“I worked at a wine bar on Pier 39 – and people were always on the same vacation,” muses Nicole Greenlee, who, a decade and multiple director-level positions later, has just joined Oxygen as Operations Associate. “They all wanted the same thing: to kick back, relax, and enjoy the people they were with. My perspective on the world was that it was smaller–everyone had this thing in common.”

When Greenlee was an undergraduate student, she needed a flexible summer job that would let her finish up her coursework and provide the cash flow she needed to get through the last of her college years. Her years freelancing as a waitress contributed to a love of food, planning, and the organization of events – passion that brought her to a career that moved from sales to event production and finally to operations.  

The theme throughout her career, she found, was that commonality–everyone wanted to experience that vacation, or that event. In her time as a waitress, Greenlee learned that everyone wanted to make memories–and this lesson expanded to the working world as well. The people she most enjoyed working with in the restaurant business were dynamic leaders. They created experiences that made those coveted memories. “They always kept growing and moving,” she says, “And I saw that in myself–I wasn’t going to wait around.”

Waitressing, Greenlee explains, gave her the basic tools she needed to do just that. “I learned to handle a million different personalities, to make quick decisions about whether or not a client was happy, and to read people from all corners of life and the world. It was crucial for my future career, which very much ended up being centered around customer-experience. This first job kind of laid out the groundwork for me to be comfortable and confident in addressing clients and their requests.”

Greenlee is very grateful for her time at the position, even ten years after the fact. “No job is too big or too small–I would definitely emphasize that to college students who are trying to kick start their careers,” she says, “These seemingly little jobs teach you how to be resourceful and how to strategize; the huge ones force you to either sink or swim, and you’ll always be surprised at how capable you are of excelling in a job when you have to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and figure it out.”

She goes on to say, “Waitressing, driving, bartending–all of these jobs push you into learning curves. You have to learn to drive through the curves and find the common thread so that you can come out better on the other side.”