Meet Soojeong Search engine marketing: Killington Meals and Beverage Administrator
Soojeong “Soo” Seo
From the J-1 Visa program to the full-time Vermonter, Seo finds success and happiness in Killington
By Karen D. Lorentz
“In all honesty, I didn’t really know that much about Killington or Vermont. I tried to improve my English, ”Soojeong“ Soo ”Seo explained about her first visit to the ski resort.
Seo grew up in Daegu, South Korea, a city of 2.5 million people, and graduated from Kyeong-Myeong Girls’ High School in February 2000 and Kyungpook National University in 2004, majoring in astronomy and atmospheric science.
During her studies, she also took part in a number of international programs and English courses in New Zealand. To improve her ability to speak conversational English, she participated in the J-1 Visa program, which provides opportunities for cultural and educational exchanges in the United States through a variety of programs overseen by the U.S. Department of State.
“The J-1 program was a cultural experience, not just a work experience. It offered some credits from practicing English in a real work experience, with a month to travel afterward, ”noted Seo.
The driving route to New York City and Boston is part of the attraction of the ski area, she said. In Killington, she worked in the snowboard rental department at Snowshed.
Seo has occasionally ridden on school trips in Korea, but admits that she doesn’t like skiing. But she learned to snowboard in Killington during her 2003-2004 J-1 student season.
“I didn’t really take classes, friends took me… I learned the hard way with lots of falls and bruises.
“But it was so much fun. Later that season, I met my husband, Tyler Gugliotta, who was a rookie instructor. He has been teaching me ever since, and now our girls ages 13 and 8 are riding and trying to get me to try things like jibbing obstacles along the way.
“Now I think about it, I had no idea when I got here – we didn’t know anything about Vermont then. Now South Koreans know about it because they know about Bernie Sanders. My relatives know I live in the state Bernie is from. “
Questions and Answers with Soo Seo
Mountain Times (MT): So how did you come to move to Vermont?
Soo Seo (SS): After I finished school and graduated, we had a long-distance relationship with international phone calls on calling cards – in front of smartphones and great WiFi. Tyler visited me in Korea for my birthday and I visited him in the winter of 2004-05.
In the spring of 2005, he suggested and I suggested that I live in Korea to find out my background. So we went back to Korea together. We got married on Thanksgiving and moved to Vermont in July 2006.
MT: Did you get a job at Killington then?
SS: I worked in Ministars, ran Ministar rental technology, and helped with lunch and indoor activities during the 2006/07 season. Lia was born in the fall of 2007 and by the spring of 2009 I was ready to go back to work. I joined the Grand Hotel’s banquet team on a flexible schedule. Since then I have worked in various positions at F&B, including as a server and as a supervisor for food and beverages in the hotel.
After Mina was born in 2012, I found my work-life balance by changing my position. I worked part-time for Killington and from Spring 2014 to September 2015 as the Assistant City Clerk and Treasurer for the City of Pittsfield. I learned a lot about how things work in America, such as marriage certificates, life dates, voting rules, property taxes, etcetera, and got to know and know a lot of locals.
I returned to Killington full time for a long-term career choice and have been the Food and Beverage Administrator since September 2015.
MT: What does this job involve?
SS: I do different things in my department for all of our businesses, from base lodges, hotel and wobbly barn to yurt and motor room bar. I keep all necessary food and alcohol licenses up to date. Work with Chefs and marketing on all menus; Maintenance of the point-of-sales system database; and assist with budgets and reports, among other things.
MT: What do you like about your job?
SS: Diversity, from my daily tasks to the people I work with. Our guests also come from all over the world. I love meeting Korean guests at the resort. The variety includes the possibilities of team support (also known as job share) … the folding of towels in the large laundry room to bus tables in lodges … it never gets boring and gives me more perspectives.
A big project in the summer of last year was the conversion of the F&B checkout system in lodges to enable contactless transactions. We have been on one system for over 15 years and change is always challenging and ultimately rewarding.
MT: How has this unusual Covid-19 season affected your job?
SS: In usual years, I have to make sure that all of our musicians’ papers are up to date, they have played as planned, and are processing their payments. It’s not always as easy as it sounds, but I miss that interaction. With Covid, I have to edit fewer menus, create fewer items in the system, and no bands to keep track of.
It seems like it should be less work, but somehow “less is more” applies to this year’s workload.
Everything takes a lot more effort – place cards for lodge seating, table service at the Roaring Brook Umbrella Bar, a lot of planning from everyone, and tweaks over time. I think we’re all very used to constantly changing plans, but this Covid era is just something different!
MT: Any experience in the ski industry that was important to you?
SS: I met my husband. He’s from New York and went on a family vacation skiing. He decided to move here thinking he would like his own family to enjoy the mountain one day.
MT: How do you balance your roles as mother and wife with work?
SS: Hmmm, I do my best, but I don’t stress that I’m the best mother or wife.
At home they all do things. Instead of doing things for the children, they have to do it, or at least help. It was definitely not easy when the girls were little, especially when we both worked with distant grandparents at the resort. But we feel very fortunate that we had great midweek daycare and Killington programs including Friendly Penguins [daycare], First Track, Ministar and the Unleashed Season Program (except this year due to my schedule and Covid). You have plenty of time to bond sisters this winter.
MT: How do you spend your time outside of work?
SS: We are very family oriented; We always take one day a week for family day (except for busy vacation weeks). We like to do everything indoors and outdoors together – from cards and table tennis to riding days with the family and ice skating in winter. Last summer there was a lot of badminton, river, trampoline and bike, and we also started playing tennis.
MT: Are you satisfied with the life you found here in Vermont?
SS: Yes, my 13 year old daughter says she wants to raise her children in Killington when she has her own. I think that says a lot.
MT: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to move here?
SS: Well, I can’t say I’ve never had a hard time getting used to the rural life. Since you’re from an urban city, you can get everything and have it delivered 24/7.
Here, the country life means you don’t have that convenience – you may have to drive to the store for a half hour or the local store may close at 6 or 7. Since I live in Pittsfield, I need to plan ahead.
You should be willing to give up such little things for what matters more.
MT: Is there any evidence that you moved to Vermont?
SS: It’s about perspectives. You can learn things you didn’t know about. I lived in the city and didn’t know how beautiful winter could be. After experiencing winter in Vermont, I found out that I like it.
Vermont made me realize that I don’t really have to accomplish the same things that other people do. and that it’s okay not to accomplish anything great either.
Here, people seem to focus on what they enjoy and just be themselves. I don’t know if this is the rural lifestyle or just in Killington, but Killington makes it easy to be myself and focus on yourself instead of trying to fit in with what others are doing. This is different from Korean trends and the need to do what others are doing.
Tyler felt the same way that it is important to follow our hearts! Vermont is so beautiful. Moving to Vermont was an easy one and the best decision.