Five Tips From Hospitality Pros That Apply To Any Job

Photo of Hospitality Knight Panelists
(From right to left): Panelists Allen Johnson ’81, Michelle Jenkinson ’07, Marylouise Fitzgibbon ’94 and moderator Tom Hope ’09MBA take a selfie with Hospitality Knight audience

By Jenna Marina Lee

Event Photo Gallery

ORLANDO, Fla. (May 17, 2018) – The hospitality industry is known for prioritizing customer service above all, and that is certainly the case for Michelle Jenkinson ’07 and her team within the fan experience and operations department for the Orlando Magic.

So when a fan who had gotten engaged two days prior to attending a Magic game lost her ring underneath the bleachers, Jenkinson’s team sprang into action. An operations staff member knew of a crevice in the floor and located the ring, where he hooked it with his pinky finger and safely retrieved it.

“Those are the moments that we teach our employees about at the Amway Center,” Jenkinson said. “If you think back to your favorite moment of a sporting event, do you remember the score? It’s more likely you remember who you went with. Or the fact that the usher bent down and talked to your child and got them a foam finger and made them feel special. We want to create legendary experiences for our fans.”

Anecdotes like this and other motivational takeaways were shared at a career enhancement panel hosted by the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter on May 15.

Jenkinson along with two alumni who have gone on to become prominent professionals at Walt Disney World and City of Orlando shared their insights and experiences at a networking and social event held on Rosen’s campus.

Below, we share some of the panel’s top tips that apply to any job.

A snapshot of the panelists:
Marylouise Fitzgibbon ’94, Regional General Manager for Walt Disney World
Michelle Jenkinson ’07, Director of Fan Experience and Operations for the Orlando Magic
Allen Johnson ’81, Chief Venues Officer of Orlando Venues
•  Moderator: Tom Hope ’09MBA, UCF Assistant Vice President for Strategic Initiatives

1: An effective leader leads with kindness.
Marylouise Fitzgibbon:
“We’re still making really smart business decisions and still working on smart strategies and forming tactical plans, but in every decision we make, people make all the difference. It’s not just something, it’s everything. Leadership is all about relationships. When I was in school, I think that concept sounded nice to have, but now that I’m further along in my career, it’s a differentiator. The reason we all got into this business is that we wanted to make a difference in the world. For me, that difference starts with one person, one employee, one guest, one peer. That’s something I’ve tried to hold onto all these years. There’s so much data that shows that leaders who have a style of kindness are more effective. Those are the people you want to work for. Those are the people I want to work for.”

Michelle Jenkinson: “Some leaders want to lead with fear or want to lead with being aggressive. It just doesn’t work. Lead by being part of a team. A lot of times, the leaders I’ve admired and something that I try to emulate now, is having the mindset that I’m no different than the greeter on the club level checking tickets. It’s all about the fan experience, the guest experience and making sure you are part of your team. You just have to get your hands dirty, whatever it takes to get the doors open and the lights turned on. You’re not above it.”

Allen Johnson: “I agree that kindness is one of the most important qualities of a leader. Qualities that I look for in a leader is No. 1: listening. No. 2: know your people. Know their names. And if you know their wife’s and their husband’s or companion’s name or their kids’ names, you’re golden. There’s four words I tell everyone you have to learn. The first two are ‘thank you.’ The last two will get you through life on everything: ‘I’m sorry.’

2: Prioritizing work-life balance (or integration) is necessary for career longevity.
Marylouise Fitzgibbon:
I have two sets of twins, it’s sort of my claim to fame. At one point I had four kids under the age of five. I used to get asked the question about work-life balance a lot. Choose your spouse, your companion really careful. The only reason I can do what I do is because I have an amazing husband who gets me. I joke that I don’t know the name of my kids’ dentist, I never have, but their very perfectly capable father does and takes them. I don’t say that with pride, but I also don’t say it with embarrassment either. I’ve stopped using the term work-life balance because it doesn’t exist. I like thinking about work-life integration. You aren’t two separate people, as much as you try. Be aware that the people who work for you are dealing with the same issues that maybe you are, so I work a lot with my team on integrating our personal and professional lives.

Michelle Jenkinson: I have three small children, 6 and under. Balancing that on top of 45 games a year — on a game day I’m there at 9 a.m. and typically don’t leave until 11-12 o’clock at night. So what does that look like? I have to have an awesome team at home as well as an awesome team at work. We know when we need to pick up the slack for one another. It’s important to have fun in the office and do things as a work family. I love every single one of them. The other key is to take the down time when you have it. If you get a day that it’s slow in the office, take it off. Realize that work is always going to be there.

