Not many 14-year-olds who get a part-time job expect to find themselves with the same employer 20 years later. But Gina Fernandez found great opportunity at Brooksby Village, an Erickson Senior Living Community in Peabody, Mass., and has enjoyed her experience moving up the ladder.
This year, in recognition of her outstanding professional performance and leadership skills, Gina Fernandez was promoted to the community's sales director.
Start of the story
"I was a freshman in high school" at nearby Peabody Veterans Memorial High School, Fernandez recalls, when she joined Brooksby's Dining Services waitstaff. She kept that job throughout her high school years, appreciating the experience of serving residents in the restaurants and during special events.
In her senior year, she decided to stay local for college and attend Salem State University.
With just about seven miles between the Brooksby Village and university campuses, Fernandez continued working at the retirement community. Her major in communications and minor in marketing prepared her perfectly for her career trajectory at Brooksby.
"While I was in college, I thought I wanted to go into the wedding industry. So, I got a certificate in wedding planning. I worked at a wedding venue and a bridal shop for a little while, when I was still on-call with Brooksby Village dining and catering," she recalls.
'Where I want to be'
"When I graduated - still working in dining full-time - I offered wedding planning services on the side. At the time, we were planning a 10-year anniversary celebration for Brooksby, and event planning was the direction I thought I might go."
Fernandez was promoted to dining administrative assistant in 2006, and then to human resources coordinator in 2011, where she organized employee events such as the annual holiday party.
"That position worked with my background and the kind of interests I had at the time," she says. Six months later, the Brooksby Village sales team reached out to Fernandez for help with planning their events.
The sales department was a perfect fit. "I just loved it from day one. I thought, this is exactly where I want to be." Fernandez stayed with the Brooksby Village sales team, moving into the sales associate position in 2012.
"I just really loved everything that they did," she recalls about her start in sales. "I got a taste of what it was like to answer phones, plan and run events, and promote Brooksby's carefree lifestyle - telling people about how the community changes people's lives for the better."
Fernandez made it her goal to help out with "a little bit of everything," from events to contracts to financial approvals.
"It really sunk in that this was the path I wanted to take," she says. "And here I am!"
Moving on up
Within her first two years at the sales office, she was nominated to the Future Leaders group, a yearlong training opportunity. With her experience and training, she was ready to move into the sales manager position.
"A big part of what I was doing as sales manager over the past eight years is supporting our director and the team," Fernandez says. "But my main role was meeting and working with prospective residents as a backup to our sales counselors. So, coming into the director's position, I have a very well-rounded background of really knowing and having my hands in just about everything."
At the start of 2022, Fernandez became the community's new sales director, after former director Suzanne Davis retired.
Jason Atwell, vice president of regional sales, says he continues to be impressed by the high quality of Fernandez's work over the past two decades.
"I have known Gina Fernandez for 14 years - she's conscientious, hardworking, driven, and fun," Atwell says. "My impression and observation of her as a Brooksby Village employee is that she is well-liked and well-respected. She is kind, thoughtful, and widely known throughout the community."
Atwell knows that the relationships she's built with residents and coworkers will translate into her becoming a collaborative, knowledgeable, and impactful sales director. "What a story she has to tell of her time and experience!" he adds.
Support and encouragement
Fernandez says that Brooksby Village has always been a great place to work.
"I've been blessed with lots of opportunities for training and promotion in my career. And I've always felt very appreciated for everything that I do. There's an unbeatable level of support and encouragement," she adds. "There's a sense of community here - whether it's the tremendous interaction with residents or fellow employees, we really all consider ourselves a family. It's been such a good place to be."
To learn more about affordable, independent senior living at Brooksby Village, request your free brochure to get the scoop on amenities, floor plans, and so much more.