Marc Babin - Cue The Steel Drums

by GEM Magazine / Mar 16, 2015 / Comments

You power through your post-secondary bachelor’s degree, full of hope and excitement that you will land that perfect job. You have all the knowledge you will need and businesses are craving it; basically waiting for you to knock on their doors. At least that is what we are led to believe. The first interview however, hits you in the face like a brick wall. “What do you mean you need me to have more ‘experience’?” Shortly after coming to a realization that the post-degree world isn’t all it was promised, life hits you pretty hard. At least it did for me. I knew that the only way to get my foot in the door was to prove myself outside of the classroom, no matter what job I had.

I started my post degree life working at a high end fitness club. Having been an athlete the majority of my life, I know that those who choose to spend their time at a gym are highly motived, driven and usually successful. Working at the fitness club was the first step into my career; surrounding myself with those who I wanted to emulate. No education could have gotten me those interactions and it was the fuel for my fire. In fact, it was a member who forged the path to my next job.

Nearing the end of my time at the fitness club, I started targeting what I thought was my dream position for an ad agency in Victoria. I applied at one of the few agencies and got to the final stages, however, the other applicant was full of agency experience and was the natural choice for the firm. I kept in touch with the owner who recommended me to a client of theirs, The Strathcona Hotel. They agreed to see me in reference to a position they had opening up. Again, this was an entry level position but to me, it was an opportunity to grow. Countless interviews and an application project later, I was chosen for the job.

I started off as the Events Coordinator. It didn’t take long before I had expanded that job and became Events and Communications Manager. The majority of the venues were straight forward. The nightclub on the other hand, was a world very foreign to me. Earlier I had mentioned being an athlete most of my life. This kept me out of the night scene and in the words of my colleagues, I may have been too “clean cut” for it. I took the challenge on, but instead of coming at the nightclub from a “party” mindset, I came at it using my business and marketing knowledge.

A nightclub is a business that sells a product, and more importantly, an experience. That is how I always looked at it. We had promoters, club managers, and staff to bring the product to life but I was there every weekend for 2.5 years focusing on the experience. Countless times I would get; “why are you mad?”, “what’s wrong?”, “what are you staring at?”. I would stand back from the crowd and watch everything. How the staff interacted with the guests; how the guests expressed themselves after an interaction; their first impressions when they arrived; reactions to specific songs. Further, I would touch tables, talk to the guests and see how their night was going and why they came to us. This was not a requirement of my position, far from it. I did it because I was part of a team putting the events together and sitting in an office staring at a computer isn’t going to tell me what our customers wanted.

As advanced as our social world has become, there will never be any comparison to the lost art of “talking to people”. This was honestly my favourite part of the entire job. Simply interacting with people. Talking with them as they enjoy a night out with friends or dealing with someone who is upset – it is all part of what makes the business grow and I enjoyed facilitating it.

It was the many nights of watching, learning, and interacting that led to the Strathcona’s newest venue, the remodelled and re-launched Distrikt Nightclub. Quite honestly, it is easy to throw a bunch of money at a nightclub. Some lights on the walls, speakers on the stage and the fancy new bars are all easy. The trick is how to best use everything together to drive traffic, influence decisions and build the club. I may have helped with this, but I throw a lot of credit to that of my colleagues. The bartenders, club manager and promotions manager know the business inside and out. I was just a young “clean cut” kid, still relatively fresh out of school with a few ideas based on my observations. Distrikt’s continued success, even to this day, goes completely to that team.

I often got asked, and still do, “how did you keep your life balanced while working every weekend, countless hours and being around so many people all the time?” The truth is, I didn’t. When you are working 20 hour days, your head is down and you do what needs doing. Having been gone for 2 months now I see that my life was not balanced. Some relationships made were quite one sided and bluntly put, once that signing authority is gone, so are you. With that said, the majority of people I got to know, work with and meet, I still keep in touch with. Amazing people who work and live in the industry, people that I am beyond fortunate to have met. But once we had the venue up and running to the standards we had set, I knew that my time in the industry was done. I wanted to keep challenging myself while finding that balance. Cue the steel drums.

On New Year’s Eve, the toughest, hardest shift of my work year, I received an offer from The Westin Resort and Spa, in the Cayman Islands. Talk about throwing your day off balance. It took a few weeks for me to absorb the decision, but in mid-January, it was set, my permit was approved and I was selling my furniture. I have been here for a month and it is an adjustment to say the least. The work, the lifestyle and the culture are all very different than anything I have experienced. Working for a corporate hotel is very structured and with a name like Westin, guests expect perfection. Standards are put in place and it is our job to meet them while exceeding customer expectations.

The lifestyle is tougher than one may assume but I am adjusting. Driving on the other side of the road forces you into a different way of thinking, an organized chaos if you will. Everything aside, as I type this article I am laying in a hammock on my balcony, overlooking a world class pink sand beach with the 90 degree winter sun beating down on my pale white Canadian skin. I think it is safe to say that through my many experiences so far, I have found my balance.

By Marc Babin

Marc is a 25 year old events and marketing professional currently living and working in the Cayman Islands for The Westin Grand Cayman Beach Resort and Spa. Every job he takes on is an opportunity to expand his knowledge and gain experience. Residing in the Cayman Islands doesn't change that and his professional abilities continue to grow.

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