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Finding Opportunities Maritza Mobile Hero

Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley: “There’s so much room to grow”

By Jack Chang | 2 min

As Maritza Koponen sees it, her mission at the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley is to create lifetime memories for her clients, day in and day out.

Whether it’s a 200-person wedding or a private birthday party, the catering sales manager and her small army of caterers, lighting technicians, pastry chefs and other vendors come together to host what is often the most important day in their clients’ lives. Pulling that off over and over again requires what Koponen said is a real human touch, whether it’s listening to and understanding client expectations or supporting event staff as they mount another perfect event.

“At the end of the day, we’re all human, and we’re all creating these great experiences and you want to love where you work to be able to do this kind of job,” Koponen said from the outdoor patio of one of the Four Seasons’ luxury villas. “In order for a beautiful wedding to take place, there are so many vendors behind the scenes working in unison to make it happen.”

Koponen said she learned the importance of team building and relationships at the very start of her hospitality career, as a student at the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism at San Diego State University. The school didn’t just teach the technical skills needed to organize successful meetings and events, she said. It also emphasized leadership skills and exposure to real world working environments where students could learn how to collaborate with other hospitality professionals.

“They focus on the leadership and the human component of our job,” Koponen said of the program. “They teach you about being an emotional leader…They want to make sure that when they graduate, the student is not just going to be able to work in the industry but they’ll be great leaders.”

Koponen quickly put those new skills to use, when she was hired as a manager in training for food and beverage at the Four Seasons’ Santa Barbara property. She ended up working at six Four Seasons properties over eight years, including stops in Baltimore and Las Vegas.

“Each time I moved to a different city, I didn’t know people in the city initially but that was OK because I knew my Four Seasons family had me,” Koponen said. “The work is hard. It’s long hours. You’re in it but at the same time you’re in it with your family. Everyone understands and is doing it together and you’re seeing these long hours you’re putting into it and you’re seeing the wonderful product that comes out of it.”

Each position has helped train Koponen for the next position, she said, and it can take a lifetime of such an education to learn all the skills and expertise that go into running any single resort. She said that’s an education that she committed to pursuing at the Four Seasons, and it’s the kind of lifelong journey that’s available and encouraged in hospitality.

“They’ve guided me through the process, and I’ve grown along the way,” she said. “I wanted to do weddings at the Four Seasons. Then, I wanted to be director of catering. Once I’ve been able to meet a goal, that’s when a new goal comes into play.”