Hospitality Management grad on Voyage to hotel success
Brandon Ortiz, '17, put a lot of preparation into his future career during his York College of Pennsylvania experience, but he actually started on the path while he was in high school.
Working at a restaurant and a grocery store showed the native of Bel Air, Maryland, that hospitality was the way he wanted to go.
“I really enjoyed getting to know customers each time they came in and seeing the smile on their faces when you satisfy them,” Brandon says.
And now, with his York College degree in Hospitality Management – and a minor in Hospitality Marketing – in hand, he’ll be taking the next step in Marriott Corporation’s Voyage global leadership development program.
It’s a 12- to 18-month program allows recent college graduates hands-on and virtual training in hospitality disciplines from accounting to event management to food and beverage services.
Brandon knew where he wanted his career to go, but there was the matter of choosing a college. York College won him over early.
“The first person I talked to was Dr. John Hughes. We all loved him,” Brandon says of the department chairman. “I knew it was a good fit for me.”
He started in the Hospitality program as soon as he arrived in York. Of all his coursework, it’s the finer details that stand out to him.
“One of the big things in this industry is professionalism,” Brandon says. “We got a good background on how to be in front of an employer for interviews. It was very important that we know all the details, how to dress, smaller things that people don’t always think of.”
Brandon also came to appreciate the entire program’s faculty and staff. It’s all about the connections, he says.
“The great part about our staff is not only do they teach you inside the classroom, but they also bring in people who can teach you the concepts you want to know,” Brandon says. “You can do a lot by making those connections, always following up with guest speakers by emailing them and saying 'thank you.'”
Up the path
While balancing a full course load, Brandon also put in about 30 to 40 hours a week over his last two semesters working at the Sheraton Inner Harbor in Baltimore. It made for a long commute, but it paid off in more than just job experience.
Marriott bought Sheraton, giving Brandon access to the Voyage program. His general manager connected him with a program recruiter, and he jumped into the process, from an initial phone interview, to more written questions, to the wait to find out if he’d made the final round. Then, he was off to Atlanta for a two-day interview session with company power players.
“I got to meet powerful leaders in the Marriott family from all over the world,” Brandon says. “You learn that a lot of them had been with the company for over 20 years, that it’s a great company to stay with and work for.”
After a final two-on-one interview, Brandon earned his place in the Voyage program.
While his York College classroom and work experience have given Brandon a broad foundation, he is excited about the opportunity to learn even more through the Voyage program.
“I’m in a full-service hotel at the Sheraton Inner Harbor, and I’m going into a select-service hotel, which is smaller, so I’ll get a grasp of the whole operations side,” he says. “I can learn more, and I can learn it faster too.”
And if the hands-on experience isn’t enough, Brandon can dabble in virtual reality. The program offers a virtual hotel simulator that allows Voyagers around the world the opportunity to “run” their own hotels in a three-month simulation. They can then create teams and compete for a chance to win a tour of Marriott’s corporate offices.
All this should keep him solidly on the road to his five-year goal of being an assistant general manager or director of operations, preferably in the greater Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area, but he’s open to other options.
“I would love to travel,” he says.
Wherever his Voyage takes him, you can be sure there’s a lot of smiles on the faces of guests in his future.