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CAREERS & the disABLED Magazine, established in 1986, is the nation's first and only career-guidance and recruitment magazine for people with disabilities who are at undergraduate, graduate, or professional levels. Each issue features a special Braille section.

CAREERS & the disABLED has won many awards, including several media "Award of Excellence" acknowledgments from the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

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 Hospitality Invites Success

‘How can I help you today?’ is the mantra of those accomplished people persons working in hospitality. Learn how welcoming this industry is, as well as how it invites success.
Working in the hospitality field is a fantastic career option if you’re an organized “people person” who loves to travel. It’s a popular industry that’s always looking to hire, whether you work at a hotel, for a restaurant or on a cruise line.
Okay, fine, we admit, some shifts can be long and tiring, but the hours can be flexible, plus you get amazing travel perks sometimes and a chance to meet people from all over the world.
However, no matter what your abilities are, if you’ve got the charm, the charisma, the management skills and the desire to help others, apply for a hospitality job today. Those are the characteristics to succeed in this welcoming industry.
Work hard, and other doors will open for you in this field, inviting you inside. And it’s even more creative than you may think. Smile! This business is about people and making their travel and/or dining experiences ones to forever cherish.
Here’s a round-up of employees with disabilities and HR executives who share their inspiring career advice and inside tips for those pursuing careers in hospitality and hotel management.
Stokes Engineers Success as He Keeps Hotel Nikko Running Smoothly
Johnny Stokes is a stationary engineer at Hotel Nikko in San Francisco, CA. After earning his associate degree in general education and playing football, he tapped into another one of his longtime interests: working with his hands.
Always interested in electricity, plumbing and working on machinery, from 2011 to 2015 he enrolled at the Local 39 labor union in San Francisco for an apprenticeship. He learned the ins and outs of electricity, direct digital controls, HVAC, welding, boilers, machinery, refrigeration, motor controls and more.
Following his training as an operating engineer, and then as a journeyman (a building maintenance engineer), in June 2015 he landed a job at Hotel Nikko after previously working at the San Francisco Hilton.
Stokes mostly takes care of the hotel’s heating and lighting, and handles any electrical issues. He’s also responsible for the overall working operation of the hotel ranging from HVAC, water controls, direct digital controls, electricity, welding, boilers and refrigeration, and anything that may need to be fixed, replaced or repaired.
In 2009 Stokes was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, and through the years had to work with a dietitian to keep his health under control, all while maintaining his Local 39 apprenticeship.
“In the beginning, it wasn’t that bad,” he recalls. “But then I had to go on dialysis 24-7 in 2014. Dialysis was a whole different world. I had to get my blood cleaned, and being on the machine, it was emotionally draining.”
He did his best to stay positive and was given the option to take time off or continue to work at Hotel Nikko. “I chose to continue working. Being engaged with job duties kept my mind right; gave me something to focus on. I wanted to keep life as normal as possible.”
He remained on dialysis for almost 3 years and underwent a kidney transplant in September 2016. “I went in for the 5-hour surgery and never looked back,” he recalls.
He thanks his wife for her support, and says his mom has always been his role model. “She’s been my rock and had a major stroke recently. Today, she’s about 85% ‘back’ now. I spend my days off with her,” he shares.
Currently Stokes says his health is “pretty good,” and he was recently named one of 10 Cintas Corporation’s Everyday Impact winners, which recognizes individuals who make a positive impact in their workplace.
“I’m on track. The first year is when kidneys may be rejected, and mine has not been, thankfully. I remind myself about all of the hard work I went though, and feel motivated. I try to stay humble and gracious.”
Navigate hotelnikkosf.com/employment.aspx for Hotel Nikko opportunities, and preferredhotels.com/careers for opportunities with the hotel’s parent company, Preferred Hotels & Resorts. Connect on Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, Integra, Google+ and Pinterest.
Welcome to Hotel Nikko
Located in the heart of San Francisco, CA Hotel Nikko - part of Preferred Hotels & Resorts - is a high-style retreat with 532 elegant and contemporary rooms. Based in Newport Beach, CA, Preferred Hotels & Resorts is the world’s largest independent hotel brand, representing more than 650 distinctive hotels, resorts, residences and unique hotel groups across 85 countries via its five global collections.
hotelnikkosf.com and preferredhotels.com
Vollmer Goes That Extra Mile for Guests at Hilton Orlando
Jennifer Vollmer is the marketing and sales coordinator at the Hilton Orlando (FL) hotel. The University of Florida graduate develops and updates all hotel collateral and in-house advertising, and aligns creative strategy with the vision of the senior marketing manager.
