General Manager at ōkta and Tributary Hotel
“Work with other leaders who can be both complementary and a worthwhile challenge to each other. When looking at what decision might be best for my next venture, I always put myself mentally into the space - what will it feel like sitting in a meeting with these leaders; what will it feel like to celebrate with them; what will it feel like to be challenged by them; what knowledge and expertise do they have that I can learn from; and most importantly, what knowledge and expertise do I have that they can learn from and are they willing to collaborate to better each other. If I cannot imagine a positive response to these questions, or there simply is no connection, the opportunity likely is not the right fit.„
In my role, I lead with Charitable Assumption. This was originally a USHG core value that was continued with the team at EMP under Will Guidara. A more intentional way of stating “give others the benefit of the doubt.” This idea is one of my most often used in leadership. Whether I am communicating with a staff member or a guest, it is best practice to believe in their good intentions, rather than assuming the worst. This places the communication and interaction on a basis of trust and empathy and allows me to be fully in tune with the other’s needs.
Taking a year off from college to work for the Walt Disney Company through their WDW College Program in 2008 meant uprooting myself from cold and wintery New England and venturing to the very humid stomping grounds of nearly 10 million annual guests. Positioned on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, I was truly at the crossroads of countless cultures, languages, and human interactions. This one year, which began with slinging hot dogs and french fries and ended with a position of General Teller (counting more money daily than I had ever seen), allowed me the opportunity to expand my knowledge of hospitality through genuine human-to-human connection. My closest friends during my time there, my co-workers that stood by my side as we were slammed daily before the afternoon parade and nightly before the fireworks show like clockwork, were from every walk of life across the globe. We rarely spoke in words, our actions linked in common understanding of the tools of the trade and how a smile or nod could go a long way. This connection based on genuine hospitality and wanting every guest to have the most magical experience while they dined with us, gave me an incredible sense of pride and was some of the greatest leadership that I have been a part of. Our training was meticulous and intentional and set the standard for how I continue to train all of my staff.
It’s important to care deeply about your work and what you do, but also be able to disconnect from it when you leave the workplace. Having the ability to enjoy the wonders of the Pacific Northwest just outside our door means being able to turn our attention to the beauty of the land and sea and all that it can show us. There is so much to learn from our surroundings that I am constantly in awe and when that happens, my work brain gets to turn off and I let that awe seep into all of me.
Having begun my career at age 14, and been given the opportunity to attend a vocational high school for culinary arts, I have a passion for hiring those who are new to the industry or considering beginning their career in the hospitality industry. Being able to recall the excitement and curiosity of all of the things that I could learn through this industry and seeing that same excitement in hiring new staff brings me so much inspiration. Sharing books, documentaries, history, and experiences with others is such a beautiful way to share human connection.
Allowing all staff to learn, collaborate and engage makes for a greater understanding of our industry and what we can each be doing to enhance our time together and that of our guests.
Focus on and give attention to things that excite you and fill your gas tank, rather than focus on all that you're doing to work towards burning out. There has never been a better time in this industry to stop burning out, to dream big and go for it!
I find inspiration in community and relationships. Having a shared meal, a shared story, a shared experience is something that cannot be replaced. It makes you intimately connected to that moment, truly of the place and time.
It is important to continue to read books about the history of our industry and where we came from so that we may understand and help to forge the experience of our generation and those of the future. It isn’t without understanding how and why we got here in the first place, that we begin to understand what it means to recreate and adapt. I love bookstores and most weekends, you can find me with my head tilted sideways looking at each book's spine in the Food Writing/Culinary Arts/Beverage Writing section.
Acknowledging that we must care for ourselves in order to give to others, is so important to our culture that we offer a free Employee Assistance Program in addition to full benefits for our employees. This program acts to improve employee wellness in the workplace with mental health solutions, as well as being a comprehensive development program with coaching and services beyond our industry.
When hiring, I look for aspiring professionals who dream big. Those that have a passion for where they want to be in the future is such a great starting point of understanding their needs. If I were to hire someone without knowing where they wanted to take their career, we would both be doing a disservice to each other. I want to help them get to that point, so the quicker that we know which direction they’re headed, the more resources that we can dedicate towards that goal together. It may not always be in the hospitality business, but I guarantee that tools from this industry will help in every other industry being pursued.
Understand that employee benefits are just that. They should be accessed and used just like any tool at work. This means the benefit of taking time away, the benefit of accessing assistance programs, and more importantly the benefit of acknowledging your needs as an employee. If you want to take a different career path, let your leadership team know and ask for help and resources.
Education plays a huge role in our industry and is an important part of everyday culture inside our walls. Each day, we ensure there is time spent in pre-shift meetings as an entire team. It is essential that our kitchen staff have access to the same information as our dining room team to provide the best experience for our guests. We format pre-shift each day to focus on one thing in particular, be it service standards, beverage knowledge, industry knowledge, cooking technique or history. Having time for each team member to ask questions and hear answers directly from the source, be it leaders or chefs or each other, is a necessary part of each meeting.
I never turn down the chance to eat a donut. This is an important tiny celebration that I have kept with me since childhood that has become part of my self-care routine.
Disclaimer: Individuals featured in the Inspirational Career Timelines section have been nominated by peers, colleagues and/or other members of the hospitality industry. It is to the best of our knowledge that each individual has demonstrated leadership and acted as a positive role model for others.
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