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Making Mentors

Josef Wagner, Vice President of Food and Beverage, Aria Resort and Casino

Making Mentors

It’s not often that you find someone who has true passion for his career. Josef Wagner is an excellent example of how a person can truly enjoy his professional life as much as his personal life.

This balance of happiness has fueled Wagner’s overall success in the gaming industry. As the executive director of food and beverage for the Venetian and the Palazzo Resorts, he takes pride in ensuring that every detail is met for the perfect guest experience.

Wagner has literally come a long way to get to where he is today. Born and raised in the small town of Spiegelau, Germany, he began working in his family’s bakery, grocery store and bed and breakfast at a young age. This routine instilled a strong work ethic that helped him become the dedicated executive he is today.

Upon graduating from Karl Obermaier Hotelfachschule with a bachelor’s degree in business and hotel management, Wagner held an apprenticeship at Golfhotel Maximilian in Germany. It was during this time, which he refers to as the “most integral part of my career,” that Wagner met his career mentor, Baerbel Frey.

As the general manager at the time, Frey taught Wagner the basics of the hospitality industry, giving him an “eagle-eye view” of how to run all operations of a hotel property. With his mentor’s close guidance, he was able to work diligently to shorten his apprenticeship from three years to two years.

In addition to providing career advice, Frey also encouraged Wagner to see the world, which he took to heart when he accepted a position at the Omni Ambassador East in Chicago.

Since moving to the United States in 1999, Wagner has worked in a number of prestigious resorts such as Park Hyatt Chicago and Wynn Las Vegas. While he loves the hospitality industry, it would be six years before he’d get his foot in the door of the gaming industry.

Instantly attracted to the “sheer energy” of casinos, Wagner refers to the gaming industry as a “perfectly choreographed dance” due to its high energy and seamless appearance. When asked why he decided to make the switch in career fields, he says, “Gaming adds a level of excitement that you do not typically find in traditional lodging establishments.”

Wagner’s entrance into the gaming world began with a serendipitous call from Wynn while he was vacationing in Las Vegas. After several interviews, he was offered the position of restaurant floor manager for Alex. During his years at Wynn, Wagner gained experience in several of its restaurants before accepting a position with the opening team at Mandarin Oriental.

In 2010, he was offered his position at the Venetian and the Palazzo Resorts. Although it took him several years to get started in the gaming industry, Wagner climbed his way to an executive-level position in just five short years.

When asked what he enjoys the most about his current job, Wagner’s eyes light up. “I love seeing talented team members and helping take them to the next level.”

As a part of this, Wagner has been taking part in a University of Nevada, Las Vegas mentoring program for the past two years. Within this program, he serves as an inspiration to those who are getting started in the gaming industry.

Wagner offers advice to those who are new to the gaming industry and are aspiring to hold executive-level positions: “Do as much as you can and work in as many departments as possible; do not tie yourself down. Try different things and find a mentor to guide you.”

Given Wagner’s success in such a short period of time, he is well on track to continue growing professionally and inspiring others for years to come. In fact, as of May 2015, he took the next step to further expand his industry experience by accepting a position as vice president of food and beverage at Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

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