Life & Love


This Woman’s Work” is an ongoing series meant to highlight how women in different industries are living their lives. We hope to show that there’s no one “right” way to succeed. There are so many ways, and so many different experiences.


There’s a Brazilian spirit entwined in one of the Hamptons’ most Montauk-y spots, The Surf Lodge. Its founder Jayma Cardoso lived in Brazil until she was a teen, moving to New York City for college and various started-at-the-bottom jobs. The latter—working at downtown restaurants and clubs—forecasted her future as a major player in the area’s hospitality scene (even if it totally didn’t synch up with her college major).

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Inspired by her commanding position and a record of defining beach magic for Manhattanites and beyond, ELLE.com caught up with her.

How do you describe what you do to people who ask and might not be familiar with your industry or world?

Well, my focus now is on hotels. Most people think that means you’re in hospitality, which to a degree is true, but for me…I’m in the business of creating guests’ experiences. How it manifests itself varies, but I put my focus on food, wellness, art, music, and creating settings, be it through design or accommodations.

What’s an average day like?

My average day is pretty much like everyone else’s—except on steroids. I’m a mother first and that means taking care of my son and keeping our house in order. After breakfast, I make time to meditate and get some type of exercise. Each day of the week, I have time budgeted with different departments that make The Surf Lodge run and oversee what’s happening. It’s only the weekends that are super demanding and that’s because instinctively I’m a host, and I like making sure my guests are getting the most out of their stay with the hotel.

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What’s the most challenging part of your work? The most fulfilling? What’s your favorite part of your job?

The most challenging portion of my work is finding balance. I use to be involved too much in every detail. It’s really important to dedicate time to yourself and your work self. The most fulfilling part of what I do is when I know a guest has really been wowed by some element of what we do. My favorite part of my job is that we spend a lot of time preparing guest experiences before they come to be, so when you actually see it come to fruition, it’s such a rewarding moment.

Meg Laubscher for VillageLuxe

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Did or do you have someone you identify as a mentor?

I’ve had so many mentors during my career. I think it’s important to find mentors in areas you want to learn more about or improve upon. One of my first mentors was Rocco Ancarola. I lied about being able to bartend to get a job at one of his restaurants, and on my first day on the job, it was obvious I didn’t know how to make cocktails. But he did see that I had a way of making customers happy and have fun. Instead of firing me for not being able to do what I was hired for, he gave me a different challenge of hosting and making people feel welcome and part of something.

Would I be who I am now if I didn’t make some mistakes along the way?

Looking back at your career, what are some of the commonalities you see between different jobs you’ve had? Did you find you realized strengths and likes as you progressed, or is your career made up of things you honed in on from the beginning?

I never would have thought I’d be in hospitality—I planned to be a biologist. It was only through working in hospitality while I attended college that I learned how much I loved it. In a way, all the jobs I’ve had in hospitality were stepping stones to owning my hotel. Everything from learning the books, to working with vendors, to building a team of colleagues. To be honest, I think [you should] find something you love and do all the roles that help create the big picture. You should know how to do all the little elements, roles, and responsibilities of the greater vision of what it is you want to do.

Being a biologist would have been an entirely different world. I think the lesson is being open to new experiences. It’s not possible to know all the things you’re good at or would love to do when you’re 20 years old. Just do whatever you presently are doing the best you can, and be open to new ideas and challenges as they may take you different directions.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give interns or assistant-level people looking to make an impression or the next step in their career?

Show energy and enthusiasm, even if you don’t feel it. If you act it, you’ll feel it and it will show in your work. Learn to take great pride in the small things you do: they add up when you look at the big picture.

If you could go back and change anything about how you got to where you are today, what would you change?

I’ve made some mistakes along the way, and, in a way, of course you’d want to go back and change some of those mistakes. But in reality, would I be who I am now if I didn’t make some mistakes along the way?

Do you have a ‘work spouse’? A tribe?

I’m definitely a tribe person. When I came to the US from Brazil, my English was far from perfect, and I naturally built a community of Brazilian friends. Over time, both my sisters and mother would move to New York, and I had another tribe that is my family. My family tribe has only gotten bigger since then. I also have all the people who I work with, and I feel very tied to them. It’s important to have tribes. You need things and groups of people that you belong to that are bigger than yourself.



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