It’s not every day that a company welcomes over 30 interns – especially not in Croatia.
But hospitality start-up RoomOrders has just done that, opening its doors to over 33 ambitious students from Rijeka University, who want to experience the inner workings of a global organisation this semester.
“It is unconventional and perhaps audacious,” said CEO Eugene B. Jones about the decision to accept so many interns, particularly since RoomOrders only has a handful of developers and other staff in its office in Zagreb, and that, well, that the world is in the middle of a crippling pandemic.
“RoomOrders does not want to be an ordinary company and this move reflects our different way of doing things too,” said Jones.
“Boldness is not a natural reflex for most people, particularly young people starting their professional careers. We hope our confident attitude and readiness to take on risks will rub off on them as well.”
RoomOrders is a mobile ordering platform that allows guests contactless self-service of food and beverages in hotels, restaurants, bars, and cafes – whether they are in lobbies, poolside deckchairs or rooftops. They just scan or tap a QR code with their smart phones.
The company is a global leader in its niche and is used in leading chains like Hilton, Marriott and Accor, from as far as Brisbane to Boston and Belgrade to Barcelona.
RoomOrders was doing really well before COVID-19 hit the industry, suspending business in hotels and laying off thousands of workers. It forced the company to adapt and invent new revenue streams.
“Business is always tough but nowadays it is even more fluid and requires quicker decisions to be made. New technologies are unrelenting, so you need to be informed and ready to change direction fast. You can be wrong, but you can’t be scared. You have to move, experiment, adapt, find solutions, learn and re-learn … “
The Kvarner region is a great location for us as there are lots of hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes for the interns to get a real coal-face experience of working in the hospitality sector. There is no perfect time to start, so one of the first things is to get used to the volatility of free markets.”
Davorin Balasz, a deputy researcher at the University of Rijeka, identified RoomOrders as a promising partner during the summer and initiated cooperation.
“We struck a good instant contact. RoomOrders is an ideal fit for students to get their feet wet and develop practical, Western type-work ethics,” he said.
The students will be divided into three rotating streams during the semester: 1. Marketing and design; 2. PR, digital communications and social media; and 3. Sales.
“It’s a very hands-on experience,” said Mr. Balasz. “The students will be writing strategies and plans and then implementing and managing them with real clients and customers. They will be given the responsibility to design and create collateral for campaigns, including video commercials and press releases. They will also generate leads and try to convert them into sales.”
“We are a business and we need to make money to survive,” said Mr. Jones. “This is an important lesson that will be conveyed from the start in an internship.
“We want these kids to understand they have an extremely unique opportunity now. Never has there been a chance to climb the corporate ladder so fast, to become rich and successful at a very young age. The gap between senior staff and junior staff has been bridged by technology. Modern companies need senior people with experience to work together with young people who understand modern customer behaviour, particularly toward digital technology.”
Jones said that RoomOrders hopes to keep at least three interns on full-time after the program ends next semester.
Professor Heri Bezić and I wondered if we could introduce something new in teaching that would improve the quality. Since we are scientists, we set out to explore what this new can be better than the current way of working. Research has shown us that project teaching and cooperation with business entities is teaching that is required in the 21st century,” Mr. Balasz says, before adding.
“The decision is followed by the realisation of the idea, which is the most difficult part. However, where there is a will, there is always a way. In this way, we connected with RoomOrders and Eugene, who was very specific and we quickly agreed on all the terms of cooperation. It was not difficult to find a common language. A workaholic and an eternal optimist, he offered students to perform additional work tasks as part of the project.”
The interns are looking forward to the challenge ahead
“I was very excited to learn that the project we are working on as part of a college course is actually an internship, sometimes it’s a little hard to time assignments with other commitments but I believe this experience can bring me a lot of benefits in the future. I think this is a great opportunity given that it is not a common practice in Croatia for students to approach internships for the right company, especially in such a large number of people,” Nikolina, 21, says, before adding.
“One day I would love to work in management because I am studying it now, but I also see myself in other areas like marketing. I think working with RoomOrders can help me a lot to recognise my abilities and maybe find out what position I would like to work in one day.”
Tea Kranjec, another intern, is looking forward to gaining some work experience.
“Nowadays, it is not important what grades you achieved in college it is more important what work experience do you have. It is impossible to expect that all students have work experience after graduation, so RoomOrders, Inc. allowed us to see, at least in a short time, how the real business world works.”
“When I first started my internship in RoomOrders, I didn’t know what to expect. Since I’ve never heard of them, and when I saw their website, it took me a while to figure out what they were doing. But when I did, I was thrilled to be a part of something creative and innovative. It was amazing to see how companies like RoomOrders can have such a big impact on changing the way of providing services. I hope one day they might hire me, but if not, I am glad to be a part of something new that enhances our personal development and community.”
“One day I will be a badass manager. That’s right. I love the energy that being a manager brings, I love the organisation and the rush that goes alongside it. Also, I love learning about being a manager from actual managers. Thanks to Eugene Brčić Jones, Gerhard Šarić and their start-up RoomOrders, I can learn how to do business and how to properly grow. At first, I didn’t know what to expect, but now I am eager to wake up every morning and see what new tasks I can do and which new skills I can acquire,” Barbara adds.
Monika Branović, a student at the Faculty of Economics in Rijeka, is another looking forward to some practical experience.
“As a student at the Faculty of Economics, I think that an internship at RoomOrders can help me find a job after the faculty, and I also think that this is an amazing experience. At the faculty, we learn theoretical things related to economics, so it’s great that we can get an insight into that practical part of the business world. From this internship, I expect to find myself in a certain field of economics, gain business experience and then continue my education at the graduate study of business economics.”
Magdalena says: “Throughout our entire schooling we have been thought that grades and accomplishments are most important, even now in our academic education, we are fighting for passes and better scores. I think that’s not what real life is about. Experience is very important in life, and especially in looking for a job. This internship will surely offer somewhat of an experience, considering it just started a few weeks ago, I don’t know what the results will be, but I’ll surely come out of it richer and with lots of stories to tell. I’m thankful for this opportunity and the fact that I’m surrounded by my colleagues and mentors and that we are having fun and learning. I want to be successful in my career, even if I don’t exactly know what I want to be doing and I think this is a great start to see in which direction I want to take my professional life. Maybe I’ll end up in Croatia, or at the other end of the world, but this is something I can take with me everywhere I go.
Lana, another who is part of the 33 interns taken on by RoomOrders, is relishing the chance to get out of her comfort zone.
“I would like to be a great manager one day, with amazing knowledge and even better skills. I think I would be able to accomplish this because of the wonderful opportunity that presented itself to me at that moment when I became an intern at RoomOrders Inc.
I can learn so much from their managers and CEO because we work on real-life examples and I can confidently say I was able to get out of my comfort zone and also to develop my communication skills. At first, I expected something different, something more passive, but now I love to work in this superbly environment.”
Despite the coronavirus, RoomOrders continues to sign new hotels and resorts. It recently signed Swiss chain Hapimag AG, which operates more than 50 holiday properties all over Europe and the US. RoomOrders is currently being used in almost 100 hospitality venues around the world, on every continent except for South America.