August 21, 2017
The hospitality industry spans wider than you might think. Hotels, restaurants, and events are only the beginning of the career opportunities that await in this rewarding, fast-paced business. Current SDSU Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) Master’s student, Kaylee Fernandes, is a shining example of how far hospitality can take you when you combine your passion and drive with an investment in your education. Learn how Kaylee found her dream job and why she believes in the HTM Master’s Program in this brief Q&A.
How did you first get into the hospitality industry?
My dad has been the general manager at a hotel here in Utah for the past nine years, and my mom worked in hospitality sales and marketing, so this industry is one that our entire family appreciates and understands. Even my brother worked in the food and beverage sector.
While I was attending undergrad at the University of Utah, I worked at a Marriott, and then at the Grand America Hotel, Salt Lake City’s top luxury hotel. I was initially just looking for a college job, but ended up loving it, so I changed my major from business management to hospitality management.
How did your career take shape from there?
I ended up spending four years in hotel front office management as a supervisor. I did everything from guest services to night audits and other management tasks. It was a great experience, especially since I was still in college and already learning to be a leader in the corporate environment.
How did you connect with the Utah Jazz, and what does your current role with them entail?
I wasn’t actively looking for a new job, and I definitely didn’t see myself in sports. But while I was working at Grand America, one of the directors with the Jazz contacted me through LinkedIn. I read the job posting and thought it almost sounded too good to be true, so I told him I was interested, and they invited me in for an interview. It was a perfect match, and that’s where I am today!
I started with the Jazz as a premium seating coordinator, and recently received a promotion to Corporate Partnerships Manager. I manage accounts for large companies that sponsor the Jazz, ensuring everything in their contract is fulfilled, from signage to player appearances to catering and more.
What is it like working for an iconic sports franchise?
The Jazz organization is unique because it’s owned by the family of the late Larry H. Miller, who also owned many other businesses that his family has now inherited, including Triple-A baseball’s Salt Lake Bees along with movie theatres, radio stations, and more. I also end up involved in those other ventures. It’s a large organization and a broad role, so I’m really learning a lot and loving everything about it.
What made you want to join the HTM Master’s Program?
I always wanted to go to grad school, and my family is originally from San Diego, so I felt an immediate connection to SDSU. When I started looking into the HTM Master’s Program there, my family asked me why I was pursuing a master’s degree in hospitality when I’m in sports.
I had considered other general business programs, but the faculty at SDSU did such an amazing job of showing me how I could benefit from their program and how it could be tailored to my goals. Before I ever signed up, they helped me develop a clear vision for my time in the program. Between the mentorship, flexibility, and capstone project, it was an experience I knew I would enjoy and an investment I know will pay off.
How has the HTM Master’s Program helped your career trajectory with the Jazz?
A lot of people in my department and throughout the company know that I’m pursuing my master’s, which is great visibility. I think it shows my commitment to improving my skill set and to staying with this organization for a long time to come. The curriculum itself is also very relatable and applicable to virtually any business.
What has been your favorite part of the program so far?
Easily the mentorship. The HTM Master’s Program links you with an industry mentor, and I was connected with Roberto Castro, the manager of event operations for the San Diego Padres. I had the privilege of shadowing Roberto on a game day this past June. He leads the entire event crew, and seeing all of the hospitality elements that go into a single Padres game was really a privilege that opened my eyes to how intricate and impactful this industry is. The best part about the mentorship is that it’s not forced at all. The ball is in your court to build the relationship.
Ready to discover your career path in hospitality and pave your way to success? See how the HTM Master’s Program can change your life!