17 QUES­TIONS Maria For­tu­nato

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS -

TI­TLE: Ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor OR­GA­NI­ZA­TION: The Heart of On­tario: Hamil­ton Hal­ton Brant Re­gional Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion WHERE: 605 James St. N., Suite 201 WEB: the­hearto­fontario.com 1. What is your com­pany’s mis­sion state­ment? The Heart of On­tario is an in­de­pen­dent, in­dus­try-led, not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion re­spon­si­ble for work­ing with tourism part­ners to en­hance and grow the re­gion’s tourism prod­ucts and mar­ket­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. 2.

What ad­vice have you re­ceived that has helped you the most? Re­spect and cul­ti­vate tal­ent to not only help to meet cur­rent and fu­ture busi­ness goals and ob­jec­tives but to en­cour­age in­di­vid­u­als on a team to grow above and be­yond what they be­lieve they can do. 3.

Can you think of a time in your ca­reer where things were not go­ing well, but you man­aged to turn it around? How did you per­se­vere? Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from McMaster Univer­sity and Hum­ber Col­lege, get­ting a full-time ca­reer po­si­tion in my field of study (mar­ket­ing, pub­lic re­la­tions, com­mu­ni­ca­tions) was not ma­te­ri­al­iz­ing. I re­turned to Hamil­ton af­ter be­ing in Toronto and worked in re­tail to pay the bills and give me some time to fig­ure what’s next. In this time that I was “find­ing my­self,” I be­grudg­ingly re­al­ized that the per­ma­nency of em­ploy­ment and work­ing for one com­pany had changed for young peo­ple and grad­u­ates. I turned things around when I de­cided to take on short-term con­tracts and build my port­fo­lio, skills and ex­pe­ri­ences that would be trans­fer­able to the ca­reer path I would steer along the way. 4.

What are the key prin­ci­ples that guide you in your day-to-day life? I be­lieve in cre­ativ­ity, in­no­va­tion, col­lab­o­ra­tion and ser­vice ex­cel­lence — these guide me in my day-to-day life and form the foun­da­tion for how I like to build and work in the var­i­ous teams I lead and I am part of. It is im­por­tant for all to feel val­ued, re­spected and rec­og­nized. 5.

What makes you laugh? Shel­don, a char­ac­ter from (the TV show) Big Bang The­ory, re­ally makes me laugh. The way he lives his life, how he says what he says, and how he re­lates with his friends and the gen­eral world are funny and sweet at the same time. Even the re-runs of the show con­tinue to make me laugh. It is re­ally a well­writ­ten show and fan­tas­tic en­sem­ble cast­ing! 6.

What is your guilty plea­sure? Shoes! I es­pe­cially like to buy shoes when I travel and re­mem­ber the place I vis­ited when I wear them. My favourite brands are Miz Mooz and Fly Lon­don. 7.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? Work­ing as a fundrais­ing de­vel­op­ment co-or­di­na­tor for the Cana­dian Can­cer So­ci­ety. It was my first of many con­tract po­si­tions in the non-profit sec­tor and it was very mem­o­rable as I got my first ded­i­cated-to-me work desk, my first busi­ness card, my first ca­reer-ori­ented pay cheque, and my first ca­reer-based ap­praisal. All these com­po­nents for me were signs that I had tran­si­tioned from a full-time stu­dent to the work world! 8.

What do you do to wind down from work? I like to walk. Nor­mally, in the win­ter, I walk around my neigh­bour­hood; how­ever, in the other sea­sons I change things up and go down to the water­front: ei­ther in cen­tral Hamil­ton or at Con­fed­er­a­tion Park, which are my favourites. 9.

How do you mo­ti­vate peo­ple? I am pas­sion­ate about the work that I cur­rently do, lur­ing visi­tors to our re­gion and work­ing with tourism stake­hold­ers to build in­cre­men­tal busi­ness. We have lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties to grow and build our des­ti­na­tion pres­ence in the mar­ket­place. My pas­sion and en­thu­si­asm for what I do in­fuses those that work with me and I am com­mit­ted to sup­port, en­cour­age and coach team mem­bers and col­leagues to take ac­count­abil­ity for per­form­ing qual­ity work and pro­vid­ing ser­vice ex­cel­lence. 10.

What is your big­gest pet peeve? When cars butt in as you’re wait­ing to move along in an exit on or off a high­way. You’re wait­ing your turn and oth­ers can’t seem to wait. 11.

What do you want to work on? I am in­ter­ested in lan­guages, am cur­rently learn­ing Span­ish and have travel in mind to more Span­ish-speak­ing coun­tries soon. I am also flu­ent in Ital­ian and French. 12.

What is on your bucket list? I would like to travel and ex­pe­ri­ence the his­tory and spirit of El Camino de San­ti­ago (hence the Span­ish!). 13.

What is Hamil­ton’s most valu­able as­set? The Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment, which in­cludes the Bruce Trail, and wa­ter­falls and the water­front. 14.

What is the city’s big­gest li­a­bil­ity? Busi­ness en­trepreneuri­al­ism is sup­ported more sig­nif­i­cantly than when I first started in the tourism sec­tor. How­ever, a de­gree of red tape ex­ists for en­trepreneurs who are en­gaged in the cre­ative in­dus­try sec­tor when it comes to set­ting up busi­nesses in old in­dus­trial build­ings in brown­field zones. Changes in zon­ing by-laws are not keep­ing pace with new in­vest­ment in­ter­est in this area that will trans­late to in­creased busi­ness, em­ploy­ment and tax gen­er­a­tion. 15.

How do you bal­ance your life? I al­lo­cate time in my cal­en­dar for me and things that I want to do. Work is off lim­its in these time slots. Cul­ture is my area of per­sonal in­ter­est so in these “me” times I slot cul­tural things to do that range from art, live mu­sic, ex­plor­ing new foodie spots and art his­tory (I have many beau­ti­ful books I like to read).

16.

What do you think peo­ple would be sur­prised to know about you? I am a Trekkie. I have seen all episodes many times over of the Star Trek orig­i­nal se­ries, Star Trek Next Gen­er­a­tion, Deep Space Nine, The Voy­ager and En­ter­prise. Of course, I have seen all the movies too.

17.

What is your dream job? I am do­ing the dream job I hoped to have. I can be cre­ative and work with peo­ple, which I like very much. I am con­tribut­ing to de­vel­op­ing the com­mu­nity I live in to be the best it can be through tourism and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment growth. I get to tell so many travel in­flu­encers about our fan­tas­tic re­gion ev­ery day!

CATHIE COW­ARD, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Maria For­tu­nato, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Hamil­ton Hal­ton Brant Re­gional Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion.

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