Long before Frederick “Mikey” Varias knew a career in hospitality management existed, he was already working in the industry.
The Guam native’s father managed a resort called the Pacific Islands Club when Varias was growing up. At 15, Varias began working there as a lifeguard.
“My dad told me to say please and thank you, and to treat people the way you want to be treated,” Varias says. “I guess that was hospitality in a nutshell.”
More than a decade after those early lessons, his father is the director at that same resort and Varias is gearing up to graduate with a degree from The Collins College of Hospitality Management and a job in the field he loves.
“Creating experiences for people is what continues to drive me to do what I do,” he says of why he chose hospitality management. “Creating those moments is what inspires me. I always try to find ways to make people happy.”
Varias knows happy. In fact, he says that he often gets teased for his jovial nature.
“People say I smile too much,” he says.
Varias credits his upbringing for who he is as a person. At about half the size of Maui, Guam is a small island in the western Pacific Ocean where no one is a stranger and residents are never more than two miles from the beach, he says.
“Everybody is family oriented,” he says. “Everybody knows each other.”
Varias recalled watching television on the island, which received signals from San Mateo, California, that advertised theme parks and other landmarks he wanted to visit. He decided to move to California, even if it meant he couldn’t wear his board shorts every day.
“I like the culture of California because it’s really upbeat,” he says. “It encourages you to be productive in a certain way.”
He lived in Sacramento with his aunt and uncle for a couple of years, dreaming about one day becoming a chef. He took culinary classes before realizing that hospitality management was his passion.
He studied hospitality management at Mt. San Antonio College for two years before transferring to Cal Poly Pomona.
Varias serves as president of the Restaurant and Food Service Professionals Club on campus. He also sits on Mt. SAC’s hospitality advisory board. He managed to keep up with his course work and activities while working. Varias already has a full-time job as the Glendora Country Club’s dining room manager.
Professor Ben Dewald, who serves as Varias’ academic advisor, says he admires students like Varias who balance work, activities and school.
In his role as club president, Varias has a style of leadership that uplifts those around him, Dewald says.
“He leads by example, but he also lets other people do things,” Dewald says.
Varias’ involvement recently earned him the distinction of being named Club President of the Year at the Office of Student Life and Cultural Centers’ Bronco Organization Awards. Of the nearly 400 clubs on campus, 19 presidents were nominated for the award for which Varias was selected.
Varias was made for hospitality management, Dewald adds.
“He’s a very hospitable person,” Dewald says. “He’s a good representative of somebody who it makes feel good to make others feel good.”
Varias says part of his reward for all of the hard work has been getting to travel to some of the places he saw in those TV commercials while growing up in Guam.
The aspiring restaurateur has traveled to San Francisco, New York and Chicago while a student at Cal Poly Pomona. He has learned the importance of networking and the value of finding a passion that makes work seem like anything but.
“My dad has always told me, find something you enjoy every day,” he says, “and you never have to work a day in your life.”