There are very few female General Managers in the hospitality industry, but Janine Chicourrat is one of them. As the GM of Portola Hotel & Spa in Monterey, California, she has led the hotel in a major green transformation in order to become silver LEED Certified – one of only six hotels in the United States to become certified by undergoing renovations rather than building new.
She has had an extensive, nearly 20-year career and proves that with dedication, hard work, and clear cut goals, gender has nothing to do with how well a person can perform their professional duties.
“My dad died suddenly when I was only four and my brother and sister were a lot older and left home shortly thereafter,” I basically grew up on social security and as an only child,” she recalls.
Her love for hospitality became clear during her sophomore year in college at San Diego State. “My mom told me I couldn’t be a beach bum and needed to get a job. I put on my best pair of shorts, a polo shirt and borrowed her car. I told her I was going to Pebble Beach to get a job and she laughed at me.”
Janine was hired to work in reservations and fell in love with the industry. She never looked back. In fact, she altered her career course, changed her major and moved to San Francisco to work at Kimpton Hotels.
She knew what she wanted and she knew hard work was the only thing that was going to get her there. So at 24 years old she sat down with the president of the company, Tom La Tour, and told him she wanted to be a GM. Tom heard this two more times, it wasn’t until after their third meeting that he was blunt and told her she would never be one of his GM’s. Never one to be deterred, Janine took her determination and sealed it in ink.
“I wrote him a letter, which I still have today, that said he’d be sorry because some day I would be running The Lodge at Pebble Beach,” Janine said. “At 26 years of age, Tom made me a GM of one of his hotels. At 37, I became the GM of The Lodge at Pebble Beach.”
After eight years at The Lodge, she came to Portola Hotel & Spa, where she spearheaded a LEED redesign of the property. Janine led the Portola Hotel & Spa through an entire “green” makeover in order to achieve the honor of becoming Monterey’s first and only Silver LEED EB certified hotel. She implemented the Green LEEDers program, which consists of a team of hourly employees that meet to create awareness of the environment, share ideas to be green at work and at home, participate in community outreach, and promote green practices that will help the environment and the hotel.
Janine’s transition from a boutique hotel, to a ski resort, to high end hospitality, then a large scale events hotel, and now finally a conference center hotel at Portola Hotel & Spa, has given her versatility and deep knowledge about the hospitality industry as a whole. She has been able to take advantage of her different experiences and apply them into her current position as General Manager of Portola Hotel & Spa.
When asked why there aren’t more women in leadership positions in her industry, she adds, “It is extremely time consuming to be in our industry. If you have a family, it puts a lot of pressure on a woman to balance both work and family. This is not an easy industry to be in due to late nights, weekends, holidays, all playing a factor… Being a woman, having children, and being in a key leadership role is extremely tough and with it comes sacrifice along the way.” Indeed, she quit her job at Pebble Beach because she felt she was missing out. Two years later, she was married and got back in the industry.
Her advice for those who strive for a rewarding professional life is a universal one that resonates with all people, male and female. She advises that commitment to work hard, taking chances, and not taking anything personally is extremely important. In addition, she states that having mentors and seriously listening to their advice also served as a great way to grow and learn.
Article originally appeared in July 2012 Lioness