Xzavia Acklin, Premium Concession Manager for our Sports & Entertainment line of business, discovered a home away from home at Aramark as a college student. While working at her campus dining hall and through multiple internship opportunities, she was able to discover the job of her dreams and a passion that drives her career to this day.
When she first left home to attend college in another state, Xzavia Acklin quickly discovered one of the first challenges of college life – feeding yourself when your parents are no longer around. After her first trip to the campus cafeteria, however, Xzavia found more than just a warm meal – she found a home away from home.
“I came straight out of high school, and I didn’t know what I was going to eat because my mom cooked for me three meals a day. I’m like oh my goodness, I gotta get a meal plan. So then went to the cafeteria, and the atmosphere was so heartwarming, it felt like a home away from home. I gravitated towards it and begged for a job. I was like, can I work here? And they told me to apply. So I became a cashier at the dining hall. And from there, I got to know more about Aramark.
I was an accounting major at first, but classes seemed a little bit boring. I just loved my job around people – my cafeteria job. I saw it as an opportunity, not necessarily for my career growth, but more for a passion that I didn’t know existed until I got the job. From there, they promoted me to Student Manager. I was able to go to retail stores and I got to run a Chick-Fil-A, a Panda Express, and it just kind of made me that “It” girl on campus, because everybody has to eat! I became pretty popular because everybody knew me.”
As Xzavia’s passion for people and service grew, she began to pursue more and more opportunities with Aramark, including an internship through Aramark’s Step Up to Leadership (S2L) program and the Accelerate to Leadership (A2L) graduate development program. Through these Aramark programs, Xzavia was able to experience a wide variety of exciting roles and environments as she embarked on a journey to further discover and develop her passions.
“I took some S2L positions, including one in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. It was in the middle of nowhere, but the people were so nice and it became yet another home away from home. I made it a goal to learn each sector of the company because it was just that entertaining. And I was like, what do I not know? Or what will be my best fit? So I did that internship, went back and graduated from college, then got encouraged to join the A2L program for graduates. Through that program, I took manager positions in other sectors like Hospitality Management, Healthcare, and Sports & Entertainment, but Sports & Entertainment was really home.“
Having worked at multiple sports stadiums and arenas throughout the southern United States, Xzavia discovered an exciting, energizing atmosphere where she could be her best self at work and succeed while doing what she loved.
“When I started working in Sports and Entertainment, I was like, wow, I get paid to do this?! It’s cliché, but I compare my workday to a mini-trip to Disney World. People from school will be mad at me for saying this, but I’m not really a sports fan. It took me actually being in the venue to see the treasure that it actually is. You may think we’re just selling hot dogs and beer, but when you see that little kid and grandpa the happiest they’ve ever been as they walk up to buy that hot dog and beer, it triggers something that makes it so hard to leave this line of business. It’s the event inside the event. Usually, I couldn’t tell you who won the game or not, but I can tell you about those moments at the concession stand!”
To hear more about Xzavia’s Aramark experience, check out the Q&A or featured audio clips!
— Xzavia Acklin, Premium Concession Manager
Hear more from our conversation with Xzavia in the Q&A section below.
How did you discover Aramark?
I started with Aramark through college. When I got to my University I didn't know what I was going to eat, because my mom had cooked for me three meals a day. I went to the cafeteria, and the atmosphere was so heartwarming, it felt like a home away from home and I gravitated towards it. So I applied and became a cashier at the dining hall and from there, I got to know more about the company. My major seemed a little bit boring, and I was like, I don't really like this but I love my job around people.
Have you felt supported to grow at Aramark?
Yes, but first I had to realize that I can't expect someone to read my mind. When I started at the stadium I knew I wanted Club level, that's what I wanted to run. I envisioned it, but I never had that conversation with my manager. Then one day, it clicked, so I went to my boss. I asked "what is it that I need to do to align myself? What do I need to sharpen up on?" He hadn't known that I wanted to achieve that. When I had that conversation, within months, I saw myself being pulled into meetings just to learn the terminology of Club, getting familiar with the client needs for the department. But I had to ask, and I had to let that be known. So for Aramark as a company, the resources are there, it's just the individual using them.
What is the energy like working in Sports and Entertainment?
I compare it to a mini trip to Disney World, it sounds cliché, but it's true. I was not a big sports fan, it took me being in the venue to treasure that I'm making somebody's life long memory. On the small scale of things, people are like "Oh, you sell hot dogs and beer," but when you see that little kid and grandpa walking up the happiest they've ever been to buy that hot dog and beer, it triggers something. To see people excited in entertainment is something that's so hard to get anywhere else. To me, I think that's the thrill, that there's an event going on. And then there's the event inside event for our staff and that's it's own excitement.
When did you realize that Aramark was more than just a job?
I moved here for this job by myself not knowing anyone, it was just me. The Director of Operations invited me to Thanksgiving dinner because I had just started in that summertime. It was during the start of the season so we were interacting at work but I always make sure to give people that space, work is work and personal is personal. Not everybody want to be around you 24 hours! But that invite changed my outlook on things, you can have a professional/personal relationship with coworkers. It took that for me to say, okay I can be myself and this is an environment that's inviting and they want to make you a part of their work family. I think that was the moment where I knew I made the right decision.
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