Leading Women of Eurest

March 01, 2022

The strong women of Eurest have a powerful story to tell – of the many hats they wear as they make an impact where they are. To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re taking the time to honor them and share their stories.

Lisa Lahiji is our Chief Marketing Officer. She has been with Eurest for over nine years and has a total of 20 years of experience in her field. Now, she leads our creative marketing team to develop proprietary custom brands, retail marketing, promotions and innovation projects for Eurest.

Tell us about your career trajectory – where you started and how you got to where you are today.
I got my start working in a publishing house in Manhattan. That is where I was exposed to marketing as I worked in advertising and creative services on customized ads for clients.

From there, I worked on their five magazines, with focuses ranging from retail to restaurant. It wasn’t long after that I joined Lackmann Culinary Services (which would later be acquired by Compass Group) as Director of Marketing at Hofstra University. Within six months, I was promoted to Director of Marketing for Colleges and Universities, and in January 2010 I took on the role of Corporate Director of Marketing and oversaw over 100 accounts. One of the accomplishments I am most proud of is being chosen as one of Long Island Business News’ 40 Under 40 in 2012.

With passion for what I do, I worked my way up the marketing ranks to land me where I am today – Chief Marketing Officer of Eurest, Compass Group’s largest Business & Industry sector.

How do you think being a woman impacts your leaderships style?
I think it allows me to relate to others and show empathy while staying extremely motivated to have my voice heard and grow into a leader who makes a difference. I am a working mom, and like many others I have struggled to find that balance between being a present mom, a supportive wife and a strong career woman. However, I am very motivated to always be better.

Having emotional connections and being social is a natural female characteristic, and as a leader being able to connect with my team, peers and leadership on that level is very important. I always look for opportunities to empower the women on my team to shine and stand out.

What advice would you give a young woman starting out her career looking to grow?
I would say look at every challenge as an opportunity. Every door that opens can lead to something great and you won’t know unless you remain open to it. Almost every big career move in my life was made during a transitional time, such as while I was on maternity leave or moving homes, and I could have hesitated or stayed complacent or put it off, but instead I took every opportunity.

What characteristics do you think it takes to be a successful female leader?
It is important to believe in yourself and have confidence in what you know. Understand that your perspective is valued. Many time I am in a room with mostly men and the thought doesn’t even cross my mind anymore that I am in the minority. I belong in the room, and I am equal in my knowledge, experience and value.

What mistakes did you make along the way and what did you learn from them?
I don’t look back and think I made mistakes because every decision I’ve had has brought me to where I am today. I can say that as I navigated my early career, I was not always as confident as I am now and I was intimidated by others. However as I matured, experiences real challenges, failed and learned, I was able to grow into the confident, capable leader I am today.

Tiffany Cross is Vice President of Operations for our Compass One account at Amazon. She joined our team during the pandemic and has already made a significant impact on her team and our business. She attended college on a dance scholarship with a dream of being a member of the Dance Theater of Harlem or the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. She suffered a career-ending injury that shattered that dream and forced Tiffany to figure out what else she was good at and what she wanted to do with her life. She was (and still is!) a big foodie, so hospitality seemed like the perfect fit.

Tell us about your career trajectory – where you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started my food service career in the banquet department at a luxury hotel and in catering. I worked at high-end country clubs and private catering companies until I eventually got my master’s degree in Tourism Administration from GW University. Through that program I was introduced to contract food services. I took an operations position at a hospital and then spent some time in management for government intelligence agencies, where I stayed for 10 years.

At that point in my career, I wanted a change, so I moved into university management as a Resident District Manager shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. When the school closed down, I felt like it was a sign that there was something bigger and better out there for me. I feel as though I was right. I am now the VPO of Compass One at Amazon for the East Coast and I can confidently say it is my dream job. I am surrounded by a great team, building a new program, and working with one of the most progressive companies in the world.

How do you think being a woman impacts your leadership style?
I implore a high level of empathy and a strong focus on development. I take a lot of time to get to know my associates from the utility team to my director-level associates and Executive Chefs. I take time to nurture talent and mentor others. I believe that my success is directly linked to the success of everyone on my team.

