Paying It Forward Works for Ashby Ponds Manager

Ashburn, Virginia—For Jarka Slaninova, recognizing the many returns of the “cycle of mentorship” has been critical for her career at Ashby Ponds.

Slaninova serves as the Facilities Manager for Security & Communications.  It’s an important role at the Erickson Living retirement community as she oversees 35 employees responsible for keeping the 132-acre campus safe for more than 1,300 residents and 550 co-workers.  

Her security team is trained in emergency response to handle a myriad of situations, and they routinely conduct drills and review hazard elimination protocol.  

Jarka’s communications group provides the warm first welcome for residents, family members and guests who enter the clubhouses of Ashby Ponds, the fastest growing continuing care retirement community in the nation.  They serve as key points of contact for those seeking information about the campus.

“These responsibilities are 24/7,” noted Slaninova, who was promoted nearly two years ago.  “As we open new independent living buildings and the Chapel, our team will be in an exciting position to make more positive contributions.”

Her career at Ashby Ponds began in October 2008, but in an entirely different sector of the community. 

“My first job here was as a restaurant service manager.  I had come from Marriott International so I definitely had ideas about the core concepts of hospitality,” said Slaninova.  “It was definitely a new environment for me.”

With the guidance of Steve Aigner, her Dining Services Director at the time (and now the Executive Director of Eagle’s Trace, an Erickson Living community in Houston), Slaninova grew with the job.  “The encouragement from managers made all the difference in the world.  As time passed, I enjoyed seeing our dining services students mature from freshmen in high school to young adults ready to attend college,” she recalled.

That experience motivated Slaninova to become involved in activities that reflect the values of Ashby Ponds.  She has served on the Diversity & Inclusion Council for five years and works with Jeff Watson, Director of Operations for Resident Life at Erickson Living, on the Resident Pillar.

“It is amazing to be a part of a mission-driven company and develop the skills of co-workers,” said Slaninova.  “In 2011, we began what we called ‘APL University.’  It was a summer internship program that exposed our dining services students to other departments within Ashby Ponds to hone their interests and witness the possibilities of careers in senior living.”

Those opportunities resonated with Slaninova as well.  After four years in Dining Services, she had “fallen in love” with the residents, but wanted to learn more about the operational side of the business.  With the support of Steve Aigner and Tom Channon (the Director of General Services at the time and now the Associate Executive Director), she switched career paths and became a facilities coordinator.

“Erickson Living is well-known for its flexibility in grooming employees to pursue other avenues within senior living,” said Slaninova.  “Steve and Tom helped me with a successful transition, and the journey has been rewarding.”

Slaninova holds an associate degree in Hospitality Management from Montgomery College, but is advancing her education.  She is currently taking courses at Champlain College pursuing a degree in Integrated Studies focused on Business & Management, with a long-term goal of enrolling in its master’s program for Executive Leadership.  

“Jarka is the type of everyday hero that Ashby Ponds is recruiting,” stated Craig Karczmer, Executive Director.  “When people join our team, they earn more than a great job in a booming industry – they gain unparalleled access to an array of rich experiences and knowledge that will prove invaluable to their personal and professional growth.  What's also rewarding for them is that they get to change lives for the better.”

Nearing her ten-year anniversary, Slaninova is as motivated as ever.

“Working with residents has changed my life perspective for the better.  Most days, I schedule extra time to attend meetings across our campus because I love to ‘hug it out’ and talk with them,” said Slaninova.  “I tell young people who begin here to keep an open mind and open heart.”  

Her 7-year old son, Karel, a frequent visitor to the community, seems to be taking that advice.

“Many children his age want to be a firefighter or an astronaut.  Not Karel.  He says ‘I’m going to be the big boss at Ashby Ponds one day.’  Hearing that makes me very proud,” she concluded.

Benefits include 401K, comprehensive medical insurance, tuition reimbursement, on-site employee health care, discount programs and much more.  For more information about career opportunities at Ashby Ponds, please visit https://jobs.ericksonliving.com.  Visitors can register for email alerts about job postings by field of expertise and location.