Vice President, HVS Executive Search
Lacey Hagen, Vice President, HVS Executive Search, will provide insight into her experiences as ...
Young Professional Profile: Erin Fitzharris, Hersha Hospitality Trust
This week’s Young Professional Profile focuses on Erin Fitzharris and her transition from operations to the corporate side of the business. There are a multitude of growth and career progression options in the hospitality industry, however, transitioning into a corporate role with an operational background is a difficult feat to accomplish before the age of 30. Erin explains some of the challenges she has faced in her leadership roles and offers advice to other young professionals that are looking for an opportunity to move into the corporate world of hotel management.
Education: Temple University
Degree: B.A. Business, M.S. Tourism and Hospitality Management
Career Progression: General manager of the Conwell Inn, Independent Collection Manager Hersha Hospitality Trust
Lacey Hagen: Before you began your career with Hersha, you were a GM at a young age. Can you describe any challenges you experienced while you were a GM at the Conwell?
Erin Fitzharris: The largest challenge for me as the General Manager of the Conwell was my age. Prior to being a GM, I had three years of F&B experience and held a few operational roles; however I was still only 22 years of age. The property was small, so it was manageable but it taught me a lot about people and human interaction. You’re perceived much differently at the age of 22 regardless of the role you hold. It forces you to be prepared to handle everything and anything they can throw at you. At the age of 22, people expect you to be unprepared, which means you need to not only make sure you know your stuff, but also be aware of what you don’t know.
LH: How did you adjust transitioning from operations to a corporate position?
EF: Transitioning from an operational role to a corporate position requires you to change the way you approach projects entirely. I feel it is important for anyone in a corporate position to have had some operational experience otherwise it’s almost impossible to see the full picture and truly understand implementation and execution at the property level. One thing that was helpful for me was that I was coming from an Independent hotel and hired at Hersha to work for Independent hotels. I’ve never worked in a branded setting so that allowed me to be more flexible and creative, making the transition to corporate easier.
LH: Do you have any advice for young professionals that are working in operations and would like to transition into a corporate role?
EF: Keep learning. Don’t let your education stop at your school or the hotel front door. You should not only be reading industry publications and learning about what is happening in your area, but read everything you can get your hands on – even if it’s from another industry. Some of the greatest ideas in hospitality spurred from other industries.
Professionals can often be pigeonholed into operational roles because they haven’t learned enough about what’s happening outside of operations to be seen as one who would flourish in a corporate setting. If it’s not something I have read on my own today, I know I will have an interesting article left on my desk or email shared amongst my peers that will keep us innovative and thinking about what the next best thing will be in our industry. Education is cornerstone of success and education is not limited to the classroom. Pick up a paper everyday and develop an appetite for reading and learning about things outside of operations.
LH: Where do you see your career progressing?
EF: This is a very exciting time to be at Hersha, as we are a growing company and the Independent Collection is at a pivotal growth point. It’s fun to work with such vibrant and culturally rich properties and exciting to see where the collection is headed. I look forward to continuing on as a dynamic member of the Independent Collection team here at Hersha and hope to grow into a more senior role as the Collection expands to include more properties, initiatives, and associates.
LH: What trends do you see becoming popular for independent properties?
EF: As travel becomes more commonplace, I see Independent hotels following suit. More and more guests are growing into discerning travelers and looking for more of an ‘out of the box’ experience; the type of found at independent properties. While there will always be a place for flagged assets, younger generations are becoming better informed about their travel options and more aware of the fact that the travel experiences found at independent hotels are more creative and dynamic than those offered at their branded counterparts. While I may be a bit bias, I see great growth in the Independent hotel sector. We are on the brink of a very creative and dynamic time in the hospitality industry and I am excited to see what is to come next!
Next Up's “Young Professional Profile” will be a bi-weekly post that profiles young professionals in the hospitality industry that have achieved success and are making an impact early in their careers. If you work with or know anyone that would fit the criteria of being profiled, feel free to contact Lacey Hagen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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