Restaurant manager finds a new career

Photo by Greg Ehlers

If you’d told Trish Ashbee two years ago that she would launch a successful career in health care, she would have laughed. For 22 years, she’d thrived in the bustling world of bars and restaurants, first as a server and bartender, and later as a senior manager.

“I never thought I’d leave the hospitality industry,” she says. “It was all I’d ever known and the only thing I’d ever done.”

But inevitably, life changed: Trish married and had a baby. “The hours were just not conducive to work-life balance,” she explains. “As my daughter got older and had more things going on, I noticed I was missing out on more. I decided I needed to make a change.”

Today, she works in the human resources department at Fraser Health Authority, supporting managers across the organization with staffing needs. She credits her smooth career transition to completing the Human Resources Management Certificate program: “It opened so many doors I didn’t even know were possible. I wouldn’t have these opportunities if I hadn’t done the program.”

Trish earned her certificate part-time in 18 months—and landed the role at Fraser Health only a month later. “It’s such a different environment here,” she says. “You tend to think of health care in that clinical way—of doctors and nurses—not realizing that there is a whole support network behind the scenes that makes it all happen. I feel like I’m contributing to the community in a completely different capacity now.”

Given her extensive experience in hiring and managing bar and restaurant staff, moving into a full-on HR role might sound like a natural fit. But it wasn’t so obvious to Trish at the time.

She originally enrolled in SFU’s Business Management program, and the first class she took was the introductory HR management course. Halfway through, Trish had a revelation: “I just thought, this is what I should be doing. It didn’t occur to me until I took that class. It opened my eyes to HR as a vocation—that this could be my career.”

She made the switch to the HR Management program and never looked back, although she admits that going to evening classes while working full time wasn’t always easy. Fortunately, Trish felt well supported, thanks to experienced instructors like Leila Rahemtulla who understand the numerous commitments that adult learners need to juggle.

“Leila is wonderful,” says Trish. “She really took the time to hang back after class if you had questions. You can tell she enjoys teaching and wants people to be successful. She was very helpful in suggesting different avenues for me.”

It was Leila who encouraged Trish to explore industries beyond hospitality, leading her to apply at a variety of organizations before joining Fraser Health. “This wasn’t something I would have considered,” says Trish, “but now that I’m here, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Having left behind all those years of late nights and weekend hours, Trish has rediscovered the simple joys of spending time with her family. “Now I’m really able to enjoy my work and my home life at the same time, which is something I haven’t had before.

“It’s made all the difference.”

By Kim Mah