Is Hospitality a Career for You?

Ann Alba, Resident Manager, The Broadmoor Hotel
PPLA President 
I did not choose hospitality; hospitality chose me! My father built a bar and restaurant in a little town of 10,000, in Michigan, when I was two years old. This was the livelihood for my family and, from the time I can remember, my first introduction to the "art of service". As others were off to college, I was off to Colorado, where I was fortunate to meet a member of The Broadmoor’s Golf Club who suggested I apply. Thus began my career at The Broadmoor - 29 years ago. I started as a West Banquet Server; hired over a cup of coffee in the kitchen; hitting the floor that night! From Banquets I went to Charles Court, now known as Ristorante Del Lago, as a breakfast/ lunch server by day and a cocktail waitress by night. In addition to my duties, I began training our new teammates. Opportunity knocked again when The Terrace Lounge, currently the Hotel Bar, was in need of a Manager, a position that I held for five years. Never planning to leave my roots of Food and Beverage, the opportunity to bridge into Operations was available as an Assistant Manager of The Broadmoor. This was a decision I never regretted, encompassing again another wonderful five years. As an Assistant Manager I was exposed to all departments; assisting and learning a plethora of positions from the ground up including; Front Desk, Guest Services, Housekeeping, PBX, Concierge, Reservations, social / group business needs and everything in-between. This path has led me to my dream job, Resident Manager, which simply put is a steward to each and every guest, from point of arrival to departure, a liaison between all departments and gatekeeper for the President/Chairman. I am proud to say that for me that there is no "next step"… by choice.....where would I go?!

Jeff Zelkin,General Manager,
Embassy Suites, PPLA Board Member
I began my career in hospitality at the age of 14 washing dishes at a local restaurant over the summer to earn more money than the meager allowance I was getting from my folks. That’s where it all started and that is when the hospitality industry sucked me in, 40 years later I am still at it. While washing dishes the opportunities came fast to move up, I was promoted to a bus boy, and then moved back into the kitchen to prep. From prep to cook, then onto other cook positions at local restaurants and hotels all the way until I graduated high school. After high school, I worked as a cook for a couple years more, and then applied to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY in 1982. I graduated from the CIA in 1984 at the top of my class earning an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts. After Culinary school I moved back to Colorado and worked as a Sous Chef and then as an Executive Chef in Summit County at a couple different Ski Resort areas.

In 1986, I moved from the mountains to the Embassy Suites Hotel in Colorado Springs (where ironically I am today) as the Executive Chef for the Velvet Turtle Restaurant.
Marriott purchased Saga who owned the Velvet Turtle Chain; there was a conflict of interest with a Marriott owned restaurant in an Embassy Suites Hotel, so an opportunity was presented to stay with Marriott and move to New York City as a restaurant chef at the Marriott Marquis. My tour of duty with Marriott Hotels continued on from NY City, to San Antonio TX, and then to the Teneya Lodge in Fish Camp, CA.  I finished my culinary career with Marriott in Cleveland, OH.

In 1996, life moved me to Phoenix, AZ working as an Executive Chef for the next five years at various resorts and restaurants eventually finding my way back to the Embassy Suites Phoenix Scottsdale as the opening Executive Chef in the year 2000. My General Manager at the Embassy Suites in Phoenix Scottsdale was a gentleman by the name of Bob Yeoman, Bob promised me the opportunity to move UP AND out of Culinary Arts and into the hotel side of the business as long as I could successfully get the hotel opened and develop or hire someone to take my place as the Executive Chef. In 2002, Bob made good on his promise as I did on mine. I was given the opportunity to be the hotels Revenue Manager, and then onto the AGM position.

In 2006, I got my first opportunity to be a General Manager and opened the Embassy Suites in Tucson Arizona. After seven successful years in Tucson it was time to make my way back home to Colorado. In March of 2014 I moved my family to Colorado Springs and am currently the General Manager at the same Embassy Suites that I was an Executive Chef at nearly 30 years ago. Hard work, dedication and a passion for serving others can definitely take you from the bottom to as high as you choose to go in this amazing and rewarding profession!

