Bryan Almond’s Deer Valley Difference

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Bryan is another first year staff member working as an assistant in the Human Resources Department. Until recently he was a member of the Utah Opera and has performed all over the world. He is also one of a select pair of Deer Valley male employees who come to work daily, wearing some form of neck-wear. Bryan distinguishes himself by wearing a bow-tie!

JF: Bryan, what was you occupation before joining Deer Valley Resort?

Bryan: I was performing with the Utah Opera and was also working for the Marriott Hotel Corporation while attending Medical School. I dropped out of Medical School because I found out that it wasn’t really for me. I did a lot of searching and concluded that I wanted to be involved with people, that I needed to use all my customer service and hospitality experience and found that Human Resources was probably the best bet for me. I started looking for some internship or entry level experience involved with human resources and that’s what landed me at Deer Valley Resort.

JF: How was your experience as an Opera Singer?

Bryan: I was raised in an Air Force Military family so I grew up moving all the time as a kid. Before I went to college, I actually visited India; you see, travel is in my blood. Then I went to school to be a music teacher. In order to get my scholarship, I had to take private lessons of some kind and eventually interviewed with the Chicago Symphony and, much of my surprise, was accepted as the youngest person in their chorus. That’s where my singing career took off and from there, I did internship, composition, conducting and I ended up in Germany for a while.

JF: What did you like about singing?

Bryan: I liked that I was good at it [chuckle]! It’s something that came naturally to me and because I traveled so much as a kid, it wasn’t difficult for me to move around, so people and travel where the areas I enjoyed most, more so than simply performing.

JF: And what didn’t you like?

Bryan: Opera singing is a very unstable profession, especially if I wanted to stay in the United States. Unlike Europe, there isn’t a great need for Opera appreciation in America, it’s more of a status thing. It also got to a point when I became tired of traveling, just because I had being doing it for so long. I had it with my romantic bohemian experience!

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JF: What put you in contact with Deer Valley?

Bryan: I was looking for an entry-level human resources type job, because I was working on my professional certification and that experience was something I needed. I searched all over the places in the hospitality industry and the Deer Valley opportunity got my attention, I applied and obtained the position!

JF: What attracted you to Human Resources?

Bryan: People! I really like people, I like to help others, I like to be of service.

JF: What did you do with Marriott?

Bryan: I worked in the front office, worked at the front desk, checking in guests, working the phones, doing errands for special people, solving problems nonstop!

JF: Where did you live when you heard about the Deer Valley opportunity?

Bryan: Salt Lake City. I sill live there. Yet, at first, I wasn’t sure about the commute. This wasn’t the most convenient location for me, and in actuality, I had never set foot in Deer Valley before the first day I came to work. No one had ever met me in person!

JF: So, you were hired, sight unseen?

Bryan: You could say that.

JF: That’s amazing! Did you have a Skype interview?

Bryan: No. We just did everything over the phone!

JF: You must have sounded perfectly right; congratulations!

Bryan: Thank you!

JF: How much did you know about the ski industry prior to taking that job? Were you a skier?

Bryan: I didn’t know much about the ski industry but I skied a lot while I was in Seattle getting my Masters.

JF: What are your day-to-day job responsibilities?

Bryan: I aid in the hiring process, I help new hires get oriented, I help with employee appreciation programs, all day, I answer the phone and questions about the various positions or the benefits. It never stops. I never had to memorize so many names in my entire life!

JF: When you got on board, what were you expecting?

Bryan: Even though the position was a bit different than what I had imagined, I liked what I found. I definitely found that HR was the right place for me, I didn’t expect the position to be as busy as it is though, but this is because we’re seasonal, yet the job is very enjoyable, I work with a great group of people who makes it fun!

JF: What kind of welcome and support did you receive from your co-workers?

Bryan: From day one it was so different from the other jobs I had before. It was overwhelming in a good way, everyone wanted to help, and all made me feel comfortable. Everyone was also so approachable. My birthday was soon after I stated working, so they made me a cake and it made feel so welcome!

