Featuring: Michele Mitschiener, Hong Kong.
Female Fingerprints is a monthly feature created to highlight women around the globe who have had an impact in their local communities. Each month throughout the year I will share some of the best and brightest stories of women who are making a positive and lasting imprint on our world.
For women to truly make their mark on the world requires a multidimensional mindset to life. Our work, family, community, beliefs and our character, all speak to the impact women have. However, those dimensions are often demanding and daunting, and can be transitory. Who is the woman who can find a balance and still leave a lasting fingerprint wherever she goes?
Meet Michele Mitschiener – the epitome of a multidimensional, global leader. A self-defined “entrepreneurial risk taker”, a creative spirit, and a strategist. Michele Mitschiener has lived and worked in 8 countries across four continents from Europe, US, Middle East and Asia for international luxury hotels and resorts from Hyatt International, Jumeirah International to Le Meridien.
Michele’s multiethnic background of Spanish, Filipino, and Germanic heritage, served as the hallmark of her life. The diverse set of traditions didn’t hinder her; rather they informed in her an “I can do it!” mentality.
Having a tenacious, well-educated, Catholic mom with firm beliefs, who had high expectations of her first born, her daughter, set the tone from the get-go. Her father who was of German and Spanish ancestry was a disciplinarian and a magical charmer with a magnetic personality. The DNA of both her parents were fused into this woman of substance.
Michele’s ventures were always game changing even at a young age. She was one of the top 10 students selected out of 10,000 for the JICA scholarship programme (Japan International Cooperation Agency) which brings the high achieving university students across Asia Pacific to an educational and cultural immersion programme to Japan. Potential and future leaders of each country were selected to attend courses in Waseda University and travel to landmarks across Tokyo, Kyoto to Okinawa.
This invaluable experience ignited Michele’s passion for travel, culture, and writing. Even though she just completed her university degree, she already had a vision to help define her future goals. She had a lot to say to the world and decided to pursue a career in communications. Her mentor nicknamed her “fearless”.
Michele was headhunted to become the very first Marketing Communications Manager of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai, an iconic resort hotel which is the precursor to the Burj Al Arab and the pioneering property of Jumeirah International. Despite the immensity of her position, Michele then assisted with the marketing for the pre-opening of the iconic Burj Al Arab, followed by the first aqua park of Dubai.
“It was a magnificent vision for the UAE”. The Arabian hospitality and luxury presented during that time became the benchmark across the Middle East. Michele had a direct impact on what is now pride and pinnacle of Arabian hospitality. Heads of state, members of the royal family, global celebrities came as guests to witness luxe hospitality in the Arabian sense.
When Duty Calls
Of course, Michele has many stories to share about her hospitality experience here. But the one to highlight is during one of the events, when the 41st US President, George H.W. Bush, stayed at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Her boss at the time, a French General Manager, was overwhelmed with President Bush and his large entourage of Secret Service agents. But Michele kept her cool.
Her cohort stood momentarily speechless and completely awestruck. Michele, put into application one of the many cardinal rules of hospitality, gave her boss a subtle whisper on how to address the former President. However, when he approached the awkward silence was palpable.
She approached and held her hand out to greet Mr. Bush and remembered the appropriate protocol: “Welcome to Dubai and to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Mr. President” in a calm manner and put forth the appropriate courtesies, salutations, and introductions to retain any perceivable embarrassment or damage. A wise woman with etiquette and communications skills, always has the right words and ways.
In Hong Kong, Michele joined Genting Cruise Lines and Dream Cruises, as Assistant Vice President of Enrichment. In the subsequent years she spearheaded Product Development in the Marketing Division in the Corporate Headquarters. Michele was brought on when Dream Cruises, Asia’s first luxury cruise line was launched.
When she set her eyes on photographic images of the hull art of the first ship Genting Dream she found herself stopping short, with eyes fixated on the mural. Michele was transported into this fantasy world. The hull art depicted the story of A Tale of Two Dreams. A visual narrative of pure love between a mermaid and an astronaut. Painted by none other than Jackie Tsai, a Chinese artist based in London, well known for the floral skull image designed for the late Alexander McQueen.
Michele had a notion, one of great imagination, to recreate the story of the mermaid and the astronaut. She was confident of her marketing strategy, knowing this would surely inspire their clients, media and align with the brand DNA.
Making Mermaids Come to Life
With her researching and curating efforts, she was able to connect with former NASA Astronaut, Dr. Leroy Chiao and was successful in bringing him onboard to be a core part of the Enrichment programme. Dr. Chiao conducted talks on Space Exploration and a Space Academy every summer across the fleet cruising across China, Singapore, Taiwan to Australia.
Next, she was on a mission to find a professional mermaid. And she did, a German lady who owned a Mermaid Academy in Australia and Germany. Mermaid Kat is also a Scuba Diving and Free Diving Instructor, with and creates her own line of colorful silicone tails! Her quest for recreating the narrative was accomplished, the plan that was initially cautioned, was activated. Needless to say, this became a big brand audience, A concept that turned into reality.
The Detours of Life
Michele plays with humor, she loves to laugh, a lovely contagious laughter. She does not believe in roadblocks instead believes that there are many umleitungs (detours) in life as she learned from her German Hotelier husband.
Living a transient life and sometimes in transient communities can be exhilarating and at times challenging. They have lived and worked in Germany, Philippines, Guam, Dubai, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Las Vegas, Brunei and currently based in Hong Kong.
A creative journey of writing was birthed as Michele accepted the role of Managing Editor of bilingual lifestyle magazines. The move to entrepreneurship to align with motherhood brought dual birthing a new meaning. Upon the birth of her first son in Bahrain, Michele established “Mileage Middle East”, a boutique public relations and contract publishing company in the Middle East. It was here that she published her first lifestyle magazine, her magnum opus!
As Michele proceeded with her account of life in Bahrain, I sensed her emotions and encouraged her to tell me more about this place that had the most impact on her heart. It had been a special place in her life, a place to mark the birth of her first born. She detailed excitedly how she had narrated her son’s story and penned his initials on it. It was her legacy to him, to her family.
Michele’s fingerprints are most prevalent here!
It takes great courage and hard work to do what she did on top of being a female, a foreigner, not local, not being able to speak the language. The workload alone for this start up as a founder, editor, publisher, content creator and storyteller were overwhelming, but she ploughed on, and it became a success.
She later went on to start another successful enterprise, Milestones Communications in Hong Kong, an Integrated Marketing Communications boutique firm in Hong Kong. Michele launched the Marco Polo Hotels magazine serving asits Managing Editor and Publisher which was distributed in the chain’s 14 hotels across China and Hong Kong.
Her adversities and challenges have been many, predominantly when her husband had to travel often due to his work. “When I started my career decades ago there were walls of various forms to either climb, break or ignore especially with relocations to different countries and work cultures. All the breakthroughs I eventually went through made walls just a tool to stretch my vast reservoir of imagination and resiliency. One of the best mental prompts I use is the German word for detour: Umleitung! There are always other ways or detours to ultimately reach a desired destination or goal.”
But Michele believes that every time she was alone or faced with trials “there was always an angel who came to me through different people to lend support. Most of the time I do not have to ask for help, earth angels just know what you need and I am eternally grateful.”
Organizations: The Royal Geographical Society, Hong Kong. The Golf Network, Hong Kong.
How would you encourage your readers?
“I see life as chapters, each phase as a chapter, what did I learn not to repeat from this chapter?”
“Reflect on the tapestry of your life and learn from that.”
“Believe in your dream and always believe that detours can lead you to your destiny.”
“Change the conversation. Do not be afraid to be a game changer and transition to another playing field.”