Finding Fulfillment


Success stories spotlight meaningful career opportunities in Oregon’s diverse and lucrative tourism industry.

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Success stories spotlight meaningful career opportunities in Oregon’s diverse and lucrative tourism industry.

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Lora Woodruff, owner of Third Wave Coffee Tours,
stands by the Ole Latte Coffee truck in
downtown Portland.

It began with a shocking wake-up call. Lora Woodruff had, for years, enjoyed a successful career as a web developer at Intel. But while she was pregnant with her daughter, she was diagnosed with cancer. In the midst of reevaluating her priorities, she resigned from her job to spend time with her newborn. And as she endured a difficult battle with the disease, she found her passion for specialty coffee.

“I was downtown in Public Domain Coffee, reading the newspaper over a latte, when I came across a story on Portland’s specialty coffee scene,” says Woodruff. She immediately took a walking map of the city and marked the location of some of the city’s famous cafes. “I was an out-and-about mom,” she laughs, “and I was just looking for a reason to get out of the house with my daughter.”

0315 brandstory travelor01 250pxHer many coffee excursions throughout the city—totaling hundreds of hours spent in coffee shops—became the genesis of Third Wave Coffee Tours, a tour agency she founded in 2013 to offer walking tours of Portland that highlight local coffee roasters and specialty cafes.

Woodruff’s entrepreneurial journey, a story of professional success in spite of personal trials, is not an anomaly in Oregon, where tourism creates 94,000 jobs and generates $9.6 billion in annual revenue. And while the perception exists that a majority of those employed in this sector work in unfulfilling, dead-end jobs, the state’s lucrative tourism sector is creating countless opportunities for meaningful careers—whether it’s a mom’s entrepreneurial venture or a housekeeper climbing the ladder to the top.

Now in its second year, Woodruff’s company has seen considerable success. Since guiding her first walking tour, she and her team have given well over a thousand guests a behind-the-scenes look at the city’s specialty coffee industry. As one of only two coffee tours in the U.S., working in a city known as a coffee mecca, Woodruff has become a sort of ambassador for specialty coffee, attracting attention from media in the U.S., U.K., Australia and even Japan. But she defines her success on different terms.

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Employees  gather for libations during a festive
event at the Jupiter Hotel. Al Munguia has created
a work environment that celebrates the
accomplishments of team members and offers
room for advancement.

“When I started giving tours, I was really seeking to realign my career with my priorities,” Woodruff explains. “My daughter is the most important thing to me, and I wanted the flexibility to determine my own schedule.” An entrepreneurial career in food and beverage tourism—a growing sector of the regional economy—has given her that freedom. “I currently guide around four tours a week, and I’m able to time them around my daughter’s school schedule; it’s a really balanced life,” says Woodruff, who is now cancer-free.

Woodruff’s advice to others is to find where their passions intersect with a gap in the market. “I had volunteered with Travel Portland since 2001, and I always had this idea I would end up working in tourism,” she says. “I noticed there were beer tours, food tours, wine tours, you name it. I just had a passion for coffee, and decided to go for it.”

Woodruff represents a group of entrepreneurs who are following a passion in tourism and finding success on their own terms. But countless others have built successful, meaningful careers by climbing the ladder. Al Munguia, general manager of Portland’s Jupiter Hotel, is an example.

Munguia began his career at a Travelodge motel, starting as an assistant to a housekeeper. He did the job well and soon worked his way through the ranks from folding sheets in the laundry department to answering phones as hotel operator. By changing hotels and taking on more challenges, he found his groove in management. Yet with each move, he continued to draw on the customer service skills he honed in his first jobs.

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Al Munguia, general manager
of the Jupiter Hotel

“Early on, I learned to honestly listen to customers, to drop my ego and see the situation from their perspective,” says Munguia, “and this is a lesson I’ve always carried with me.” Munguia’s attention to the customer’s experience eventually took him to the highest rungs of corporate leadership, where he worked for Holiday Inn in Mexico and South America. But it was taking on the lead role at a startup boutique hotel in Portland that truly challenged his creativity.

“Boutique hotels had not exploded on the scene yet, and this was a unique opportunity to rethink how we operated a hotel and redefine the guest’s experience,” Munguia explains. In the decade since the Jupiter Hotel opened its doors in the midst of the recession, he has played a key role in building the reputation of one of Portland’s most celebrated hotels and defining an emerging trend in the industry.

0315 brandstory travelor03 500px“The challenge for me was coming from a very structured, corporate environment to a role that had no defined structure,” Munguia admits. But in the past 10 years, he has created a workplace environment that pays fair wages and fosters the growth of his employees. “This has been the most rewarding and challenging experience of my career,” he says.

“I marvel at the impact tourism has on all of our lives—the lives of every human being in our state,” Munguia concludes. And the impact tourism has on his life sets an inspiring example: His high-profile career in tourism demonstrates—much like Woodruff’s example—how the industry continually offers new challenges and opportunities for meaningful growth, no matter a person’s background.