Do or did you have a female leader as a mentor, or are there specific women who inspired you, and why?
In my first position as a banquet manager, my General Manager was the most polished, assertive, knowledgeable, kind, professional woman I’d met. She inspired me in the way she was able to be assertive, yet kind. She influenced rather than directed and spent time teaching young women how to flourish in the male-dominated business of hospitality. She took a personal interest in my development and to this day, she remains a sounding board when I need one.

What advice would you give a young woman starting out her career looking to grow?
Be your most authentic self. That is what people will respect and trust about you. If you have an assertive, direct personality, that is wonderful, and the same goes for someone who is soft spoken and demure. Never accept that you need to be anything other than the woman you are to succeed.

What mistakes did you make along the way, and what did you learn from them?
When I started in my career, I was afraid to admit when I did not know or understand a directive or concept. Instead of asking questions I would waste hours redoing work because I didn’t understand the assignment. I feared that my lack of knowledge on one topic would be a signal that I was not good at my job. Over time I leaned that asking questions wasn’t a bad thing, it showed that I was thoughtful and diligent. It’s impossible to know everything, and asking questions is how you broaden your skill set.

How should women support other women in their organizations?
Look for opportunities to give the women you work with input that can help them learn and grow. Remember that holding back for fear you’ll upset someone doesn’t benefit anyone. Whenevr possible, share your feedback live and, in the moment, when it’s most effective. Treat feedback that you receive yourself as a gift and solicit it often.

Maggie Rafferty is a Vice President of Operations for our Eastern Division. She has been with Eurest for 21 years. She began her career with us as a Chef Manager and worked her way up to her current role, which she has held for the past 15 years.

Tell us about your career trajectory – where you started and how you go to where you are today.
After college I went to Culinary School to be a pastry chef. At that time in my life, I probably wasn’t best suited for the exact science necessary for a traditional pastry program, so switched gears to a full-time culinary arts program. After graduating, I worked in restaurants in Philadelphia, starting as a cold salad prep and working my way to Sous Chef.

“I loved the thrill of the restaurant scene: the fast pace, opportunity for creativity and most especially feeding people and living a hospitality-first focus.”

After I started my family, the schedule was too demanding. I was a single mom of three kinds under six! I knew I needed to do something different – enter B&I dining. I worked for a small independent operator at a school, and during that time connected with one of the students’ dads who was VP with Compass Group. He kept coming to the kitchen to sample the food, and the rest is history.

I started with Eurest as a Chef Manager and for the past 15 years have been Vice President of Operations and single point of contact for one of our large accounts.

How do you think being a woman impacts your leaderships style?
I do think it makes me work harder, but I also have more empathy for our associates and always try to think of what external forces they have in their lives that could be barriers to success. I understand it is more important to align our teams through a united purpose – not fear. I also try and remember that we need to stop and enjoy our families and try to share my passions with my team and listen to them and their passions.

What advice would you give a young woman starting out her career looking to grow?
Follow your dreams – get a mentor – be a mentor – be kind – ask for help with you need it – give help with you can and always focus on elevating those around you. The golden rule is golden for a reason…be humble!

How should women support other women in their organization?
Female leaders need to be at the forefront of creating women-empowered workplaces. We need to be strong enough to believe in ourselves, even when people around us don’t, and inspire others to do the same.

Tell us about your career trajectory – where you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started my career with Eurest 23 years ago as the Food Service Manager after being in the restaurant industry and realizing that working weekends and holidays meant precious time away from my then four-year-old daughter.

Throughout my first seven years with Eurest, I worked at various properties and was a part of several special projects, including being a part of the inaugural Centers for Excellence committee and opening new accounts. In 2018 I was promoted to Regional Director and then Vice President of Operations, the position I still hold today.

How do you think being a woman impacts your leadership style?
I believe that most women in our society have a different set of common experiences, are more social and have innate emotional intelligence. These three attributes give me a basis of understanding of the issues and successes of my team.

What advice would you give a young woman starting out her career looking to grow?
Learn and meet new people every chance you get. Volunteering for projects is a great way to expand your knowledge and experience. Even if you doubt yourself – speak up! We all have a voice that is important and should be heard. Sometimes I feel women second-guess their abilities and miss the opportunity to be heard as the professional and expert in what they do.

