Flipping the Script: Castell Project BUILD Training Experience
Guest contributor Mel Miller, Director of Marketing & Business Development at Pathfinder Hospitality, was selected to be part of the Castell Project BUILD Program, even though less than a year ago, she didn’t even know what Castell was! It was at the ALIS conference in LA in July 2021, where Mel and her boss, Danielle Schneider attended an event where Founder & President, Peggy Berg and her team speak about the mission of the Castell Project and the BUILD training, designed to help mid-level managers advance. A few months later Mel was selected to participate in the year-long BUILD program, where she not only learned important business skills but made deep friendships. Here’s herstory:
Build Up to BUILD
After being admitted into the Castell BUILD program, we immediately got homework! Lots of Interesting readings and thought-provoking assessments. The prep work provided insight into what was ahead; in-depth explorations of our personal saboteurs and an insights profile that was over 25 pages long went into the nitty-gritty of our work/managing styles. Naturally, I flipped to the weaknesses first and worked backward from there to read into what the detailed assessments picked up on.
While most of the insights felt spot on, there were a few that gave me pause - in a positive way - and got me thinking more about how some of my strengths could be perceived as weaknesses, and how I could address the weaknesses and turn them into strengths. I was excited, to say the least.
Three Day In-Person Training in Atlanta
By November of 2021, I’m packing my bags and heading to Atlanta for three days of in-person networking and workshops. This was my first visit to Atlanta, and I was anxious because, even though the program was fully laid out, I still wasn’t totally sure what to expect. Thankfully I was set to go with a colleague, Miss Tona Allen, who was just as excited as I was to plunge in and see what the program’s next phase was going to look like.
I arrived a day early and took some time exploring the area around the hotel. A highlight of the trip outside of Castell? Touring the College Football Hall of Fame!
Day 1 arrived, and we were assigned a 3-minute presentation that would give the group a sense of who we were. We could choose from topics like; What was a big mistake you learned from? What are you most proud of? What is something about you that no one would ever think to guess? By the time it got to me, I was so intimidated by the talent and their incredible resilience—and because this is technically my first job in hospitality-- that I decided to spice it up with a funny story about my love for pranks and how one year, my sister and I pulled off the ultimate Christmas prank. I was pleased that the room laughed and finally stopped sweating when I sat down to let the others finish. We then spent some time eating and getting to know our tables and dove right into the program.
While I won’t get into every detail, I think it is worth noting that even though one of our first negotiating exercises got off to a rocky start––mostly because there may have been some confusion about the assignment, as well as the prevailing competitive spirit to win the first challenge--you started to see the walls come down. Over the next couple of days, we did some phenomenal group exercises and spent some quality time learning about each other and how we have all been affected by what’s been happening to the industry since the pandemic.
For me personally, I was amazed by these women, the exercises and lectures by inspiring leaders --Jodie Charlop & Neil McGaraghan…I’m talking to you! Although a “newbie” to the industry, but an expert in my field of marketing, I was astounded by the group and what they brought to their organizations and to my life.
As a result of the program, many of these women are now the first calls I make when I want to share wins or joy because they have become a safe place where we understand that what we talk about in our personal conversations stays in our personal conversations.
When it came time to leave Atlanta, I was genuinely sad to walk away from the experience. A lot of us were texting each other from our various gates at the airport, and it felt like leaving the best summer camp we had ever been to.
As we continued the program back in our own cities, I enjoyed our small coaching sessions where we celebrate wins, addressed concerns, and prep for big conversations or moments that help our personal growth. I’ve also been fortunate to have small groups outside of my coaching group, where we get together on Facetime or video chat, pour a glass of wine, and shoot the breeze about our professional and personal lives.
In all honesty, I am always a little apprehensive when it comes to “female only” programs because I don’t believe in bashing men, or anyone for that matter. I’ve attended some women’s meetings where the sole purpose was to dump on the opposite sex, and it felt counterproductive, but Castell flipped all of that on its head, and that’s what I loved most about this program!
It was so exciting to experience a program made for women by women that also celebrated the differences between men and women and showed us how to leverage ALL relationships for personal growth and organizational wins. Instead of bashing anyone, we were encouraged to have men and women in our corners because there is much to be learned from all good leaders, regardless of their gender.
I look forward to being part of the Castell community and watching the women from my group grow into those C-Suite roles, hotel ownership, and beyond. We still have a book club and a couple more coaching sessions left, but I can’t wait to reunite with everyone after the year is up.
If you’re a woman in hospitality looking for a place where you can be yourself, learn tools to grow, and be part of a community that is there for you if you’re open to it, I 10/10 recommend getting involved with Castell.
Mel Miller is the Director, Marketing & Business Development at Pathfinder Hospitality. With over 10 years of Marketing experience across many industries, Mel fell in love with hospitality during its darkest hour. A digital maven who is passionate about storytelling, brand awareness, and driving leads and revenue.