Born in Mexico, Jose Ortega has learned a lot about the hotel business and life since leaving his home country for the United States to be with his now-wife, only venturing into the hotel industry after the collapse of the housing market, and with it, his employment in the construction industry. The current general manager of the Sightline Hospitality-managed boutique property Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort in Calistoga, Calif., shared with LODGING how the combination of “hands-on” learning and classroom lessons have informed his approach to adapting to working with and managing others.
Ortega is now balancing his full-time position with classes at Santa Rosa Junior College, where he is pursuing an Associate’s degree as a step toward a hospitality management degree. Like many who have advanced in the hotel industry, his first stop was the front desk. “I was a guest service agent at Best Western Golden Key in Auburn, Calif., from 2005 to 2010, after which I went to the Carmel Mission Inn, where I rose to the position of rooms division manager, after which I accepted my current position, which makes use of all those I held before, including construction.”
“I think the more information you have, the better. School has taught me many things I didn’t learn on the job—things that make my work faster and more efficient, and my life easier.”
He says those “hands-on” experiences helped him develop many of the skills that were then sharpened through his academic training. “I think the more information you have, the better. School has taught me many things that I didn’t learn on the job—things that make my work faster and more efficient, and my life easier,” he observes.
He says Sightline, the hybrid third-party management company born of the merger of the independent hotel management company Kokua Hospitality, LLC, and Filament Hospitality, is highly supportive of both formal and informal education. “Sightline is a company that believes in and invests in its employees. They saw my potential and took me under their wing, providing the opportunity to get me where I am now, and they encourage me to continue to grow.”
Ortega says one huge lesson he’s learned from his ongoing education and the support he’s received from Sightline is that he too wants to be that kind of leader. “Speaking from a manager perspective, it’s my job to back employees and help them grow. Just as Sightline saw my promise, I need to be on the lookout for promising up and comers. You never know when you’re going to find the next employee to come up from their job,” he says, adding, “It’s a good feeling to know you’re helping someone grow in the industry and giving them support to make their journey easier and more successful.”
Stressing that there is no substitute for teamwork, Ortega says, too, that no matter how much he learns, he will always need to rely on others for what they know and can do. This, he says, was especially apparent while preparing for planned construction on his property. “I had that background in construction and there are classes on this kind of thing, but there’s a lot to know about building codes and other aspects of this kind of project. The good thing is that there are others who know what I don’t. At the end of the day it all comes down to teamwork.”