I was speaking with a friend about my recent career changes, how much I love what I am doing, and it got me thinking about how I got “here.” It’s been an interesting chain of people and events that have all led me to this point. It all started, as it often does, with losing a job.
After 16 years in retail with Meijer, Inc., I found myself unemployed. That’s when a friend of the family, Kelly Fitzgerald, set me up with an interview for an open front desk supervisor position at the Kalamazoo Holiday Inn. Little did I know what a wonderful path Kelly had helped me find, as hospitality would turn out to be my passion.
I went from the Holiday Inn to the Staybridge Suites and, after a few months, I made the change from operations to sales – another turning point – which let me see my newfound industry from a whole new vantage point. It was during those years with IHG that I had the supreme honor to meet and work with the likes of Kristy Tzannos, Christie Veyna, Linda Eigelberger, Elisa Shaw, Alicia Kennedy, Carrie Van Nest, Suzanne Nickel, Christina Zulick-Kozub, and Jimmy Taylor. These folks were amazing mentors, from whom I learned an immeasurable amount, and were a HUGE part of why I loved the hotel biz.
After working at four different hotels, for three different brands, in three different cities, in two VERY different states, I found myself back in Michigan, and back at the Kalamazoo Holiday Inn where it all started. Ellen Markel hired me in as Front Desk Manager, but just a couple months later I was asked to take over as Catering Sales Manager when Leanne Wolfsen decided to become a work-at-home mom.
Leanne did an amazing job of trying to help me learn as much as I could before she left, but what neither of us could have prepared for was the loss of my mentor, the person who said he would be there to show me the ropes of catering sales. Having been thrown into the fire, I never would have survived had it not been for the amazing teamwork, and immeasurable patience of chef Emily Meijer, Kristy Shoemaker, and Mike “Banjo” Siegel. Without those three, and their respective F&B/banquet teams, I never would have made it long enough to discover just how much I love helping people celebrate the special events in their lives.
Near the end of my time at the Kzoo Holiday Inn, I had the pleasure of working with the late, great chef Wayne Wells. I don’t know if I will ever again work with someone with his level of passion. Working with chef Wayne to create menus specifically designed for the client was always a joy, and watching him build a personal connection with each one was a sheer pleasure to experience. He is dearly missed.
I then moved east to Detroit, to a hotel that was a challenge, at best. Not long after I arrived, I got a new director of sales, Ruth Butler, who would become not just a boss, but a very good friend. I loved what I was doing, but not the circumstances in which I was doing it, so I am certain I would not have lasted as long as I did had I not had her as a team leader.
Then one day I got a message via LinkedIn, asking if I was looking to make a change. The timing could not have been more perfect. And so I made the move to the Hilton Garden Inn in Southfield, Michigan. With that move, I am once again doing what I love, in a venue I believe in, and with an amazing team of people who also love what they do.
It’s been a winding road, to be sure. Hopefully I didn’t forget to mention too many people, but I hope everyone who has been instrumental to my being where I am today knows just how appreciative I am. Thank you all, and I wish you the best with each new day.