If you’ve been enjoying our new series of alumni interviews, ‘Between You and Me’, you may be wondering who our guest writer, Nicholas Allen, is? Well, wonder no more…
It’s a long, long way from Australia to Switzerland. But for Aussie Nicholas Allen, taking a place at Les Roches Bluche was just the first leg of an extraordinary odyssey.
Since graduating in 1992, Nicholas has crisscrossed the globe, visiting a good proportion of the 132 countries which are home to the school’s alumni ‘family’.
He explains, “After leaving Les Roches I went back to Australia, joining the Accor Group in Sydney, working through the food and beverage department. After that, I moved to the Intercontinental group, still on the F&B side. I developed the training manual for their flagship hotel in Sydney. After working an average of 90 hours a week, my first beautiful daughter Victoria was born and I couldn’t resist offers from other sectors to leave the hospitality industry for a while.”
After some years working in project management and marketing, and following the birth of a second daughter, the lure of hospitality proved too strong. Nicholas returned to his home city of Perth and opened a seafood restaurant, Blue Mussel, which was ultimately voted the best of its kind in the state of Western Australia.
From mussels to… mining
A third daughter also came into his life during this period, but family upheaval eventually saw Nicholas call time on the restaurant venture. Having decided to take some ‘me time’, he found his passion for travel reignited – though even he couldn’t have foreseen a switch of just about the furthest distance it’s possible to relocate – from Perth to Managua, Nicaragua!
“While I was in New York, my dearest friend (and fellow Les Roches alumna), Sylvana Levy, asked if I was interested in doing some work in Nicaragua. Then, by pure serendipity, a few days after coming back to Perth I was having a beer with a great friend here and started to discuss networking and contacts that I have. As he was in the mining industry and was the CFO for three different junior explorer companies, he was looking to consolidate his assets in South America and Mexico. He asked if I knew anyone in central Latin America, specifically Nicaragua. And of course I did!
“Three months later I had set up my first junior gold mining exploration company in Nicaragua, with Sylvana Levy as a partner. We then developed our second mining firm, PGP, to concentrate on new opportunities. This got us to Panama, and now Middle East and Africa.”
At the same time as developing his mining interests, Nicholas also ventured into the world of executive leadership training, creating the company Illuminate Plus. “Talking with the then Director of Border Protection and Customs for Australia, we developed training modules for executive leaders using the same psychology and neuroscience that my partners developed for border protection and customs. I’ve since continued my studies along the same line,” he says.
The treasured alumni
Throughout his quarter-century and more of life post-Les Roches, Nicholas has valued the alumni network as his greatest professional resource.
“I have the most wonderful alumni friends around the world, my global family. I have had access to Presidents of countries, CEOs of fortune 500 companies, Foreign Ministers, Attorney Generals and so many more influencers and decision makers, all directly from alumni contacts. I am constantly surprised as to whom I can get access to anywhere in the world through the Les Roches alumni.”
Having gained so much benefit from being an alumnus, Nicholas is now aiming to give something back, having recently been elected as a member of the Les Roches Alumni Association Committee.
And he also shared these great tips for students, and alumni, to polish up their networking skills:
Nicholas Allen’s top networking tips
- Be honest. Don’t try to bull***t anyone, they will know it and you will then be labelled. People can smell a bull***t artist a mile away…
- If you don’t know an answer, say that. But then say you will find out. Nine out of 10 times people are asking you a question that they already know the answer to – they are testing you.
- Don’t be scared to call out things you know are wrong. Don’t tell someone the sky is blue when it’s raining outside. Leaders are surrounded by yes men and women; be the difference. They will remember you and respect your candor.
- Have respect: each person you meet is important. You just never know.
- Stand out from the crowd.
- Learn new things every day and exercise your brain. Learn a new language, or sign language. You can’t tell me that people will not remember the guy or girl they met at a function or meeting, who also spoke in sign to a client of theirs, or in their native tongue. That’s also about respect.
- Be a friend, we are all human. We can be hurt and also experience amazing things.
- Always make eye contact when you are speaking with someone.
- Don’t be shy to reach out to alumni.