Having been away from the blogosphere for a while, it’s difficult to come up with just the right topic to re-acquaint myself with the blogoworld. With so much going on and so much to say, I figured I would start from the beginning. Who am I and what do I do?
Who I am is one of those people that believes that everything in life happens for a reason. The more I look back on the progression of my life, my career, the way I do things and why I do them, I realize that things have happened in such a way that as time goes on they make sense and the pieces fall into place. I grew up with a real love for politics, convinced that it was my future. When I was a junior in high school I had a chance to visit Washington, D.C. during a school trip – every politikids dream – where one of the activities was getting to visit what would end up being my alma mater – the George Washington University (GWU). To be honest the first thing that really impressed me about it was that at the time, GW had one of only two bowling alleys in the city. The other was located in the White House. I graduated high school ready to dive head first into studying what I thought I loved, at a prestigious university mere blocks away from that second bowling alley. I had applied and was accepted early decision to GWU, going into the School of Business to major in Political Science. Kind of weird that PoliSci would be in the business school…. but who cares right? I was in! My dreams were coming true! Until my PoliSci 101 class and my experience interning on Capitol Hill got me thinking… yeah, maybe not.
So as any good student in college, I stayed true to my path and changed majors at least 4 times. But it wasn’t until my junior year – the one where you finally have to decide “OK this is what I am doing with my life” – that someone told me “Hey, you should check out the Tourism Department and the Event Management program… go over there and talk to Joe Goldblatt.” It was a pretty random occurrence, but from there, it was history (my life, not a new major). It was Dr. Goldblatt’s Intro to Special Events class, part of a major I never knew existed, in a department I didn’t know the school had, within a field far off from what I grew up thinking I loved, that changed everything for me. I graduated with my Bachelors of Business Administration and Master of Tourism Administration from GWU… but heading into a very tumultuous time for our industry. I was convinced that I was going to move to New York and start a career there, but I ended up moving back home, applying and getting into the University of Miami MBA program where I focused on Leadership and Quality Management – in particular the theories of W. Edwards Deming. It was those theories I learned, in that class I should never have been in, at the school I never planned on attending, that define who I am as a professional today.
Whenever people not familiar with the hospitality, meetings, events, or any tourism related industry ask me what it is I do, it’s sometimes a difficult thing to answer. Sure I can give the bullet points, the facts and figures, and show the importance our industry has in this world. But many times it still leaves people with a blank look on their faces or I get the response everyone loves – “oh you’re a party planner”? Famed restaurateur Danny Meyer was once quoted as saying “When I interview job applicants, I look for five key traits: friendliness, curiosity, a good work ethic (they’re neat and on time), empathy, and self-awareness (in other words, they don’t look like they’re under a storm cloud). I keep those traits top of mind during interviews and by the end I know who is what I call a hospitalitarian.” Those traits go well beyond what one should look for in restaurant staff. If you really think about those 5 traits, they are not superficial. They each have deep meaning that should define everyone in our industry… and that’s just a start. I know those specific traits are ones I work hard to embody and use in my professional (and even personal) life.
One of my dear friends who I went to college with for years has pushed me to consider taking my skills to another industry. I have had my twists and turns just as anyone else, but I find comfort in spending my professional days in an industry I love. I really cannot picture myself anywhere else. Anyone who knows me and gets into a conversation with me about meetings/events/hospitality knows just how passionate I am about what I do. It’s more than just work, it really is a way of life that in part defines who I am. So next time someone asks me what it is I do, or better yet who I am… it really is quite simple. I am a hospitalitarian.