On March 10, 2021

Meet Soojeong Seo: Killington food and beverage administrator

Soojeong “Soo” Seo

From the J-1 Visa program to full-time Vermonter, Seo finds success and happiness in Killington

By Karen D. Lorentz

“Quite honestly, I didn’t really know much about Killington or Vermont. I was trying to improve my English,” Soojeong “Soo” Seo explained of her first visit to the ski area.

Having grown up in Daegu, South Korea, a city of 2.5 million people, Seo graduated from Kyeong-Myeong Girls’ High School in February 2000 and Kyungpook National University with a major in astronomy and atmospheric science in 2004.

While in college, she also took some international programs and English classes in New Zealand. Looking to improve her ability to speak conversational English, she joined the J-1 Visa program, which offers cultural and educational exchange opportunities in the United States through a variety of programs overseen by the U.S. State Department.

“The J-1 program offered a cultural experience, not just a work experience. It offered some credits from practicing English in a real life working experience with a month for traveling afterwards,” Seo noted.

The driving distance to New York City and Boston were part of the appeal of the ski resort, she said. At Killington she worked in the snowboard rentals department at Snowshed.

Seo had skied on occasional school trips in Korea but admits she wasn’t into skiing. But she did learn to snowboard at Killington during her 2003-2004 J-1 student season.

“I didn’t really take any lessons, friends took me… I learned it the hard way with lots of falls and bruises.

“But it was so much fun. Then later that season, I met my husband, Tyler Gugliotta, who was a rookie instructor. He has been teaching me ever since, and now our girls, ages 13 and 8, are out riding and trying to get me to try things like jibbing obstacles on the side of the trail.

“Now I think about it, I had no clue when I first came here – we didn’t know about Vermont at that time. Now South Koreans know about it because they know about Bernie Sanders. My relatives know I live in the state where Bernie is from.”

Q&A with Soo Seo

Mountain Times (MT): So how did the move to Vermont come about?

Soo Seo (SS): After I went back to finish school and graduated, we had a long distance relationship with international phone calls made on phone cards –  before smart phones and great wifi. Tyler visited me for my birthday in Korea, and in winter 2004-05 I visited him.

In spring 2005 he proposed and I suggested living in Korea for him to learn my background. So we went back to Korea together. We got married at Thanksgiving and moved to Vermont in July 2006.

MT: So did you get a job at Killington then?

SS: I worked in Ministars during 2006-07 season, doing Ministar rental tech and helping with lunch and indoor activities. Lia was born fall 2007, and in spring 2009 I was ready to go back to work. I joined the Grand Hotel banquet team with a flexible schedule. Since then, I worked in F&B in a few different positions including server, and hotel food & beverage supervisor.

After Mina was born in 2012, I found my work/family life balance by changing my position. I worked part time for Killington and as an assistant town clerk and treasurer for the Town of Pittsfield from spring 2014 to September 2015. I learned a lot about how things work in America, like marriage license, vital records, election rules, property tax, etcetera and got to meet and know lots of locals.

I went back to Killington full time for a long-term career choice and have been food & beverage administrator since September 2015.

MT: What does that job entail? 

SS: I do various things in my department for all our business units, from base lodges, hotel, and Wobbly Barn to Yurt and Motor Room Bar. I keep all necessary licenses related to food and alcohol up-to-date; work with chefs and marketing on all menus; maintain the point-of-sales systems database; and assist with budgets and reports among other things.

MT: What do you like about your job? 

SS: Diversity, from my everyday job duties to the range of people I work with. Even our guests are from all over the world. I love meeting Korean guests at the resort. The diversity includes the team support (a.k.a. job share) opportunities … folding towels at the Grand laundry room to bussing tables at lodges … it is never boring and gives me more perspectives.

A big project over the summer last year was switching F&B point-of-sales system at lodges to allow touchless transactions. We were on one system over 15 years, and change is always challenging and eventually rewarding.

MT: How has your job been affected by this unusual Covid-19 season?

SS: Usual years, I have to make sure all of our musicians’ paper work is up-to-date, they played as scheduled, and process their payments. That is not always as easy as it sounds, but I miss this interaction. With Covid, I have less menus to work on, less items to build in the system, and no bands to keep track of.

It seems like it should be less work, but somehow “less is more” applies to this year’s workload.

Everything requires a lot more effort — table cards for seating at lodges, table service at Roaring Brook Umbrella Bar, lots of planning from everyone and tweaking as we go. I think we are all very used to ever-changing plans, but this Covid era is just something else!

MT: Any experiences in the ski industry that were significant for you?

SS: I met my husband. He’s from New York, and he came up on ski family vacations. He decided to move up here thinking he would like his own family to enjoy the mountain someday.

MT: How do you balance your roles as mother and wife with work?

SS: Hmmm, I do the best as I can, but I am not stressing out to be the best mother or wife.

At home things get done by everyone. Instead of doing things for the kids, they have to do it, or at least help. It was definitely not easy when the girls were little, especially with both of us working at the resort with grandparents far away. But we feel very lucky that we had great mid-week daycare and Killington programs including Friendly Penguins [daycare], First Track, Ministar, and the Unleashed seasonal program (except for this year due to my schedule and Covid). They are having lots of sister bonding time this winter.

MT: How do you spend your time outside of work? 

SS: We are very family-oriented; we always take one day a week for family day (except for busy holiday work weeks). We enjoy doing anything outdoors and indoors together – from cards and ping pong to family riding and ice skating days in the winter. Lots of badminton, river, trampoline and bike time this past summer, and we started tennis, too.

MT: Are you satisfied with the life you found here in Vermont? 

SS: Yes, my daughter who is 13 says she wants to raise her kids at Killington when she has her own. I think that says a lot.

MT: What advice would you give someone who wanted to move here?

SS: Well, I cannot say I never had a hard time adjusting to rural life. Being from an urban city, you could get anything 24/7 and you could have it delivered.

Here, the rural life means you don’t have that convenience – you may have to drive a half hour to the store or the local store may close at 6 or 7. Living in Pittsfield, I have to plan ahead.

You should be willing to give up some little stuff like that for what matters more.

MT: Any insights about having moved to Vermont?

SS: It’s about perspectives. You may learn things you didn’t know about. I lived in the city and didn’t know how nice winter could be. After experiencing winter in Vermont, I found out I like it.

Vermont made me realize that I don’t really need to achieve the same things that other people are doing; and that not achieving anything big is okay, too.

Here, people seem to focus on what they enjoy and just being themselves. I don’t know if this is the country lifestyle, or unique to Killington, but Killington makes it easy to be myself and focus on myself rather than trying to fit in with what others are doing. That’s different from Korean trends and feeling the need to do what others do.

Tyler felt the same, that it’s important to follow our hearts! Vermont is so beautiful. Moving to Vermont was an easy decision and the best one.

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