During the course of my career, I’ve had some amazing mentors. Recently I lost one of these special people. Among other things, it caused me to reflect on the experiences I had with him. A couple decades back, he was my guide around Operations and Management. Oh the mistakes I made; over-staffing, under-staffing, learning about facility management and maintenance, ordering, inventory, customer service, and the list goes on…
Until I learned my way around, the knowledge that he was only a call away, made me feel grounded. He never had to say: “I’ve got your back” – I and everyone else on our team knew he did and without question. He would calmly stand by, ready to save me, but most importantly, he would give me the opportunity to fail.
Sometimes, planning a large event feels like you are going into battle. Occasionally I wonder if countries were invaded and wars were started with less preparation and planning than we often do before tackling a large project. Multiple diagrams, multiple plans (usually A-G, including worst-case scenarios), production schedules, rain plans, load-in and load-out schedules, staff schedules, phone lists of all staff, vendors and sometimes their relatives… My mentor taught me well. Working with him gave me the skills I needed, to build a solid foundation in the hospitality industry.
He came to this country as an Immigrant who couldn’t speak the language. He started working as a dishwasher, then a bus boy and received multiple promotions over the years until he became the Hotel General Manager. He was the “go-to” guy for everyone and everything. Then it was his turn: he opened his own restaurant which he operated 364 days a year. He did very well. I moved away and did not see him for a while. When I found myself working on a logistically challenging and complicated event, I felt there was only one person who would be able to help me. As always he was busy, but without hesitation he said: “Let’s clear off this table, pull out your schedule and diagrams. I’ll get us some tea”. Without fail he was there for me and it’s always been a comfort to know that.
When he learned that he was sick with little time left, this too, he handled with grace. He was in my life for over 20 years and I finally realized, that I never told him what he meant to me. I’ve always cherished what I learned from him and feel proud that I can share the experiences with others.
Kal Kazimi, As-Salamu Alaykum (or may peace be upon you) and thank you for the lessons, patience and the many laughs.