Allen Johnson: I know everyone struggles with this, even more so in this industry. I consider the time I spend with my family special. Whatever we are doing, I try to make it special. Sometimes, it’s as simple as taking them to the library because that’s what they like doing. But everyone needs to find what their happy place is. My degree is in psychology and I’m big on mindfulness. I learned how to meditate when I was in high school and I do that a lot when I’m in a stressful situation. It’s up to you to find the things that work for you to help balance.

3: It’s all in the details.
Michelle Jenkinson: When it comes to events, a lot of people have this idea of what it’s about. They think weddings, the Grammys and you have an unlimited budget and life is good. Let me tell you, that’s .02 percent of the events industry. Every event has the same components though – attention to detail. We’ll go on walk-throughs on a game day, and I’m worried about a scuff on the terrazzo. That seems ridiculous, but if we don’t do that, those scuffs add up. That’s maintenance on your building. So it’s easier to take care of those little things. As for the job, you plan as much as you can, but also know that nothing in events goes to plan. Be able to adapt to that and be flexible. Keep that mindset because it will get you further in this industry.”

4: Don’t wait for the perfect job.
Marylouise Fitzgibbon: “Stop trying to find the perfect job right out of college. Get something. Your degree will pay off big, but it’s probably not that very first job. It won’t be long to set yourself apart. Don’t get caught up with titles. Just get a job.”

Allen Johnson: “You have to start somewhere. I think Marylouise is absolutely correct. People are impatient when they first graduate because you want to be us up here on this panel. It’s a long road. What I look for when I’m hiring someone: If I have two candidates and one has the most perfect background, education, experience, everything, and the other candidate as the best attitude, I will hire the best attitude every time. It’s the only thing that you can control.”

5: No matter what year you graduate, it’s *always* a good time to be a Knight.
Marylouise Fitzgibbon: “I chose UCF because in my small graduating class, a lot of my peers got into UF, FSU but they did not get into UCF. So when I got the acceptance letter from UCF, I chose it truly out of spite (laughs). I know that’s a bad reason, and I’m embarrassed to tell you that, but we’re all friends here. I graduated in 1994, and back then even, it was a big deal to get chosen to attend UCF. Now, being out in the world and being an employer, the reputation that this university has is so phenomenal and powerful. It’s a proud moment when I’m sitting in recruiting meetings and people are actively trying to find UCF students and I’m the one in the room who whispers, you know I went to school there (smiles).”

Michelle Jenkinson: “I was born and raised in Florida in Merritt Island. I had a lot of friends that went to UCF. I would come visit them. I loved Orlando, loved campus. I honestly didn’t apply anywhere else. Orlando had a good mix of bigger city but that excitement of college life. UCF was growing quite quickly. I’m extremely proud to be a UCF Knight. Even since I’ve graduated, I love to be a part of the success the university has had.”

Allen Johnson: “It’s weird, I started at a school called FTU and graduated from UCF. I don’t know how that happened (laughs). I’m third-generation Central Floridian. I was born in Kissimmee, raised in St. Cloud. I fell in love with UCF and a girl. UCF gave me an opportunity to experience college life on a scale that is much bigger now, as we all know, but back then it was still a major university. I’m proud to be a UCF Knight. I run Camping World Stadium and we have a bowl game every Jan. 1. This year is the first year I’ve missed it in 14 years. I chose to go to Atlanta. My boss allowed me to. That’s how important UCF is to me.”

Welcome, AlumKnights! (What New Graduates Need to Know)

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By Jeana Capra
UCF Alumni Association Student Intern

Congratulations, Class of 2015 fall graduates! You’re an official UCF AlumKnight, which means you’re now part of a family that’s more than 250,000 strong!

Your connection to UCF and your Knights pride don’t end just because your senior year did. The UCF Alumni Association connects all Knights with the university and each other through social, cultural and professional development events. Now that you’re a part of the family, you should know what it entails.

The UCF Alumni Association is a dues-free organization, which means there’s no annual membership fee to take advantage of all it has to offer. You’re already a part of the alumni association just by graduating!

Remember that key card you got when you picked up your cap and gown? Think of that as your golden ticket. It’s what identifies you as an AlumKnight. Show that card to participating benefit providers for alumni discounts, and use it as your pass into alumni-hosted events, like our annual Indoor Tailgate parties during football season.