JF: What are the most important things you’ve picked up since you’ve been working with Deer Valley?

Bryan: That there was a big difference between helping guests and helping my fellow employees. Since I’m mostly in contact with our staff, I sometimes have to say “no” to some of their requests. “No” had never been a part of my professional vocabulary and I have found this adjustment a bit difficult.

JF: Since you’re now fully immersed within the Human Resources Department, what would you say are the key qualities required from those who wish to work at Deer Valley?

Bryan: I think they definitely have to want to be here! I don’t ski, so I’m not here for the snow, but I like the experience, the environment and my co-workers are the main reason for me to want to be here.

JF: When you hire people, what are you looking for?

Bryan: Usually you can tell if someone is willing to learn or if they enjoy learning, but I would say that having the right attitude is the most essential quality!

JF: So, Bryan, now that we know more about you and your remarkable career path, what in your view makes the Deer Valley Difference?

Bryan: Part of the Deer Valley difference is helping our guests but it’s also helping each other. The position I’m in focuses on the “helping each other” aspect. Deer Valley is extremely supportive of its employees, there are many of people who have an “open office policy” and in my daily work, we’re constantly working on employee appreciation programs, adding policies on how to improve benefits, to make everyone fully appreciated, and to keep on nurturing a wonderful group of people!

 

Akeeno Clarke’s Deer Valley Difference

Akeeno Clarke

Akeeno Clarke

New to Deer Valley’s staff, Akeeno Clarke is a culinary extern who comes to us from Jamaica. Born in Hanover, Parish of St. James, Akeeno went to culinary school in Montego Bay. He currently works as a Chef at Royal Street Café.  

JF: Why did you pick culinary school?

Akeeno: Because in Jamaica, you want to set an example for youngsters like yourself. In high school, I was actually granted a culinary scholarship to go to Spain, and I ended up working for the Grand Palladium Palace, one of the most famous hotels on the island of Ibiza. When I returned from that experience, I felt compelled to further myself professionally and to commit to a culinary career.

JF: How did you become aware of Deer Valley Resort?

Akeeno: In Jamaica, we don’t know much about skiing. I was approached by my Dean who told me about a program offered by Janus International, involving hospitality student exchange for bachelor degree graduates like me. I actually sought out this program and that’s how I was told about an opening at Deer Valley, in a state called Utah. I’d never heard about that place. The only thing they told me was to bring some warm winter clothes because it was going to be cold!

JF: Get ready for some snow!

Akeeno: That’s right, be ready for the snow. So, I looked up on the Internet, I explored the Deer Valley website and after I completed that first Skype interview, I immediately felt the love. I liked the people I talked to and I jumped on the opportunity!

JF: What did you expect when you took that job?

Akeeno: Apart from expecting some very cold weather, I was told in the interviews that the resort was ranked number one in America. I was also told in one these interviews by Chef Chris Gibson at the Royal Street Café, that everything in the kitchens is made from scratch. Their dressing, their tomato sauce and everything else are all made from scratch, from quality, fresh ingredients.

JF: Were your hopes realized?

Akeeno: When I got there, not only did everything I had imagined materialize, but my expectations were absolutely exceeded. I must commend Chris Gibson as he set the tone and shone a very distinct light on what was supposed to be done.

JF: How would you compare your previous experience, abroad in Spain, with that at Deer Valley?

Akeeno: I must say that Spain and America are two distinctly different nations. The way of doing things is also different; while the internship in Spain was very enriching, Deer Valley offered both a much more friendly and professional work place. I guess Deer Valley has been improving its services, its culture and its environment for a much longer period of time. Nevertheless, both places will have been great experiences that I will treasure for a long time!

JF: This obviously is your first season at Deer Valley Resort?

Akeeno: Yes, my very first season, but I hope the first of many more to come!