Other job responsibilities include driving food and beverage (F&B) revenue and spa goals via development and execution of marketing initiatives, as well as tracking, creating and maintaining content on all social platforms for the hotel.
Vollmer also supports the sales team by creating presentations and creative collateral/giveaways for sales trips, trade shows and conferences. She’s also responsible for the logistics and implementation for all site visits for 11 sales managers and works with catering, events, reservations, in-room dining, sales and third-party partners.
“It definitely takes a friendly personality and a determined attitude to work in hospitality,” says Vollmer.
“At Hilton we pride ourselves on being the face of hospitality, which is nothing less than greeting every guest by name and creating memorable experiences for each and every guest. Whether that means taking an extra step to go the extra mile, or even stopping to show a guest where they are going, a friendly smile can go a long way.” 
She’s been with Hilton Orlando for three years and likes that no two days are the same. “There’s always new innovation, ideas and creativity from our team members about how to better serve our guests, and we can always learn from each other to create an experience that’s extraordinary!”
Vollmer’s disability is one that many don’t “see.” That’s because she has hearing loss and wears hearing aids - Phonak brand - that she received at age 16. As a child, she failed every hearing test she was given since kindergarten, leaving her doctors perplexed because she was a stellar student.
“It was only during a routine checkup at age 15 we discovered how truly bad it was. After I received the hearing aids my quality of life and ability in sports improved because it was easier to hear everyone. And I didn’t talk as loud with them in,” Vollmer remembers.
The hearing aids are removable, and she doesn’t wear them 24-7 because she trained herself at such a young age to live without them.
“Sometimes, I don’t wear them at work when I need to focus at my desk and block out all distractions. It helps the noise level, haha,” she admits, with a smile.
Vollmer’s advice for those with disabilities is to “use the disability as just an obstacle that you overcome. It’s an obstacle in my role that I may not hear people during meetings or phone conversations, so I always take a lot of notes to recap, and I’ve gotten quite well at reading lips to make up for it. You may have to work twice as hard, but the end result of success is worth it in the end.”
Hurry to jobs.hilton.com for Hilton opportunities. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Welcome to Hilton Orlando
Hilton Orlando (FL) is located near International Drive shopping and dining, and is just a short drive to SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World Resort. It’s part of Hilton Worldwide, which is headquartered in McLean, VA.
Hagberg Enjoys His Ever-Evolving Role at Delaware North
Based in Fresno, CA, Gene Hagberg is the national travel and tour sales manager for Delaware North’s parks and resorts division.
“I’m responsible for driving travel trade sales via tour operators and wholesale to our hotels in North America,” says Hagberg, who works with several properties.
These properties include Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, just outside of Yosemite National Park, Yavapai Lodge at Grand Canyon National Park, Kalaloch Lodge at Olympic National Park, Sea Crest Beach Hotel on Cape Cod, MA, several hotels in West Yellowstone, MT, just outside of Yellowstone National Park, and The Ridgeline Hotel Estes Park just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Hagberg also refers potential tour bookings for Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, near Orlando, FL, which Delaware North operates for NASA.
Hagberg began his career in the summer of 1999 at Tenaya Lodge, owned by Delaware North. Since then, his role has changed many times, which is what Hagberg likes the most.
“The challenges are always new; I’ve been in my current role since 2007,” he says.
“However, every year Delaware North adds one or two new properties to my portfolio, so that keeps me busy working with the new properties and positioning them in the travel marketplace. My clients look for someone who they can trust and work with for many years in the future. I feel the same concept applies even if you’re checking the guest in or serving them their dinner.”
When Hagberg was in college, a mentor suggested that he explore different aspects of the resort where he was working to make himself more valuable, and more employable, if he ever wanted to move or change cities.
“I took this advice to heart, and always draw from what I learned in my early years,” he explains.
Currently Hagberg and team are fully involved in booking tour groups for this year - and even next - for Delaware North’s properties across the U.S.
Hospitality work, contends Hagberg, is all about having a positive attitude. “Our disabilities shape us, but we can determine who we are. We can embrace being different and use the experiences that have shaped us to meet any challenge.”
Hagberg was born with spina bifida, and uses a wheelchair, but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying combined driving, also known as horse driving trials, an equestrian sport involving carriage driving where the driver sits on a vehicle drawn by a single horse, a pair or a team of four.
The sport has three phases: dressage, cross-country marathon and obstacle cone driving, and is most similar to the mounted equestrian sport of eventing.
