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HCAT 153 Nataliia Okhrimenko News Center

When she came to the United States from Ukraine five years ago, Natallia Okhrimenko thought that, along with a new address, she also would take the opportunity to start a new career.

The senior sales manager’s reflections on her childhood kept drawing her to the idea of hospitality. Her father worked his entire life in the restaurant business, often taking her on the job when she was a small girl. “I was always wondering what it looks like to work in hospitality,” she said. “When I came here, I decided to try.”

Trying meant majoring in restaurant and hotel management at AACC’s Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute, and the front desk supervisor at Westin Annapolis has been pleased with the choice.

She appreciates how the AACC program provided access to the local hospitality industry network. “With hospitality people, it helps to establish contacts with the right people,” she said. Okhrimenko ended up at Westin Annapolis precisely because her mentor had connections there and knew her personality and work ethic would be a good fit.

Okhrimenko said she sometimes works with the kitchen for room service orders. The chefs who attended AACC know she took culinary classes and joke she should come to the kitchen, but she likes the complexity of the front desk. “What I like about my job is in tough situations when you have to be creative … you think from another perspective on the same issue and try to find a solution,” she said. “If the guest is happy, I’m happy too.”

She said it can be a hard business, but satisfying as well. “AACC taught us to be professional, confident,” she said, adding that all challenging issues can be tackled with the right perspective. She said she feels like she’s just starting out, and while she enjoys her job, she also might be interested in banquets or event planning. “Hospitality is so versatile,” she said. “Unless you try other areas you never know where you want to be.”