Jersey girl bred, but New York City made. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey was not thrilling by any means; there were more cows than people, my high school could teach you how to skin a deer, we partied in barns and spent our Summers in lakes. I wouldn’t change my upbringing one bit; and my parents, my siblings, my family continue to inspire me everyday. We never really traveled when I was growing up. For instance, I never made it to Disney World. I grew up in a home where my parents saved all they could to rent a beach house down the shore for the week and every few years we saved enough to return to my birthplace of Dominican Republic to visit family. Again, I would never change a thing. The “travel bug” for me was a mythical creature I’d heard of but never thought I would find.
When you’re growing up, adults always want to know what you want to be when you grow up. This question haunts you incessantly and lingers longer in the air at every family holiday the older you get. I had a real dream once of becoming a Volcanologist and living in Hawaii studying volcanoes… unfortunately my grades in science and math didn’t add up to a future in research. My real passion has always been taking care of people, not in the physical sense, I could never be a doctor (again, not great at science and math), but in the emotional sense. I want to make people smile and create lasting memories. Fortunately, I learned about hospitality early on and was determined to get into a university with a well recognized program for such. That’s how I found Penn State University.
The School of Hospitality at Penn State University is one of the top programs in the nation and recognized for its massive community of alumni. There were two major things that PSU taught me on day one that will stay with me as long as I serve this industry. 1) They require you to complete 1,000 hours of hospitality related work experience in order to graduate. The only way to complete that realistically as an undergraduate student in 4 years, or in my case 3 ½; was to work weekends, nights, and holidays. An invaluable lesson to learn early on and one that has allowed me to hone an incredible work ethic. 2) The power of networking. Beginning Freshman year they provide countless opportunities to interact with alumni and industry professionals, challenging each student to step out of their comfort zone and build long lasting connections with potential future employers. Most of these connections have led me to where I am today. I kept myself very busy at Penn State through studies and organizations; still to this date I give back both in time and money, because I take great joy in investing into my own industry and the young talent that is out there. The Penn State alumni community has always been like family and I wish to see it grow strong.
From the center of Pennsylvania to the Big Apple. My career began at the iconic Waldorf Astoria New York. Penn State taught me a lot, but the Waldorf Astoria taught me how to triumph. The Waldorf Astoria became my home, the team became my family, the cafeteria cooked all my meals, the long hallways kept me in shape, and the pub down the block kept me well hydrated.
I learned what I wanted to do, I saw what my future could be and I met someone to spend it with. When the Waldorf Astoria New York closed its doors, I felt strong enough to take the next step in my career and now my resume shows that I have opened two hotels, surpassed my sales goals, traveled the world and received awards for continued dedication to my alma mater. I have learned that my passion is indeed taking care of people and I do that through my job everyday.
Through my time at the Waldorf Astoria, there was a significant trend that stands out to me most. It was mutual respect. There were no barriers between men and women, no barriers with age, race, sex, etc. It did not matter to anyone that I was a Hispanic female who literally graduated college a week ago; I was given the floor if I had something to say. This had a huge impact on my career very early on; it taught me who the leaders were and how they should act. In each of my early roles; all but 1 of my supervisors were female. This was not common, not even in 2014.
When the Covid-19 Pandemic hit, it impacted New York City hard and in March 2020 my hotel closed its doors indefinitely, placing me on furlough. Losing my passion and my day to day routine took a toll on my mental health, I will be honest about that. My relationships struggled, I questioned myself and I took it out on myself. Finally opening up about how difficult I was finding everything, helped me to open my eyes to see how so many other women were going through the same exact thing. So my natural passions kicked in again… I wanted to take care of people. Like-minded friends in the industry reached out to me to join a powerful initiative to change the narrative that women in the travel & tourism industry are facing. I wanted to answer this call, to be a part of the change, to help stop the “She-cession”.
Mentoring is pivotal, beyond gaining new knowledge and skills, you can learn so much from mentors. Quality mentoring provides professional socialization and personal support throughout your career. Mentor relationships are known for greatly impacting people’s success and being a mentor can provide endless rewards.
With an adrenaline boost, support system and new found confidence that the world will not implode (fingers crossed). I was long over due to challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone. Fast forward 6 months later in quarantine, it finally hit me. I can have more than just 1 passion. I have always had a love for cooking and learning new techniques in the kitchen, which inspired me to create a food blog dubbed “Snacks Happen”. This passion has kept me out of the quarantine-funk, and has kept my boyfriend well-fed.
Snacks Happen is so much more than a few great photos, and way beyond upgrading snack time.My mission is to utilize my growing platform to help spread the love and joy of cooking, eating and drinking. Cooking does not come naturally to some, and others don’t give it the chance it deserves.
It can be fun, it can be easy, and it can always be improved. Join me as I share my own recipes, cook up other’s, and drop some knowledge.
Most importantly; join me in this movement, join me in this cause, join me in getting involved to make change happen!
Women in Travel THRIVE.
Find out more about Abby by visiting her social channels or her website at www.snackshappen.com!