“I grew up around equestrian sports and camping,” he says. “I still love doing those activities today.”
Dive into careers.delawarenorth.com for Delaware North opportunities. Connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and Pinterest.
Welcome to Delaware North
Headquartered in Buffalo, NY, Delaware North is a global hospitality and food service company with operations at high-profile places such as sports and entertainment venues, national and state parks, destination resorts and restaurants, airports and regional casinos.
Madipalli Ensures Accessibility at Airbnb
Srin Madipalli is the accessibility product and program manager at Airbnb’s San Francisco, CA headquarters. His role is to ensure that “accessibility is at the heart of every element of our company and our community at Airbnb.”
Madipalli is leading Aibnb’s efforts to build upon and improve its accessibility features and filters.
“Together, with an incredible team, I’m working closely with our community to improve these continuously to ensure guests with disabilities can quickly and easily identify accessible listings, which suit their needs, on the Airbnb platform,” he describes.
As part of this, Airbnb is working to develop new policies and features to ensure accessibility information is as accurate as possible.
“We also want to ensure we’re catering to people with disabilities beyond mobility, working closely with every community to ensure our platform is welcoming to as many people as possible,” says Madipalli, who has type 2 spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which means his muscles are very weak. He uses a powerchair and describes himself as a “writer, adventurer and traveler.”
According to Madipalli, “as part of our commitment to ensure Airbnb is a great place to work if you have a disability, an aspect of my role is to launch new initiatives to increase our number of applicants with disabilities.”
The MBA graduate of Oxford University who’s also a commercial lawyer, entrepreneur and coder continues: “I think a passion for travel is key, as well as the ability to problem-solve. I know first-hand how difficult it can be to travel with a disability, yet I love exploring new places and meeting new people. It’s extremely rewarding to be in a position where you can not only tackle the travel barriers that many people face, but also enable people to enjoy incredible travel experiences.”
Madipalli says Airbnb wants to empower more entrepreneurs with a disability to share their homes or create unique local experiences on Airbnb.
“As a person with a disability, I’ve never been willing to be left behind on anything, whether it’s at work or any other aspect of life. I would advise anyone to be positive, and embrace any opportunities that come their way.”
He joined the company in 2017 and loves the company’s incredible reach into the community, which makes the potential for change endless.
“Airbnb's mission has always been to enable anyone to belong anywhere, and I’m so excited that together with our community, we can make the world more accessible for more people,” Madipalli notes.
Access airbnb.com/careers for Airbnb career possibilities. Connect on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Welcome to Airbnb
Founded in August 2008, Airbnb is a community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique accommodations around the world, online or from a mobile phone or tablet. It connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries.
Rodriguez & Hernandez Pozos: Commitment Is Key at Marriott
Marriott International employee Sergio Hernandez Pozos helps to drive Marriott´s core values and philosophy, and ensures all training and development activities are strategically linked to Marriott´s vision.
According to David Rodriguez, executive vice president and global chief human resources officer for Marriott International, what’s at the global hotel company’s core is its commitment.
“Marriott is committed to building and fostering relationships with organizations that align with our business strategy and core values,” says Rodriguez, who’s based in the Bethesda, MD headquarters of Marriott International.
“Our business is about people and providing them with an opportunity to make meaningful contributions and achieve personal and professional growth.”
Marriott International supports national groups like the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN), Goodwill and the National Organization on Disabilities, to name a few.
“Our level of engagement may range from board leadership [and] special programs to sponsorships and more,” says Rodriguez.
“Partnering with such groups is important, as we want to do our part to help support equal opportunity for all and be a proud member of the community. These groups support our holistic approach of inclusion for all, including our associates, owners, suppliers and our guests.”
As a little person, this commitment is important to Hernandez Pozos both personally and professionally, and propels him in his role at Marriott.
“As training manager for Courtyard by Marriott Mexico City, Airport, I also work with my management colleagues and property leadership team to identify development needs. Additionally, I support the daily activities of my department in HR, and coordinate internal communications and associate events,” he details.
Hernandez Pozos, who has a degree in accounting from National Autonomous University of Mexico, has worked at Marriott for six years, in several positions, from accounts receivable, HR admin-coordinator, learning coordinator and, currently, manager.
“After college I assumed because of my physical condition it was going to be very hard to find a job,” he recalls.
When offered a job at Marriott, he thought it was just luck. “But today, as an HR professional, I can say that having any kind of disability is not a limitation. The only limitation is in our minds.”
He advises those with disabilities to be prepared, even more than the average person, love what you do and “do it the best you can, no matter the position you might be applying for.”
