A Success Story: Manager-in-Training Graduate Emily McCabe
In January 2016, Emily McCabe was 29 years old and working as a waitress. She had just finished her master’s degree in applied nutrition at Northeastern University in Boston, and looking to jump-start her career, answered an ad that led her to the Compass Manager in Training (MIT) program.
It’s a decision that has changed the arc of her career. Three years later, she’s now the senior director of dining services at Memorial Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C., a high-profile account that is part of the Mission Health System. After a few stops between completing the MIT program and today, she has been on an exhilarating ride. Here’s how it happened.
Emily gained acceptance to the Morrison Healthcare MIT program based out of Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut. This is a large, 1,541-bed facility affiliated with the Yale School of Medicine, which enabled her to learn about every aspect of patient food service.
Working side-by-side with Hewan Essue, a patient service manager, she soaked up as much knowledge as possible by working every shift and performing several jobs. “I learned how to open for a DOC patient food service account and how to close,” Emily says. “I learned how to coach staff and make operational changes in the moment to ensure we delivered excellent meals to patients during their stay. It was an on-the-job training program that couldn’t have made me better prepared to take on a full-time position.”
In addition to her knowledge about nutrition, Emily impressed her mentors with a high degree of professionalism. “Her work ethic and her organizational skills are extremely strong,” he says. “She would learn about something in the MIT program and immediately come back and talk to us about what she learned. And by working side-by-side with so many managers, she gained a lot of experience in real time.”
Emily’s drive to fulfill her career goals has always been strong. While putting herself through school working as a waitress and bartender, she also dedicated her energy to helping those who are less fortunate. While in graduate school, she worked at the Farmer’s Market in New Haven, Conn., to provide nutrition counseling for underprivileged people and as a dietetic technician helping people with eating disorders get nutritional meals.
Watching Hewan and the other managers at Yale-New Haven, Emily honed her professional workplace skills. “In our jobs, we come into contact with people from all walks of life and it’s important to establish rapport with each individual,” she says. “The easy gestures, such as smiling and being polite, will go a long way in making anyone’s day better.”
At the same time, she was learning other skills through the three-month MIT program. For 12 weeks before or after work each day, she would read and do homework online to help prepare her to be a manager.
Often, the skills learned on the job and through the MIT program would intersect. As part of the training program, she was required to make a presentation about a book, “The Hard Truth About Soft Skills: Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They’d Learned Sooner.” This book emphasizes how highly-skilled people can limit their careers due to a lack of social, communications and self-management skills. “The communications skills I learned through the MIT program fit perfectly with everything I was learning at the hospital about comforting patients and guests and how to help them in any situation.”
When she completed the MIT program, Emily worked for three months in a support position for all aspects of the food service department at Hartford Hospital, an 819-bed acute care teaching hospital. But her first full-time position was as the patient experience manager at Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abington, Virginia.
Because she had responsibility for food service and housekeeping – she had no experience in the latter — Emily says there was a huge learning curve. “I needed to learn and understand the 10 steps of high-profile cleaning, the importance of interacting during cleaning and embracing safety standards. Many days were spent shadowing housekeepers and coaching the Crothall standards. Utilizing my influence and social skills were key in guiding the Environmental Services team to embrace all aspects of their jobs.”
But after a few weeks, she got the hang of it. “It’s hard for people to realize how difficult those jobs can be,” she says. “To this day, I really appreciate everything that housekeeping does.”
In mid-2018, Emily was on the move again. Jason Channell, the regional manager of operations, needed an associate director with experience in patient services for one of his hospitals at Mission Health in Asheville.
Despite her lack of retail food service experience, Jason was immediately impressed with Emily’s proactive approach. “She ‘owns’ the day-to-day work,” he says. “If there’s a problem in the cafes, she speaks with the managers in charge to make sure the issue is resolved. If a nurse complains that a patient didn’t receive the right food on their tray, she finds the nurse to resolve the issue.”
The skills learned at MIT and Yale-New Haven are helping Emily succeed on a larger stage. “She brings an understanding of relationships needed to make the hospital a success,” says Channell. “It goes back to ownership and developing relationships throughout the organization. She’s always out on the floor, very involved in the day to day operations,” Jason says. “It’s what I look for in a director, someone who is always looking at the business at different points of service.”
Based on her performance, Emily’s recent promotion to senior director occurred after only a year and a half on the job. Channell says her account is running 161 percent above expectations, which he terms “phenomenal.” She now has eight managers reporting to her.
Emily realizes she has a found her calling and is committed to making the most of it. “Morrison has invested in my career development and it’s my responsibility to do everything I can to ensure the company has made the right choice. There’s a unique opportunity to put our best foot forward with the hospital’s leadership, so I want to grab the bull by the horns and not let go until the job is done.”
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