Melissa Schwartz, VP of Operations and Service for Aramark Refreshment Services, is just as passionate about people as she is about processes.
As a consultant in the Information Technology space, Melissa Schwartz was charmed by Aramark from day one. Even from the outside, Melissa knew that the Aramark culture was perfect for her, and she found a way to stay – even after her consulting contract ended.
“After a year and a half of being a consultant, I just didn’t want to leave. First, it was the only client I had stayed on with for that long, as normally I would keep moving from project to project, account to account. But I truly loved the people, I felt like I was part of a family, and I felt like I was making a difference every day. So it was really easy for me to have the conversation of ‘hey, I want to come work for Aramark.’”
From there, the rest is history. Melissa found a home at Aramark where she could bring the best of herself to the workplace and accomplish incredible things while enjoying the support of her peers and leaders alike. According to Melissa, however, her knowledge of systems and processes was only part of what made her successful. What truly set her apart as she rose through the ranks in her career was her ability to connect with the people around her, selling them on her vision and advocating for the people she leads toward success.
“When it comes to getting buy-in for a vision, my number one rule is to walk the walk. It’s walking in the shoes of the people doing the work to understand it at the ground level. So when you are making bigger decisions, you understand the implications of – ‘How will this affect the customer? How does it impact the employee?’ This ultimately opens the door for communication because you’ll get a lot more feedback by sitting in the truck driving between service calls than you can sitting in a meeting just looking at the numbers. That’s one piece of it. The other component is being an advocate for the team. Whether it’s pushing ahead to say we need better technology or fighting for more resources, it’s trying to be the catalyst of that positive change and not being afraid to push. In a way, I ‘sell’ internally every day to get our people what they need. You need to manage the message and constantly be promoting their work.”
Throughout her Aramark career, Melissa has lead countless operational overhauls that have revitalized Aramark’s approach to doing business, but that has never distracted her from her passion for giving back and uplifting others. When it comes to leadership, Melissa takes pride in being a mentor to others and, like so many things in her life, has boiled meaningful connections and relationships down to a science.
“I think about mentorship relationship almost like your board of directors, right? So I always tell people, set up your board. And on your board, you want to have people above you and peers to connect with. But to me, the most important people on my board are the people ‘below’ me, because they’re the ones that coach me about the mistakes I’m making while I’m making them. If my boss tells me I’ve made a mistake at a quarterly meeting, it’s already too late, right? So I treasure those mentor relationships, not for me helping them as much as they’re helping me. It becomes a two way street.”
To hear more about Melissa’s approach to leadership or the support she’s received in her career at Aramark, check out the Q&A!
— Melissa Schwartz, VP of Operations and Service
Hear more from our conversation with Melissa in the Q&A section below.
What does being a people leader mean to you?
I always tell people that managing people is the greatest reward you can get; it is also the most work you will ever do. It's a two-way street. I am a big advocate for my team with high standards for their performance. I build an environment where people want to run through walls for you, but they know what they get out it in return,
Have you felt supported at Aramark?
One of the most important things in my career has been mentorship. I've been lucky enough to have great mentors to tell me hey, you need to go talk to this person or that person and get their buy in. They never been mentors in any formal sense, but I've just had incredible coaches along the way in my career and I wouldn't be where I am today without that.
What has convinced you to stay at Aramark?
You own your destiny here. You're given a long runway but you have got to own it. We’re not the kind of company that says, check all these boxes, and you move ahead. If you own it, you can go anywhere within company. I've spent most of my working years at Aramark because it's the type of company that allows you to grow, develop, make mistakes and try new things.
What's your advice for other women in the tech space?
Number one, I always say don't fight the battle, win the war. At the same time, when you’re asked to do something you don’t love, focus on it as an opportunity to draw on your experiences because I promise you those experiences will come in handy at some point in your career. It might not necessarily be in your job description, but you will draw upon those experiences down the road. And lastly my advice is to embrace fortitude and grit. Do not be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. Aramark has always supported diversity of thinking, and I've been very fortunate to always have a voice. Even when I was an analyst, I felt comfortable that if I had an idea and saw the president, I should share my opinion.