Adds Hernandez Pozos, who will soon receive his human resources management certification from Cornell University’s Hotel School: “You must master your task, because that will be your advantage. Do this, and you’ll never view your disability as an obstacle preventing you from pursuing a dream career.”
Hernandez Pozos loves working in a hotel because “you never get bored. You can always come home with a story to tell, and, of course, I love working with people.”
Rodriguez adds that at Marriott there’s a place for everyone who wants to learn, contribute and grow, and bring a caring spirit to the workplace.
“We welcome people from all backgrounds and perspectives because that diversity is what fuels our innovation and commitment to excellence,” he states, further advising, “Never stop believing in yourself or set a limit to what you can achieve.”
Make your way to careers.marriott.com for Marriott opportunities. Connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.
Welcome to Marriott
Marriott International, Inc. is a global lodging company with more than 6,500 properties across 127 countries and territories, reporting revenues of more than $22 billion in fiscal year 2017. Founded by J. Willard and Alice Marriott and guided by family leadership for 90 years, the company is headquartered outside of Washington, DC in Bethesda, MD.
NOTE: This one is I can cut copy in layout, as needed since this is a long feature.
Wroe: Workforce Diversity Is a Critical Element at Radisson Blu
Jennifer Wroe, director of human resources, Radisson Blu Mall of America believes that diversity in all fields is important, not just hospitality.
“When we recruit from a diverse pool of candidates, it means we can often find a more qualified workforce, with more to offer our guests and other team members,” she says.
Diversity can foster a more creative and innovative workplace, notes Wroe. So who wouldn’t want to work in an environment that allows one to grow in those areas and be able to build a career that has development opportunities for the future?
“A diverse and inclusive workforce can often help businesses avoid employee turnover costs, which can be quite substantial over time. Ultimately we need to adapt to our changing nation, and be competitive in the market with inclusion and diversity being a critical element in a culturally rich environment.”
Anyone with a disability and/or health issue, says Wroe, shouldn’t be worried that their situation is a career hindrance in today’s workforce.
“Many accommodations can, and should be, made to create a workplace that recognizes potential talent. When we recruit for a position, we’re looking for experience that matches our requirements, and that can come in many different packages.”
She adds: “We value and support diversity in the workforce as a critical element of our success and competitiveness in the global marketplace. Plus, we strive to create a culturally rich work environment that ‘mirrors the world,’ and celebrate diversity and inclusion by appreciating and drawing on each individual’s uniqueness, talents, skills, background and experiences.”
At Radisson Blu Mall of America hotel, diversity training is available for all employees, providing a forum for dialogue around the elements of diversity and inclusion.
The training, explains Wroe, is designed to help employees understand their role and how they can use a filter of inclusion in their everyday work by creating self-awareness, treating others with courtesy, dignity and respect, being sensitive to the interpretation and potential impact of communication and actions, and appreciating, valuing and celebrating differences.
Check carlsonrezidor.com/careers for job possibilities at Radisson Blu and at its Minnetonka, MN-based parent company, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. Connect on Twitter and LinkedIn with Carlson Rezidor and on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ with Radisson Blu.
Welcome to Radisson Blu
Radisson Blu Mall of America is conveniently connected to the iconic shopping center. The hotel offers a dedicated shopping program, the Minnesota-centric FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar, 26,300 square feet of meeting and event space, and spacious accommodations suitable for business and leisure travelers. It’s part of Minnetonka, MN-based Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.
radissonblu.com and carlsonrezidor.com
Quezada: Loews Chicago Prides Itself on Its Diversity
Rafael Quezada, area director of human resources, Loews Chicago (IL) Downtown Hotel says Loews’ team member workforce is just as diverse as its guests.
“The hospitality industry is a true melting pot of many working individuals just as our world is today,” he adds.
Job hunters, advises Quezada, should “be confident, and apply to any open position that you see yourself doing. Hospitality comes from within regardless of any disability or illness.”
As stated on the Loews website: “Loews Hotels & Resorts is an equal opportunity employer committed to a diverse work culture. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color religion, gender, national origin or protected veteran status, and will not be discriminated against on the basis of disability.”
Adds Quezada: “We pride ourselves on our diversity and inclusion of all persons without regard to race, color or creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, or status with regard to public assistance.”
His advice for any employee who needs to take a medical leave of absence, in any industry, is to contact the company’s HR department. “Human resources will be more than happy to sit with you and your leader to discuss all available options.”