The UCF Alumni Association hosts events across the nation, so you can keep connected no matter where life takes you after college. There are countless ways to stay involved, whether it’s on campus or in your new community, through our chapters and clubs program. College-based and regional chapters and clubs help you build of a network of new friends who share your UCF experience.

And, as a brand new graduate, you naturally fit into the Young Alumni Council, a network or more than 60,000 Knights under the age of 30. This community of alumni is a powerful way to help you stay connected to social, career and community events as you begin to conquer “the real world.”

Leaving campus doesn’t have to mean losing touch with your alma mater. Follow the UCF Alumni Association on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to keep up with all of the latest and greatest UCF news and events, and be proud of the university that made you who you are!

Congratulations again, graduates! You’re the future of the UCF Knights Nation, and we look forward to seeing all of the amazing things you’re going to do!

Go Knights! Charge On!

P.S. Jazz up your Facebook profile: Show off your #UCFalumni pride and download one of 10 cover photos. We even made two for your proud parents. :)

UCF Alumni Hosts 2015 Chapter & Club Council

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During the annual AlumKnights of the Roundtable: 2015 Chapter & Club Council, chapter and club chairs were presented with
framed photos of the Reflecting Pond as a token of thanks for all of their hard work and dedication to the UCF Alumni Association.

On Saturday, June 13, following the previous evening’s 8th Annual UCF Jefferson Awards & Alumni Volunteer Reception, nearly 60 regional, college and special interest chapter and club alumni volunteers — from Central Florida and across the nation — attended the UCF Alumni Association’s AlumKnights of the Roundtable: 2015 Chapter & Club Council at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

The morning began with a keynote address and Q&A by Anthony Jenkins, Ph.D., UCF’s senior associate vice president and dean of students.

Next, alumni staff presented this year’s Chapter & Club Awards, which included:

  • The College Chapter Challenge Award tasked college-based alumni chapters to engage in professional development activities within their chapters that add value to their degrees and make meaningful connections back to the university. This year’s winner hosted an evening to provide alumni with a tool that’s invaluable in the industry in which they work — customer service training, provided by best-selling author Tim Miles. Congratulations to the Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter!
  • The Regional Chapter/Club Challenge Award tasked regional chapters with executing events with a strong university connection — which isn’t always easy when you’re not in Orlando! However, this year’s winner impressed the selection committee by working on events with local businesses in their community, while also working with the UCF regional campus closest to them on their signature event, Starry Knights. Last year, Starry Knights raised more than $6,000 for scholarships and, after this year’s event in July, they will be one step closer to their goal of endowing their chapter’s scholarship. Congratulations to the Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter!
  • The Constituent Chapter Challenge Award tasked special interest chapters with creating opportunities to create meaningful connections with our student population. Chapter volunteers participated as panelists for the 4EVER KNIGHTS Alumni Speaker Series and served as mentors in the 4EK Connect program. Their signature professional development conference, PRO CON, raised $8,000 this year and allowed the chapter to engage with students in various stages of the UCF experience. Congratulations to the UCF Young Alumni Chapter!
  • The Chapter or Club of the Year Award was presented to the overall chapter or club that covered all of the bases in not only event programming, but in communicating with alumni and building meaningful connections. The selection committee was impressed by the winning group, not only for their philanthropic events — participating in multiple events through the year in addition to UCF’s annual day of service, Knights Give Back — but also in the goals they set and how they reached them. They’ve grown their LinkedIn following from just 10 members to nearly 300, while becoming a chapter only two years ago. The judges were thoroughly impressed! Congratulations to the Denver UCF Alumni Chapter!

Chapter and club leaders then participated in breakout sessions on the alumni association’s strategic plan goals of communication, engagement, relevance and funding. After lunch, they continued with roundtable discussions on board management, social media, student engagement, professional development/career-focused events, and partnerships.

Before wrapping up the day-long conference with a catered happy hour and UCF Bookstore merchandise sales, attendees got to meet and participate in a Q&A with Mike Morsberger, the new vice president for alumni relations and development, and CEO of the foundation.

Thank you to all of our dedicated alumni volunteers! Go Knights! Charge On!

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Seven Questions with Nicole Cutrufo, ’13

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Guest Service and Attractions Executive, Cinecittà World
Current location: Rome, Italy

By Kathy Dorf
Rosen College Public Relations

For Nicole Cutrufo, ’13, it all started with a childhood dream. After journeying from Europe to the United States to prepare for a career in theme parks, her passions led her home.

