For the past 35 years, Kevin Schlegel has been a dedicated employee at various properties throughout the Bay Area — from his humble beginnings as an hourly worker at a Hyatt hotel in San Jose to his current position at Vi at Palo Alto, where he’s served since the community opened in 2005.
Schlegel joined the Hyatt team in 1982, while he was still in school, as a bellman. But when the opportunity arose to make more money — in the form of an entry-level accounting role — he seized it. The opportunity came at a price, though: He worked the graveyard shift from 11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., performing the night audit that closed out the books for the day and handing the numbers off to accounting.
Living Life “Upside Down”For close to 10 years, the graveyard shift was his reality. “I lived life upside down. My wife worked days, so we’d basically high-five when I got home, and she’d leave for work,” he said. During the day, he looked after the children. When his wife returned home from work, the family ate dinner together, then Schlegel slept for a few hours and woke up to do it all again.
But he took the hours in stride.
“My first child came along, and I needed to keep a roof over her head and food in her belly,” Schlegel said. “I just kept moving around and moving up — for my family.”
Over time, he returned to a 9-to-5 schedule, as a clerk in the accounting office of the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport in Burlingame, and later Rickey’s, a Hyatt hotel in Palo Alto, where he worked as a paymaster until 2005. To this day, he’s had no formal accounting training; instead, he learned on the job from coworkers and managers, and performed all his calculations by hand.
“What Microsoft Excel would do for you now, I was learning to do manually,” he said. Old habits die hard, he says: Though he does nearly all his work on a computer these days, he still carries a flip phone and has never bought a personal computer for his home.
“I’d never experienced senior living before. I thought it would be fun,” he said.
In the early months of opening the community, Schlegel was tasked with implementing policies and worked closely with the HR department to establish and iron out financial procedures for employees.
Today, he’s responsible for payroll and accounts payable. Schlegel jokes that he’s “the most liked person in the office twice a month.”
Manuel Villarreal, director of accounting at Vi at Palo Alto, has been with the company for just eight years, and credits Schlegel with keeping the department’s processes running smoothly no matter what. “Kevin takes his job very seriously. He’s always focused on meeting his deadlines and doing things correctly,” Villarreal said. Schlegel is vital to the Vi at Palo Alto team, Villarreal says. “He’s more than just a workhorse! He’s very easy to talk to, and he’s a good listener. All the managers and supervisors respect his ability and value his teamwork,” he said.
“You never see the same face twice in a hotel — they’re there, take care of their business, and they leave,” he said. At Vi at Palo Alto, residents swing by just to say hello.
“A postman doesn’t want to go for a walk after work — and I’m not going to come home and get on a computer again. I’d rather go sit by a campfire with a beer!”