Parkville, Maryland--Growing up, Melisa Batac had a unique career dream inspired by a trip to Orlando.
"I wanted to be a tram driver at Walt Disney World so I could tell people to 'have a magical day' and make them smile as they enter the park," she said during a recent interview. "As it turns out, I've been able to help make people happy at Oak Crest."
Melisa is the Senior Sales Counselor at the Erickson Living retirement community in northeast Baltimore County. In her leadership role, she is often one of the initial employees to make a first impression on future residents. Melisa meets with customers to learn their future plans and shares her expertise about Oak Crest from finances to floor plans.
Her employment with Oak Crest began on August 22, 1995. Then a 21-year old college student, Melisa's first assignment was as a Communications Specialist at the front desk of the Village Square clubhouse, working weekend evening shifts.
"When I met Bob Riley, our General Services Director at the time, I told him very eagerly that I loved working with seniors," recalled Melisa.
From there, she learned the ropes of senior living by taking advantages of opportunities. She served as an Administrative Assistant in the Executive Office and later for the Health Services Director in continuing care. She advanced to become Business Manager in charge of medical supplies, billing and payroll, a position later recast as Quality Life Coordinator.
In April 2006, Melisa transitioned to the Sales and Information Department for independent living. She began as a Sales Event Associate, interacting with customers and planning luncheons and special occasions designed to showcase life at Oak Crest. Melisa eventually earned a promotion to Senior Sales Associate and then another to her current position as Senior Sales Counselor.
"Every manager or supervisor opened doors for me, and I am very grateful that they let me grow professionally and as a person," she said.
A mother of two children, she noted that the array of employee benefits have helped her achieve a satisfying life-work balance.
"We have excellent benefits, including health care, vacation and even tuition reimbursement that assisted me a great deal in earning a health care management degree from Towson University," said Melisa.
Training is another key element of her job. "The Sales, Marketing and Communications Department of Erickson Living encourages us to strive for greatness in what we do. Continuous development comes in many forms, but my favorite is the chance to shadow my counterparts in other communities. Whether it's traveling to Highland Springs in Dallas or Linden Ponds in Boston, these sessions are invaluable. I learn from my peer team and observe fresh approaches in connecting with future residents."
The teamwork among her colleagues at Oak Crest stands out to Melisa, too. "Our sales team is a tight knit group. They are a second family to me. We share experiences about our children and lives because we truly care about each other."
As a pioneer employee of Oak Crest, Melisa is motivated by interaction with residents. "A standing joke with my Dad is that he never has to worry about me because I have 2,100 parents here. That might sound corny, but it's true. The engagement with residents is very important to me and makes coming to work a delight."
She sees her role as an opportunity to help residents live better lives.
"Everyone comes from different walks of life, and each customer I meet has a story. Some are happy, some are challenging, but as you listen, you learn to appreciate each person individually," stated Melisa.
"My perception of aging has evolved during 22 years at Oak Crest. I think back to the starry-eyed comment I made to Bob Riley on my first day. I do love working with our residents, but now, it's that they inspire me to recognize the possibilities in life," she said. "For example, as I walk by the fitness center or pool, I see residents of all ages running on the treadmill or playing water volleyball. They will tell me that they are now in the best physical shape in years. Many people say that 'age is just a number,' but our residents prove this to be true every day."
Could there be a family member following in Melisa's footsteps?
"My 11-year old daughter, Jordyn, has been visiting the community since she was a little girl. She now tells me 'Mom, I want your job,'" described Melisa. "I laugh because, before I found Oak Crest, I sold shoes and waitressed after school. Oak Crest changed my life, and hearing Jordyn's goal makes me smile."
More information about career opportunities at Oak Crest and Erickson Living can be found at https://jobs.ericksonliving.com.