When Juan Zabaleta started his first job with Colonial Leisure Group nine years ago, landing a career in sales wasn’t even remotely on his radar.
Having just arrived in Australia from Colombia, Juan took up a job as a kitchen hand at Lucky Coq with no idea where it could take him.
“CLG was actually my first ever employer because I used to work in a family business back home,” he said.
“I had zero hospitality experience and very limited cooking skills, but I got the chance and I wasn’t going to waste it.”
Those early days in the Lucky Coq team were formative for Juan. He says it not only helped him improve his limited English at the time, but also grow professionally.
“It massively contributed to developing my professional and interpersonal skills and take them to a whole new level,” he said.
“I was getting more confident in my role, becoming more eager to learn, and absorbing as much as I could. I was only supposed to be staying in Australian for six months but I decided to stay and see where this path would take me.”
Over the years that followed, that growth continued. Juan took up roles behind the bar at Lucky Coq and the Botanical Hotel before moving into his first management role where he discovered his passion for the daily operations.
He completed a Bachelor of Business while managing the Botanical and helping out at Portsea Hotel during the peak summer season; and he got some experience in head office learning the ins and outs of running venues.
In 2019 he joined the CBCo Brewing team as a Duty Manager which saw him running the public bar. But some experience working closely with the sales team at events, sparked his interest, and when the chance came up to take on a Brand Ambassador role in October 2021 he jumped at it.
“There is a lot to love in this role. I’m now seeing the whole operation from a completely new perspective,”
Juan Zabaleta, Brand Ambassador, CBCo Brewing
“I’m amazed every day how the people skills and negotiation skills that I’ve been developing over the years without realising it are helping me in the new role. Having that constant interactions with people over the years really helps you build some important transferrable skills.
“I would totally recommend a sales role to anyone. The key is to be genuine no matter what – find out what makes you different and special and use it.
“Sometimes that’s the simplest way to choose the right path. Whatever you do, do it with passion and concentrate on learning and getting better and the rest will eventually fall into place.”