Name: Gabriela Cortes
Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Degree/Major: Master’s in hospitality management with a specialization in mega events
When did you graduate? Spring 2023
Where did you work? Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix 2023
Job Title: Guest services representative
How did you get this short-time but exciting position? I heard about the opportunity through the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. They sent out a link to students who had previously worked or interned for Hard Rock Stadium. After my background check was done, I got the position, which started just a day after my FIU commencement, so I was literally off to the races.
What was your greatest fear going into your first job and how did you face it or overcome it?: My greatest fear going into the job was not knowing what my position would be until the last minute. I like to know what my responsibilities at an event will be beforehand so that I can mentally and physically prepare with time. However, it is important to note that that is hardly ever the case in mega events [defined by the industry as a large-scale event with a national or international profile and impact]. Attending orientation helped me overcome my fear because I learned what my duties would be, and I also got to meet and get to know better my team. By race day, we were all acquainted with each other and had planned a strategic way to do our job more efficiently.
What does a day on the job look like? A day on the job in the events industry begins very early. Everyone must be on time because, while it looks like everything is just happening organically, there’s a very detailed timeline to keep things running smoothly.
For Formula 1, we had to arrive at 7 a.m. at a parking lot and take a 25-minute shuttle to the Hard Rock Stadium. After a staff briefing, each team went to their station. I was in the guest check-in tent, which was located right at the entrance. Those who were entering area where I worked were invited by corporations linked to Formula 1.
People pay a lot of money to attend mega events, and hospitality is a big part of that experience. Throughout the day, we would greet individuals, scan their tickets, provide them with their credentials, answer questions and help them get to where they needed to go.
How does your job connect back to your coursework? Guest services at F1 directly put into action the lessons we learned in the classroom about guest experience and experiential marketing. In all my mega event classes, my professors highlighted the importance of treating customers right. This position not only showed me that there are all types of people across the world, but that it is important that we treat them all equally, no matter whether they are a VIP or general admission guest. All hospitality leaders, current and future ones, must provide an excellent experience at all times in order for an event to go off smoothly.
Attendance at the 2023 Miami Grand Prix increased from the inaugural race weekend last year to 270,000 fans. Above, outside the Hard Rock Stadium hours before race day
How has your transition from school to work been? Amazing. I have all the necessary tools to perform well and provide guests, co-workers and supervisors with the expected result. I also think that the Chaplin School prepared me incredibly through the various mega and large-scale events I was able to work on while still in school, like the Super Bowl and the South Beach Wine & Food Festival®. I also completed an internship that allowed me to gain confidence in ability to work with different types of people in various scenarios.
What advice do you have for those beginning the job search? Do not miss out on any opportunity that may come your way. Network with as many individuals as you can. These can be classmates, professors, co-workers, etc. You never know who can help you in your career, whether it’s by connecting you to someone else or offering you a job.
Additionally, I would recommend students have an open mind and make sure that others know who they are. You can do this by connecting with others via LinkedIn, volunteering at different places and positions, sharing your contact information with potential employers, sending a message to your co-workers/supervisors after an event or initial meeting and, most importantly, keeping an open mind.
What was the coolest thing about your F1 job? Being able to talk to so many different people. I got to meet staff members who were just beginning and others who have worked in the stadium for years. It was interesting to see both perspectives and be able to relate them to what I was experiencing and what I hope to do in the future. Also, it was very cool to be able to experience such a world-renowned event.
Although new in the U.S., Formula 1 has been very popular in Europe, and being part of its beginnings here makes me even more excited and proud of the career I chose. Finally, I have to say that it was extremely cool to work with and meet the drivers, celebrities and important business people.
As for my role, throughout the weekend, you could see the smile on the faces of millions of individuals who traveled across the world to experience the race. There were fans from all ages and all parts of the world who were excited to be a part of it and were cherishing every second. It was amazing to be a part of it!