‘Sipping every experience Corinthia offers me.’ Zak De Giovanni.

 

When I met Zak De Giovanni, Chief Engineer at Corinthia Budapest, his parting shot somewhat worried me. ‘I am not a talker,’ he told me. I resigned myself to toil to get him chatting, but as things turned out, he spoke fluently and grossly overshot the time allotted for the interview. 

Zak De Giovanni

His build indicated he was a sporty type, so to make him feel at ease, I led him to the subject of sports. He told me he was very keen on hockey, which led me to remark that I had recently interviewed Keith Bajada, another Maltese from the same hotel, who was also keen on hockey. ‘Small world,’ I commented. ‘Even smaller,’ Zak retorted. He related how he had known Keith for many years in Malta, where they shared their passion for field hockey. ‘Like me, he is also passionate about Formula One, so in 2022, I visited Corinthia Budapest, where he worked, to follow the races. I was then passing through the stage of wanting to leave Malta for new work horizons abroad, and I shared this with Keith, who introduced me to Lawrence Sapiano, Head of Special Projects, who was then in Budapest. He toured me around the hotel, and I was hooked. Little did I imagine that a year later I would be working here. 

Zak wasted no time joining the Epitok Hockey Club in Budapest. Hockey mania has been in Zak’s family for many years. His grandfather Joe Grech, had founded the Qormi Hockey Club in Malta many years ago, and that passion was a prized inheritance. ‘My younger brother, Thomas, is now a professional hockey player and coach in England.’ 

Zak with grandfather, Joe Grech, and his mother, Anna Maria De Giovanni, proudly holding the National League Champions Cup

Zak’s started playing hockey when he was 5. He started with the Qormi club and rose through the ranks until he established himself as an integral part of the Maltese hockey scene for both club and country.  ‘Some of my fondest memories have been in this sport, where I have long involved myself in the capacity of player, junior coach, and committee member. My fondest memories are of winning the EuroHockey Challenge III Championship in Gibraltar, representing my country at international level, and winning the Maltese Player of the Season award in 2023.’

But Zak’s life was not all hockey. His studies and work have occupied him throughout. Soon thirty years old (he insisted he was 29 years and ten and a half months), he had graduated with a B.Eng at the University of Malta in Mechanical Engineering in 2017, and completed his MA studies in Building Services Engineering with Sustainability last year at Brunel University in London. When I asked him if he intended to continue studying for a PhD, he just looked at me from the corner of his eyes. ‘For goodness’ sake, I need a breather from my studies.’ 

Though Zak treasures his academic studies, he fully appreciates the wealth and strength of practical knowledge. 

This was Zak’s first venture into the hospitality industry. Before joining Corinthia, he worked with an engineering company where he also worked on design, project management and tendering processes. ‘It was a great experience, and the aspects of management I learned there will certainly help me here, especially when we undertake large new projects such as the new chillers we intend to install soon.

As I said, I wanted to enrich myself with overseas experience. After looking at various alternatives, I was thrilled when I took up this opportunity to work with Corinthia. This great company has grown internationally and offers challenging new experiences for its personnel. In October 2023, I started this wonderful adventure, which I am confident I will enjoy to the hilt.

My work as Chief Engineer in Corinthia Budapest involves responsibility for the smooth working of all technical aspects – engineering and maintenance of plant, machinery, and equipment in this grand hotel. I manage several technical personnel, such as electricians, carpenters, and engineers. I coordinate with these colleagues to take care of all this hotel’s services, such as electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, fire equipment, etc. This large hotel boasts 438 bedrooms, suites, and residences, meeting rooms, including a Grand Ballroom and Exhibition Centre, F&B outlets, an Executive Lounge, the Royal Spa, with jacuzzis and a swimming pool. I have to ensure everything is working well and is maintained up to a high standard for the excellent name of the company and the enjoyment of every guest.

I wondered if Zak was always on call. ‘Naturally, I’m always on call after working hours, though at least one engineer is always available throughout the day. If something urgent crops up and I am needed, I attend to the matter to assist, but it is far from an everyday occurrence. This hotel is a grand property, and its size is bound to cough up some unexpected technical surprises

Did Zak experience some urgent, unexpected mishap? He smiled gently but nervously. ‘How can I forget it? It was about 6 pm when suddenly there was no hot water service. Can you imagine patrons returning to their rooms for a bath after a day outside, preparing to go out again, and finding no hot water service? And it was a freezing December! We kept calm, joined all our energies, concentration, and determination, and traced the source of trouble within the hour.’

I could see Zak relive those anxious moments, but in the end, he looked relieved. He is young, and I could see he could bear the load. I could detect an amount of self-confidence, certainly not over-confidence. He is more of a realist who expects that anything could crop from around the corner but is blessed with a determination to deal with the unknown and unexpected. He is open to learning from everyone; he strengthens that with respect for the suggestions of others. ‘We learn so much when we listen, not just hear from others.’ In the end, I could understand what he meant by not being a talker and appreciate that he was more of a doer. ‘I am a doer. I lead by doing.’ 

Though he looked quite calm in his ways, I could discern he had a reservoir of inner energy which he needed to release. Perhaps that is where sports helped him. ‘After work, I spend a couple of hours working out almost daily. I love playing hockey and all kinds of sports. I love food, so I need to exercise to make up for it.’

Then, I may do some reading in the evening, mainly Greek mythology. I contact my parents and my grandparents regularly. My parents never played hockey but supported us in our interests in sports and studies. Grandpa, the hockey enthusiast, is also a Liverpool football fan, just like me. We used to watch all the Liverpool games together on TV. Nowadays, we phone each other after a game and discuss what went right or wrong.

All in all, Zak looks very content with this new experience. ‘I am thrilled. This is such an interesting adventure. I want to mature, grow, and sip every experience Corinthia offers me.’