted to progress and see different things. Emirates offered the full package.’
The recruitment process involved a number of stages but Anna got through them all and ended up spending five years based in Dubai and flying all around the world. Her favourite stopover destination? Seattle in the US, swiftly followed by Rio and Buenos Aires in South America. She says: ‘It was a great experience – you get to see the world and it really opens your eyes.’
Cabin crew have to meet strict grooming guidelines. ‘There are many high standards to follow – your professional image is very important and you’re checked before the flight,’ recalls Anna. And, whether you’re working in economy, business or first class, the training is intensive. First class involves ‘even more training and attention to detail – you have to be very professional and explain everything, whether that’s what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner.’ Anna adds: ‘Even at breakfast you ask if they want Champagne! You make sure they have everything
So how did she end up in Norwich? She fell in love with a Greek man, who was visiting a friend of a friend in Dubai, and who happens to live here. That was four years ago, and three years ago, she landed the job at City College. ‘It was the first interview I had over here, so I was very happy.’
The 36-year-old works as Operations Supervisor within the Hotel School, and is responsible for ‘the operation of the café, restaurant, and external events, such as the graduation, Royal Norfolk Show and award ceremonies – everything really. I like that I’m doing different things.’ She also works on reception, and so is able to bring those high standards of customer service she has honed over
the years to the front desk of the Hotel School. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, she has given talks to the travel and tourism students at City College about her experience working for the airline. ‘I try and explain to them how it is, in the industry.’
And she is passionate about installing her work ethic into the students. A smile, it seems, can go a long way. ‘If they have a difficult customer, smile and listen to them – it makes the customer feel much better.’
Anna regularly goes home to Greece to see her family, but would encourage the students to fly the nest, wherever possible: ‘I tell them to spread their wings and go and experience other places and cultures. They are young, they can do anything.’
Joe Mulhall, head of hospitality, catering, tourism and Aspire, says: ‘From the day I met Anna and saw her lovely smile I just knew she had worked in that customer
service environment and that comes across very clearly
at the college.’