Mary Rogers’ father had wanted sons. Her parents ran a small farm outside Galway, a midsize city in western Ireland. Her dad raised heifers, young female cows, and had hoped for some strong boys to help with the work. Instead, he got a daughter — six daughters, actually — before two sons finally came around.
“My father was like, ‘Well, I still need them to help out,’” Rogers said, “So, we all did chores before school. We milked the cows. We fed them. We went to school, came home, did our homework. And then went back out to help out where he needed it.”
Decades later, Rogers is in a similar position — taking over a historically male role — as the first female Vice President and General Manager of Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Hotel management is a welcome shift from farm work, Rogers said, but it requires many of the same instincts she learned from the land.
“My father instilled in me a great work ethic,” she said. “You show up. You show up on time. You give it your all. That’s what I carry with me every day.”
LEARNING HOSPITALITY BY DOING EVERYTHING FOR GUESTS
Every summer during high school, Rogers took a job outside her family business, at a guest house in the nearby beach town of Salthill. There, Rogers worked the same schedule she did at home: seven days a week.
“I thought everyone worked seven days a week. I just thought you worked every day,” Rogers said. “When I finally came to the U.S. and got two days off each week, I was shocked.”
At this bed and breakfast, Rogers got her first sense of the significance of hospitality.
“I did everything, from the cooking and serving of the food to the cleaning of the rooms,” she said. “But I also talked to the guests, and I realized very quickly the impact I had on people’s vacations.”
Through chatting, telling stories, and doling out recommendations, Rogers realized she was good at livening guests’ leisure time, at helping travelers figure out how best to be themselves in a new place.
‘I KNEW I HAD TO BE PART OF IT’
With the encouragement of her boss, Rogers went on to get her degree in hotel and catering management. Two weeks after she graduated, Rogers boarded a plane to Tysons Corner, Virginia, to work at the front desk of a Ritz-Carlton. She stayed there for a decade, making her way up the ladder. In November 2008, she visited Miami Beach and toured the Fontainebleau property.
“I was blown away,” she said. “The owners have a vision of endless possibility. I just knew, I knew, I knew, I knew, I had to be part of it.”
Now, Rogers does exactly what she loved doing back in coastal Ireland: talking with guests.
“My favorite thing about hotels is that you meet people from around the world,” she said. “In Salthill, I’d talk with people from Seattle and I’d ask, ‘Where is that?’ I was from this small Irish town — I didn’t know where parts of the States were. But now I do.”
BY EVAN BENN | MiamiHerald.com