Starting her career with Aramark as a student worker, Brandi Heatherly, Regional Vice President in our Higher Education line of business, has made an illustrious career out of serving others in the higher education space.
Brandi Heatherly began her journey with Aramark on her own college campus, and as her passion for serving higher education communities grows, her career grows with it.
Having studied hospitality management while working on campus, Brandi credits the opportunity to join Aramark’s Student Manager Program as the starting point of a career marked by a commitment to service, diversity, and sustainability.
“I would say that Student Manager integration into coursework is what really changed my experience from a great job in the heart of campus – having fun and interacting with students, clients, and the community– to really being able to see that there’s a career path if I want to take it.”
Falling in love with that enduring sense of community and carving her own career path forward, Heatherly has dedicated nearly 3 decades to serving and leading Aramark teams on campuses across the United States.
“The part that gets me the most energized and excited is coming and spending the day with my teams, spending time with my clients, and feeling the energy and excitement of what people are doing. I think that’s why we’re attracted to the hospitality industry.”
Throughout her career, Heatherly learned that not only did Aramark employees share in excitement for their everyday work, but that this passion was rooted in shared values of service, innovation, and embracing differences.
“What I realized with Aramark was that its core values aligned with my core values. So, when you have that alignment, the right environment, and the right things to look forward to, it just works.”
Not only has Heatherly developed better hospitality and service skills since her first job with Aramark, but she has transformed into a dynamic, forward-thinking leader in the workplace, believing in the importance of being purposeful in her long-standing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“One of the things that I’m most proud of from my time at East Carolina, is when I got an award on behalf of Aramark for our work with vocational rehabilitation in Pitt County, which was working with diverse people of all backgrounds and levels of ability. Even way back in the 90s, Aramark was always committed to that kind of work. We always knew it was good for business, because what’s good for people is going to be good for business. If you empower people, you give people the skill set, and you get a diverse group of people to solve an issue, you’re going to get a great outcome.”
Striving to create better workplaces in various aspects, Heatherly reflects on the intersection of diverse team building, forward-thinking sustainability practices, and service-minded work during her time as a District Manager at Arizona State University, where she oversaw the Aramark Engrained Cafe on campus. Engrained has become a model for sustainability, incorporating six sustainability commitments that influenced the architecture of the restaurant, food that is served daily, and the design of the space that reduces reliance on electricity.
“If you think about sustainability, it’s more than just food, it’s about water conservation. It’s about lifestyle. There are so many components, which I think is what is so interesting about sustainability. Our Farm to Fork initiative has really grown, but if you think about our Be Well Do Well Initiative, and how it’s about people and planet, sustainability is about way more than just Farm to Fork. If you think about the world and how food, people, and all these things come together, how do you make sure it’s there for the future? It just seemed like a natural ‘aha’ moment.”
While Heatherly has been relentless in her pursuit of effective leadership practices and transforming college campuses, she hasn’t lost sight of the initial sense of excitement that first drew her to a career in hospitality.
“It’s been a fast 27 years. I can tell you it’s been a blur, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
To learn more about Brandi’s experience as a college student, her love for higher education, her passion for diversity & inclusion and more, check out the Q&A in this post!
— Brandi Heatherly, Regional Vice President
Hear more from our conversation with Brandi in the Q&A section below.
What did you enjoy most about working with Aramark as a college student?
For me, the ability to work on campus and in this location, in particular, was really at the heart of campus [at East Carolina University]. It was really like being in the middle of the scene of the student activity, because it was the biggest retail location in the heart of campus where everybody had to walk by and the academic core of campus, across from the bookstore. It really helped you feel like you were even more attached to the school, right as an undergraduate. You just felt like you were in the middle of it.
What is it about Higher Education that makes it such a special place to work?
I joke, I feel like I never left undergrad. I did graduate, but I feel like I never left. And it certainly, in my perspective, has kept me forever young. So, the energy is real, and I still get very excited. What I think just naturally happens a lot in Aramark and Higher Ed is the nurturing of people to achieve whatever their goals are. There were people above me and below me who were absolutely a part of me being who I am today and the role that I am in today. It was this, this commitment of support and energy and excitement and development that made all those things happen. And I feel it every time I walk on a campus.
What about Aramark has kept you with the company?
To be able to work in a place where folks really, genuinely align with what you are trying to do and have the same goal. Aramark’s goal is to exceed guest expectations. Your goal as an individual is to exceed whatever your day was the day before. You just have this alignment, and you have the right people supporting, encouraging, and being willing to help me see things that I probably wouldn’t have seen for myself. I think that represents a uniqueness of leadership and organizational dynamic.
What is one of your favorite Aramark memories?
Early on in my career, I was in the southeast, so hurricane relief was very, very real. We had two hurricanes back-to-back – Fran and Bertha – and then, we ultimately culminated within a couple years with then 100-year flood of Hurricane Floyd in North Carolina. The hurricane relief effort that I saw Aramark’s response to has always stayed with me. It’s a pretty challenging situation because you don’t know what you’re going to do. You’re staying. You’re not evacuating. Sometimes, you have commitments to serve the clients and the community, because of where you are, what you do at the campus, or for relief organizations. Early on in my career, in the hurricane relief days, I really saw Aramark’s people putting into action all the things we talk about and all the things we read about. We were the team on the ground, and we were the first ones to make sure that our guests and clients were served.
What comes to mind when you think about the way that Aramark approaches diversity and inclusion?
What started to resonate with me in the last 10 to 12 years was the information that you would get from a business perspective that showed the more diversity you have on your team, the better your business outcome. For me, the Women’s Food Service Forum experience really started to crystalize, and I started to help me understand and gain that education and awareness. Aramark has always been on them; you can look back at the awards that Aramark has received about that diversity, equity, and inclusion commitment. We’ve always been purposeful. You’ve always had the lens of trying to build your most diverse team, but with anything, the more you focus on it, the more you target it, the more you embrace it and nurture it, the better your outcome is going to be.
August 18, 2021
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