Can you describe your career journey since graduating from UCF’s Rosen College?
I graduated with my Master of Science in Hospitality Management in May 2013. It was a great accomplishment for me coming directly from Europe to study and work in the capital of hospitality in Orlando. After working at Disney as a guest service manager, I  gained some great operations management experience. I then had the opportunity to continue my leadership journey at Universal Orlando as an attractions supervisor. After I graduated, I was selected to be part of the leadership group for Halloween Horror Nights.

Eventually, I decided to move back to Europe to continue my career and bring home the great lessons I learned in the states. I was offered some interesting industry roles in Europe and decided to accept a position for the opening of a brand new park, Cinecittà World. Today, I’m a guest service and attractions executive, opening a new park, inspiring, recruiting and training new staff members and creating a theme park culture. I’m involved in writing the attractions’ procedures for the very first time, designing tools, evacuation routes, standards of service, etc. It’s a great challenge, but also a great honor.

How did your experience at Rosen College prepare you for the industry and your current role?
I have always been a great theme park enthusiast ever since I can remember. I studied at the best business school in Italy, but there weren’t any classes to develop leadership skills in the theme park industry. The first time I came to Orlando was as a Disney International College Program participant working at Animal Kingdom. I then moved back to Europe to continue my career at Disneyland Paris and obtained the Hospitality Management Certificate from Rosen College while studying at Disney University. I was later accepted into Rosen College’s Master of Science in Hospitality Management degree program. I also served as a guest service manager in Future World Epcot operations thanks to an internship program at Rosen College.

I was blessed to have great professors from the industry supporting my development, believing in me as an international participant and giving me the knowledge, strength and hope to pursue my goals while realizing my childhood dream. As an international student and woman, my experiences at UCF and in the United States exposed me to a culture of women in business. It may be typical for an American student; however, it’s not where I come from. I will always remember the women I met in leadership positions in our industry and I will try to inspire other young women here in Italy to ask for more, to study, to be their selves in a world where there are not as many women in leadership positions.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve been able to do so far in your career?
Opening a brand new park! I had assisted the operations team in opening the Test Track area in Epcot and the new expansion of Krusty Land at Universal Orlando, but I never had the opportunity to open a brand new theme park like Cinecittà World. We recently opened the park and it was so emotional seeing the staff members welcoming and loading our guests. I felt honored to be part of that moment, going to work and remembering where it all started: my Rosen College education and my American dream.

What was your favorite part about attending Rosen College?
My favorite part about attending Rosen College was to be in the global tourism center learning from professors from all around the world and studying with students from many interesting industry backgrounds. Career Services was also an incredible tool. Without the help of Rosen College’s professional advisors, I wouldn’t be the leader I am today; I wouldn’t have found my path or have been able to identify and work on my weaknesses. They helped me focus on being a positive example in the industry and working with passion and dedication. My professors taught me what professionalism is and today, they are my mentors and examples in my everyday life. During my morning briefings to my team members, I often mention my days at Rosen College and I hope that many international participants will have the same chance to study at UCF.

Do you think your degree gives you a competitive advantage compared to your peers? How so?
My degree prepared me with an in-depth knowledge of our industry. It also gave me the capacity to think strategically and analyze figures rather than think about new ideas without structure. I enjoyed the practical classes like Hotel Management and Food & Beverage Management, as well as Finance in the Hospitality Industry and Research Methods. Without this structure, I would not be competitive in a world of decisions. Decisions must always be supported by numbers and quantified. This is the best knowledge I brought home with me, in addition to the importance of teamwork.

What advice would you give to current and potential Rosen College students?
Serve as much as you can. During your university experience, apply for as many frontline jobs as you can and then use your hospitality experience in your research and studies at Rosen College. Many professors can help you link your everyday work experience to your studies. These teachings are the best competitive advantage you will have. Our industry needs prepared professionals and professionalism starts with service. Take advantage of being in the heart of the hospitality industry and find as many occasions to experience small things like open a ride early in the morning, complete a checklist, explain a map to a guest or smile as you say goodbye to every single guest at the end of the day. These things, together with your degree from Rosen College, will make you a leader.

What’s your favorite quote?
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” —Mother Teresa

See original story on UCF Today. To meet other Rosen College alumni and find out what they’ve been doing since graduation, please visit hospitality.ucf.edu/our-alumni.