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The Road Less Traveled: MJ Maynard
This story is part of a series highlighting 50 intriguing alumni as part of the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality’s 50th anniversary celebration.
When M.J. Maynard went from Hard Rock Food & Beverage VP to Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada executive a dozen years ago, some may have wondered if she was abandoning hospitality altogether. Not so, says Maynard, who sparkles at the mere mention of the word hospitality.
“You’re allowed to wear many hats in the hospitality business,” she said. “If you understand finance, budget forecasts, marketing, human resources, and the importance of the customer experience, you can work in any industry. So I was prepared for the change.”
Early in life, Maynard never had the luxury of being unprepared. On her own since she was 15½ years old, Maynard worked as a dishwasher to make ends meet, surviving on sheer tenacity and the opportunities that materialized from it.
“When you’re on your own at an early age, you work really hard [to please] your boss, because you want that positive feedback that you’re not getting at home,” she said.
Maynard’s desire for encouragement never outweighed her personal drive to succeed. By her senior year in high school, she had moved from dishwasher to busser to prep cook to shift manager.
It was this same fierce ambition that drew her to UNLV to pursue a degree in hospitality. But this too proved anything but easy, as Maynard found herself working all hours while caring for her young son.
“I took a couple of detours on my college path, and when I came back to UNLV for a second time, I questioned whether or not I could do it,” she said.
Advice from a wise professor, who told her that she’d be fine if she could pass Hospitality Accounting II, propelled her forward. The young mother passed the course handily and went on to earn her bachelor’s degree. To this day, she lives by the mantra, “Know your numbers!”
Above all, Maynard exemplifies the good that can come when you create your own path.
“Don’t ever put yourself in a box,” she advises students and aspiring hospitality practitioners. “There are so many people to learn from in this business, and there are so many directions you can grow.”
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