According to Quezada, Loews takes pride in complying with FMLA leaves of absence, “and we also offer personal leaves of absence. Both of these provide job security and guarantees employment. We also comply with offering VESSA - Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act. Additionally, we offer military leaves of absence, bereavement leaves of absence and domestic violence leaves of absence.”
Not only is Loews an equal employment opportunity-affirmative employer, according to Quezada, “we also proudly uphold our affirmative action policy. Also Loews Hotels & Co. does have a harassment policy. With the new mandate, we have an anti-sexual and other harassment policy.”
If you join the Loews team, employee bonding is important for morale.
“Loews Family Traditions and our Loews Emerging Traditions include more than 60 options - both mandated and optional - for team members to participate in throughout the year.”
Examples of activities include monthly birthday parties, celebrating Midnight Stars (teams that works overnight shifts), an anniversary party, special breakfasts and dinners where the executive leadership cooks for the team members, quarterly manager outings and much more,” explains Quezada.
“For Fun Fridays we play music in the Heart of the House (back of house). We also serve fresh, complimentary meals daily in our family room for all team members to enjoy together,” he adds.
These social events keep work exciting and even fun; bringing employees from all different hotel departments together.
“In this field we welcome guests from around the world, and by having such a strong, diverse workforce, we’re able to welcome all guests with genuine hospitality,” concludes Quezada.
Look at loewshotels.com/careers for Loews opportunities. Connect on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Welcome to Loews Chicago
The luxurious Loews Chicago (IL) Downtown Hotel, located near the Navy Pier, offers guests spectacular city skyline and lake views, while enjoying the comforts of home. It’s situated near the Magnificent Mile, and is close to the city's most popular attractions including Millennium Park and the John Hancock Center. It’s part of New York, NY-based Loews Hotels & Co.
West Fights Past ADHD to Success at Brown Golf
Matt West, a pro shop employee at Orange Lake Resort golf course in Kissimmee, FL, acknowledges the irony of the fact that he loves golf and has ADHD.
He works at a call center during the week, and weekends at Orange Lake Resort’s pro shop, which is managed by Brown Golf Management. Brown Golf has corporate offices in Camp Hill, PA and Bluffton, SC. This golf course is a championship course designed by Arnold Palmer.
There “you have to be ‘on your toes’ because the pro shop is the first thing guests see when they arrive at Orange Lake. You need to not only be good with people, but also have a thorough knowledge of golf to answer questions,” says West, who enjoys golf so much his goal is to eventually be a PGA pro.
His main responsibilities at the course include running the day-to-day operations, filling the tee-time slots, selling merchandise, scheduling guests for tournaments, answering phones and helping colleagues keep the whole flow of the course moving when scheduling tee time slots for guests.
He’s worked in hospitality for many years, including at theme parks, and even leading campus tours at his alma mater, Beacon College in Florida.
“I’ve also had to diffuse a few situations where guests wanted to take their turn at a hole, but someone else was still there, they were slow, and so forth,” West notes.
He also makes sure all the pro shop merchandise is well-stocked, and the place is clean and organized.
“I, myself, have been playing golf since I was four,” explains West.
“With ADHD, which I manage with medication, I don’t know how, but golf keeps me really centered and focused, and I find it to be a stress relief. I think I enjoy golf so much, and just being around it, that I let [it] overpower my ADHD, which is how I’m able to stay disciplined and patient when I play - and when I’m around courses. I know the sport inside out, and playing it has also made me physically and mentally stronger.”
He adds: “Some days are easier than others, and I really try not to let ADHD get in the way of work or bring me down. I keep busy. When I first started here, a colleague had to show me a few times how to use the computer system; I straight-up told him I have ADHD. Coworkers were very understanding, and even joked that it’s funny that I love golf so much, a sport that requires so much concentration and focus, and have ADHD.”
West further notes how they liked his passion. “I can do what anyone else can do, I just do it a little differently sometimes, or get a bit fidgety at moments, but I power through.”
His advice for those with ADHD is “don’t let it stop you or bring you down. Look at me, I have ADHD, and over the years I’ve won some golf tournaments. In life you can’t let a disability stop you personally and professionally.”
Browse browngolfmanagement.com/about-us/brown-golf-careers for Brown Golf opportunities. Connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Welcome to Brown Golf
Orange Lake Resort boasts a championship course designed by Arnold Palmer. It’s operated by Brown Golf Management, which was founded in 2011 with a focus is on taking advantage of opportunities in the golf market with key acquisitions and leases. In addition, it offers operational expertise in a third-party management for golf course owners.
browngolfmanagement.com and orangelakegolf.com
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