What initially inspired you to get into the hospitality business? I was born with a very outgoing personality, a love of people, and an innate value of serving others. Starting at age 10, I babysat and worked in my mom’s ice cream shop (a side business to her being a full-time teacher and private pre-school owner), getting an early dose of responsibility and cultivating my love of caring for people.
When I was 14, I joined my dad for a business trip for a Marriott Vacation Club International board meeting, for which he was president of the board. We joined the resort’s Managing Director (whose name was Cindy) and her female colleagues for dinner. I ate quietly and listened to the conversation. At the end of the dinner, I told my dad that I wanted to do what Cindy did. Despite my dad being a developer, investor, and serial entrepreneur, I didn’t see a similar path for myself until I saw a woman walking it. That is when I learned that representation matters. Shortly thereafter, I decided I wanted to go to the Hotel School at Cornell. Thank goodness I was accepted, as I had no plan B to that singular focus!
Who were some of your mentors or role models, male or female, and what were their most valuable lessons? One of my greatest mentors was Bruce Baltin of PKF-LA, who sadly passed away only days prior to me writing this. Thankfully, I can rest assured that he knew this, as I took several opportunities over the last 20 years to tell him how much he positively impacted my career and the careers of many others, and how much I appreciated him.
One of the first lessons he taught me was never to overlook the experts you know, as we often assume that the foremost expert must be at least 50 miles away. In the instance when he shared this lesson, it was him and PKF who were the experts. Over the years, I have taken this lesson to heart and see that I am surrounded by experts—and, on occasions, I am the expert—and to engage my rich network to learn, create solutions together, and never stop growing.
I must add that Bruce was always a champion of women leaders in our industry. Bruce’s positive impact on our industry and me is, and will continue to be, everlasting.
What’s your outlook for the future with regard to diversity and inclusion within hospitality? Look at all the extraordinary women leaders who have been profiled by LODGING during Women’s History Month. I am proud to consider these women peers, mentors, friends, and inspirations.
What I do not see is hospitality industry conference panels filled with these stellar women, so there is still a disconnect. When you want to find a woman leader, ask a woman. We need more women on conference planning boards, in executive recruiting roles, and in the C-suite to help bring others along the leadership journey. The ultimate goal is for us to no longer need all of these leadership initiatives to elevate women, because we will simply be there.