Monkey Business

Hospitality alumna gracefully transitions into the tech world

Monkey Business

As a little girl, Laurell Shaffer, ’06, dreamed of being a Rockette. She grew up taking dance classes and performing her craft in various recitals. However, her career path twirled her in a much different direction. So, instead of doing high kicks at Radio City, she’s taken to the stage of high tech.

As an enterprise customer success manager for the world’s most popular online survey software, Survey Monkey, Shaffer spends her days making sure the company’s largest customer organizations are set up on the system, and, ultimately, successful.

Shaffer earned her bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and began her career with a position at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tenn. A few years later, she received an opportunity with Hyatt in San Francisco, and made the cross-country move.

While living in the City by the Bay, Shaffer became fascinated by the start-up world and technology, and found a company called Eventbrite, which combined what she knew about events from working in hotels with technology, and she made the switch.

When deciding to move to Portland, Ore., with her now fiancé about four years later, she was able to easily transition to Survey Monkey since Eventbrite has a partnership with the company.

“I find it really exciting,” she explains. “One of the reasons I got away from hotels and moved into technology was because I found that the hotel industry gets to be really stagnant. I refer to it as the ‘good old boys club.’ And, this is absolutely the opposite. When you’re in a young, small company, you have access to leadership, you have access to tools, you’re growing much faster, and everything is quicker. A lot of times, processes aren’t defined and you’re defining them on your own, which I really enjoy. There’s not a lot of red tape. You can make what you want out of it.”

Survey Monkey serves customers of every field, including higher education, corporations, government agencies, magazines and professional sports teams, among others.

It also has an incentive program, called Contribute, where people can register to take surveys, and, for each survey that’s taken, the company donates 50 cents to a charity of the survey respondent’s choosing. So, Shaffer finds herself not only helping her customers set up their surveys, but also taking many surveys in her own personal time.

“Also, when I take surveys, I’m more inclined to find out if they’re using Survey Monkey and, if they’re not, finding out who the competitor is, why they’re different than us and why that organization would be using them,” she says.

Although her career path didn’t lead her to a New York City stage, she feels like she made the leap into a job that’s just the right fit.

“I love to interact with people,” she says. “I think that’s the link from hospitality. I like the relationship-building aspect of the role. And, it’s different every day. This is the most removed I can probably be from hospitality, but it’s still a fun job!”

A BARREL OF Q&A

Q. Favorite UCF memory?

A. My first Spirit Splash [in fall 2002], because it’s so unique and wildly fun.

Q. Favorite UCF class?

A. I had an event class that I really liked at the Rosen campus. There was a lot of hands-on stuff. [My professor] helped run the halftime shows and performances at the football games, so for one of our activities, we were able to go down to the field and participate, with headsets on and helping to coordinate things. I also participated in the Culture and Cuisine class (my junior year) that takes students to Paris in the spring, which was amazing. We met with chefs, and we tasted wine, and saw all these amazing sights. It was my first time in Europe.

Q. Were you involved in any extracurricular activities at UCF?

A. I [was in a] sorority for the first two years. I [also] was part of the Hospitality Association once I [went] down that path. I did a bunch of events, and a New York trip for certain members of the association to go to the restaurant show at the Javitz Center in New York.

Q. What advice would you give to current UCF hospitality students?

A. Take advantage of all the programs, because there are some really neat ones, and the classes are so unique. I’ll talk about classes that I took in college, and I don’t think other schools have anything like them. It is a really special program for hospitality. I don’t think there are many out there that compete with it.

Q. Last thing you Googled?

A. Do I need an adapter for electronics in Thailand?

Q. What TV show are you embarrassed to admit watching?

A. “So You Think You Can Dance.” It’s not so much the show, but the level of obsession I have with it that gets embarrassing.

Q. What do you do for fun?

A. Volunteer, hike, cook, taste all of Portland’s amazing food

Q. If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A. Froyo