JF: Are you saying that you are hoping to return next winter?

Akeeno: Definitely, if I am given the opportunity!

JF: What were your first impressions when you began to work?

Akeeno: From the get go, the minute I arrived, Chris told me, “Jump in the kitchen!” and proceeded to show me around. While I was already getting involved, I began to pick up bits and pieces of the job, that I guess, make the “Deer Valley Difference.” The whole training was communicated to me in a very friendly manner. What surprised me the most was how everyone was treated equally, the same rules that applied to the managers also applied to the staff and whether I was hard at work or just having fun skiing, I was always treated with respect and friendliness.

JF: Precisely, let’s talk about your skiing experience. I guess you had never seen snow before you came here, right? When did you arrive?

Akeeno: That’s right; snow was new to me! I arrived on January 13, and it was cold and snowy; it had just snowed the day before.

JF: How did you learn to ski?

Akeeno: That’s surprising because when I first came here, I was shocked; I arrived from a warm country into a very cold place. I told myself, “I’ll never go skiing!”  I had heard about a couple of ski lessons that were coming up, but I never went to any of them. Then my friends, back in the kitchen, kept on telling me, “You need to go skiing, you need to come with us!” I’m talking about guys from Argentina or from the Philippines and one day someone summoned me one more time to get on skis. It’s at that moment that I finally decided to give it a try. I actually never took a ski lesson. My buddies showed me how to do it; that was it and now I’m doing it almost every day!

JF: You mean to say you’re skiing every day? That’s a fast learning curve!

Akeeno: You’re right, I’m skiing almost everyday and to my surprise I’m enjoying it very much. I love to ski!

JF: Aside from skiing, what are the most important things you’ve learned since you’ve been at Deer Valley?

Akeeno: First, I’d say that they’re a lot of different cultures in the work place. You need to be receptive to all the people that surround you. Coming from Jamaica where the culture is a lot different, in Deer Valley I needed to learn how to interact with all my co-workers whether they came from Argentina, Peru or Paraguay. Another important element of what I learned is the barrage of recipes I’ve learned to prepare. But what I learned the most has been about quality and consistency in all the meals I prepare, and my own ability to control my attitude in that high stress level job. Those are by far the most important skills I’ve learned at Deer Valley and I treasure them.

JF: Now, if you had friends who might be interested in taking a position at Deer Valley, what would you tell them are the required qualities to successfully accomplish the job and be happy?

Akeeno: As a matter of fact, when my friends back in Jamaica ask me what it would take to get a job like mine at Deer Valley, I always tell them that they must be a consistent person, they must be very punctual, they have to show up early on the job everyday. I mean they’re not supposed to be at work watching the clock, they have to be committed to their task. Much of this has to do with the high standards Deer Valley is setting. People working here have a mutual interest with what Deer Valley is trying to create and what they want to achieve for themselves.

JF: This makes a lot of sense. Now, in your view, what is so special and so different about Deer Valley Resort?

Akeeno: What’s really special about Deer Valley? As I mentioned before, it’s all the employees. They all know how to provide quality in a consistent manner. It never changes; everyone is aware of the standards Deer Valley is setting. It’s not like one day you can provide a certain level of service and a totally different one the next day. For instance the “Deer Valley Difference” is found in details like when you are about to ride the chairlift, the lift attendant brushes the snow off the seat and says, “Enjoy your day skiing!”, regardless of whether you are a guest or a resort employee. They will repeat these gestures and say something nice to you every single time; it never changes…

JF: The same measure for everyone?

Akeeno: The exact same!

JF: Akeeno, anything else you’d like to say?

Akeeno: I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Deer Valley, its staff, its managers and all my co-workers. Thank you for accepting me and for sharing your knowledge with me. When I return to Jamaica, this will have been a life changing experience for me that I will share with every one I come in contact with. I only hope that I can keep on working at Deer Valley Resort for many more seasons!