Shelby Pywell
General Manager, The Mining Exchange
PPLA Board Member
I began my young career when I received a wonderful opportunity to intern with the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation during the summer of my senior year in college at The University of Colorado- Colorado Springs. I fell in love with all of the details of planning and executing special events. After graduation I started as an events coordinator of a two Special Events Center. This business was a family owned and operated company. It showed me everything from start to finish of planning an event. I was able to plan and coordinate over 500 weddings (mostly) during my 5 year tenure with this company. It was an amazing opportunity because it taught me hard work and perseverance! When the event centers closed, I was able to connect with Raphael Sassower and Perry Sanders.
Raphi, although I was lacking restaurant experience, gave me the opportunity to show him what I could do with the one banquet facility we had. When Springs Orleans took over Il Postino, Perry Sanders kept me on as General Manager. After having to leave the country and situate my immigration status, Perry brought me back on as a Catering Sales Manager for The Mining Exchange, A Wyndham Grand Hotel. Soon after opening the hotel in May of 2012, I became the Director of Sales and Marketing and a few short months later General Manager. It has been a whirlwind but I am excited to see where my career takes me and so grateful for all the amazing opportunities I have been given.

Doug Price
President/CEO Colorado Springs
Convention & Visitors Bureau
PPLA Board Member
I was clueless about the tourism industry when I took a chance and enrolled in a hotel management class at Northern VA Community College. A professor said the beauty of the industry was you can study by day and work at night and graduate with a two year degree and have two years practical experience. I did exactly that and loved the industry. I went on to Miami, FL to get my BS in Hospitality Management from FL International University and while in school, began my 18 year career with Marriott Hotels. I’ve worked as a front desk clerk, bellman, doorman, and numerous jobs in hotel sales and marketing. Also I co-authored three books, had my own consulting company, worked for a trade association, and currently run the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau. All this as a result of taking a chance by enrolling in a hotel course that gave me a carrer and introduced me to my wife while we both worked for Marriott!

Zan Wagner, General Manager
Radisson Hotel Colorado Springs
PPLA Vice President
Zan Wagner was born and raised in Billings, Montana. He began his hospitality career at 15 working for the Northern Hotel in their restaurant. After gaining a year of experience at the hotel, he moved to Billing’s most prominent steak and seafood restaurant to work in the front of the house. Thinking he might enjoy the kitchen, he began to learn to cook and ultimately became the evening kitchen manager. In August of 1988 he moved to Colorado Springs to finish his college education at the University of Colorado (Colorado Springs Campus). He was hired by the Best Western Raintree Inn as a Front Desk Associate, at what was then the ONLY hotel in the airport area of Colorado Springs. In June of 1989 he was promoted to the Asst. Front Office Manager. Later that year, new ownership purchased the hotel and converted the property to a Radisson, and another year later Zan became the Front Office Manager. Graduating with his Bachelor of Science Degree from UCCS in 1991, he was promoted to the position of Controller and Resident Manager. He received the Manager of the Year award from his coworkers in 1992. Zan secured his MBA from UCCS in 1994. That same year, hotel ownership purchased additional properties in other states, and he was awarded the position of Vice President of Finance & Accounting for the ownership management group. The Manager of the Year award was presented to him from his peers again in 1998. Zan was given the position of General Manager of the Radisson Hotel in 2002, and he still holds that position today. During Zan’s tenure as GM the hotel has earned numerous Guest Satisfaction, Yes I Can, Guest Choice, and Advocate Awards. They have also won the prestigious President’s Award a total of 14 times, and were voted by Carlson Hotels International as the ‘Best in the Brand’ 2007 (North & South America) receiving the coveted Pinnacle Award. The hotel is proud to hold the #1 or #2 position for customer service (Radisson) in the entire western hemisphere, as indicated by Medallia, an independent customer survey service (placement may vary based on time period polled). Zan passed his CHA exam in 2008 and has had his license renewed for a second five year period. He has also taken numerous other certification classes offered through the Educational Institute, passing with Honors for the majority. Zan received the General Manager of the year award for Radisson Hotels North America from Carlson Companies in 2013 and his hotel received the “Yes I Can” hotel of the year in 2014. Zan has a passion for teaching and training and has spent some time with Junior Achievement bringing his hotel experience to Colorado Springs high schools as it relates to economics and finance. Zan has served on PPLA board for numerous years, and is serving his second term as Vice President.

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