Do or did you have a female leader as a mentor or are there specific women who inspired you and why?
In 2010, I attended the MultiCultural Leadership program and then served on their board for five years. I met Sonya Mau, the then President of the Not-for-Profit organization, through MCLP and she inspires me every day. She became a mentor, and has a fantastic outlook on the world, work, and relationships. I learn something or gain insight into an important topic every time I talk to her. At Eurest, Beth Cash, Senior Vice President, is a mentor to me. She is so accomplished and shares her knowledge and perspectives freely.

How should women support other women in their organizations?
By being willing to listen and share advice, passing along opportunities that we know of and creating a culture of equity and inclusion in our organization and in our own circles.

Ginny Ward is a Director of Marketing for our National Accounts division. She began as a baker and was promoted to Assistant Food Service Director and then Food Service Director. Her path led her to a General Manager role where she was mentored by Compass Group North American Chief Operating Officer Rick Post, which led her to marketing. Currently, she is a Marketing Director for National Accounts.


“I couldn’t ask for a more passionate and professional team to work with.”

How do you think being a woman impacts your leaderships style?
Women bring a unique set of skills and a creative perspective to the table. Personally, I am a natural problem-solver. I love being able to look at a situation and find a creative solution and I think this comes from being a mom and working full-time.

What advice would you give a young woman starting out her career looking to grow?
Get involved and raise your hand to ask questions. I think the hardest part for someone starting out is understanding the resources available. Volunteering for projects is a fantastic way to get to know your peers, network with leadership and gain needed experience. Also, it’s okay to make mistakes. Learn from them and use that to improve. Finally, enter a mentoring relationship and trust your voice!

What mistakes did you make along the way and what did you learn from them?
I struggled with time management and organizational skills. I would say yes to every project without being able to prioritize, which would lead me to feeling overwhelmed and unable to meet deadlines. I knew that I needed to grow in this area, so I took relevant courses and began observing how the successful leaders around me managed their time. With practice, I was able to overcome this obstacle and become more effective.

How should women support other women in their organizations?
Women supporting each other is critical to the success of us all. Supporting, mentoring and encouraging are words that come to mind. As I’ve navigated my career, it has been so important for me to have people who took an interest in me and my trajectory.






Tell us about your career trajectory – where you started and how you got to where you are today.
Food has always been part of my life. I come from a family of amazing cooks. However, my career trajectory didn’t originate in hospitality. I attended law school in Brazil and during that time was given the opportunity to go to Colorado for a student exchange program. Part of the requirement was having a part-time job, so I worked in a kitchen at a resort and fell in love. It was extremely rewarding, so when I returned to Brazil, I attended Culinary School. In 2011, I moved to Kansas and joined Eurest as a deli cook. Within just a few months, I was promoted to Culinary Lead and then shortly after, started my first salaried position as Sous Chef.

I found my passion in catering when I helped support while our Catering Director went on maternity leave. I felt like catering was the perfect combination of cooking and creativity. A short time later, I was promoted to Catering Director and then Food Service Director. During this time my ambition for operational excellence only grew. In 2019, I accepted my General Manager role in Omaha, NE, where I still reside.

How do you think being a woman impacts your leadership style?
As a woman, specifically an immigrant woman, I have been discriminated against. Going through the experiences I have had as a woman and mother has helped me to be more compassionate. I always aim to be extremely fair and transparent with my team and ensure they feel valued.

What mistakes have you made along the way and what did you learn from them?What advice would you give a young woman starting out her career looking to grow?
Own your career; nobody will care as much as you do. Advocate for yourself and pursue your aspirations, acknowledge what you’re good at and leverage those strengths. Most importantly, never do or be a part of anything that compromises your morals and values. Always be yourself, work hard and be confident, and success will come.

I have made many mistakes, but my biggest one was being too strict and not willing to change. I have learned I have to continually adapt and be malleable in my career.

How should women support other women in their organizations?
We should set a good example by sitting front and center and speaking up in meetings. Advocating and looking for opportunities to boost other women’s confidence while celebrating each other’s accomplishments. Be a mentor to others when possible and always change the likeability penalty.