Name: Leah Esper
Hometown: Born in Germany and relocated to Miami at 9 months old.
Degree/major: B.S. and M.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management.
Graduation Date: Spring 2018 and Fall 2019
Where do you work? What is your title? Marketing & Social Media Manager at Groot Hospitality
How did you get your job? Before I graduated with my master’s in 2019, I was a teaching assistant for the first David Grutman Experience: The Class. During the class, I got to know David Grutman and his team and would persistently make sure I spoke to him every class. My desire to work for Groot Hospitality all stemmed from that experience during the course. Listening to him speak about who he is and what his values are resonated with me. I believe after taking every opportunity I could find to talk to him, Grutman saw potential in me.
What experience did you need to have to be hired with this company? You needed to be enthusiastic, creative, and a people person. After the David Grutman Experience: The Class was hosted at the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, Grutman saw my master’s degree from there as another great asset. I had my first job at 16 as a social media manager for a local gym, where I fell in love with social media. Prior to my position at Groot Hospitality, I held jobs at Carnival Corporation and Chris Weinberg Events.
How did you gain this type of experience while in school? Gaining experience while in school meant having a job and passing my classes at the same time. I think with the right resources and motivation, anyone could do it. Although there were times it felt overwhelming, I never made excuses for myself and took every opportunity I could. I would map out my academics properly to see what I could handle on the school side, which determined how much I would be able to work and gain experience. I think one of the smartest things I did was getting a job that afforded me the opportunity to succeed and allowed me to focus on my schoolwork when necessary.
What school activities, internships or job fairs did you participate in? As a student, I would attend all of the job fairs my school hosted. Along the way, I was awarded the Carnival Gold Scholarship, which changed my life. Being a Carnival Gold Scholar gave me the resources and platform I needed to grow. I knew that Carnival had invested in me because they saw something within me, so I wanted to make sure I could prove to them I was worth the investment and grateful for the opportunity to do so. One day, Carnival Corporation offered me a starting position in their IT department and although I knew very little about IT, I was willing to learn anything.
What was your greatest fear going into your first job out of college? How did you overcome that fear? My greatest fear was letting down the team I joined. I asked myself when I accepted the position with Groot Hospitality, “Am I qualified for this?” I even Google searched, “is it normal to feel underqualified?" Google reassured me that “if your boss is hiring you, it’s for a reason." I knew self-doubt was natural, but by believing in myself and being open to learning something new every day, I had nothing to fear.
What does your day-to-day look like? Every day is something new. I manage the entire Groot Hospitality portfolio which has grown exponentially in the past 6 months. The portfolio includes restaurants such as Komodo, Swan, Papi Steak, venues like Liv and Story, and even the newly established hotel on Miami Beach, The Goodtime Hotel. Actually, I’m the person who answers your DMs. The content on the social media channels is what pushes Groot’s venues out to the world. I am also the creative director behind photo and video shoots with various brands. I work with photographers and videographers to make sure they capture the vision when shooting a new dish at one of our restaurants. Making sure the noodles are placed perfectly on the plate and capturing that moment is what is alluring to our guests.
Oh, and lots of meetings. New activations, promos and ideas happen every day.
How does the Chaplin School of Hospitality play a role in you landing your first job out of college? The Chaplin School of Hospitality prepared me to be successful in every way. No matter where I would be working, I would always use my resources at FIU and meet with their career coaches, professors and advisors. I truly believe I would not have this job if it weren’t for the fact that the Chaplin School of Hospitality offered a course like the David Grutman Experience: The Class.
Do you feel like the Chaplin School of Hospitality prepared you for this type of job? They gave me the confidence I needed to approach David Grutman and ask him about career opportunities. I took all of the classes, but I think it boils down to the confidence the faculty and staff had in me. If I ever needed anything, I always had a point of contact at the school.
What advice do you have for students looking for a job? Put yourself out there, don’t be afraid, use every single one of your resources, network, and dream big!
I have to ask… what is the coolest thing about your job? The coolest thing is the people I work with and work for.
What is next for you? I am honestly trying to figure out what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow! In all seriousness, I plan to be with this company as it grows and see where that takes me. I am doing what I love every single day!