Aquaria Harley, Director of Sales and Marketing, Starwood Hotel and Resorts

How did you end up choosing a career in the hospitality industry?

When I was growing up in Parsippany, New Jersey, we used to take family trips to various locations in the US. We would stay in hotels and I really enjoyed the ambience and friendly people. I soon realized that I could make this career work for me in various places.

What would surprise people most about your role?

People are surprised that I have various job responsibilities. As the Director of Sales & Marketing at a boutique hotel, I not only have the job of bringing groups to stay at my hotel, but I also support many other departments such as Accounting, Reservations, and Events. You must have great organizational skills and the ability to multi-task.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I enjoy meeting people from all over the world and making their experiences at my hotel memorable! There are many reasons why people choose to stay at hotels such as family reunions, weddings, corporate/social events, graduations, et cetera. I want to ensure that they have a great experience! Our guests will return back to our hotel if we provide excellent customer service and if we value their business. Guests have many choices for hotel accommodations since there is a greater supply of hotels than those in demand in New York.

How important is a good support system?

Very important! I am truly blessed to have family, friends, and mentors that support me and who want me to be successful in all that I do. I am also very focused and driven about my career goals.

What advice would you give women who are interested in a career in Hospitality Management?

You must enjoy working with people and have the ability to multi-task. The industry is moving toward more individual responsibility and fewer staff members. To gain as much hospitality experience as possible, you should be well-rounded. The more well-rounded you are, the more opportunities there are to advance.

You've been in this industry for some time now, what are some lessons learned?

You must have a strong backbone and know what you are worth; it is not easy moving up the corporate ladder because you might not have the support from your colleagues. They might not feel that you are ready to move forward. You are in charge of your own destiny! I have learned to take risks and be willing to relocate as well. I started as a Guest Services Operator and now I am the Director of Sales & Marketing. I have been the industry for over 15 years and I have worked in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Florida.

What are a few of your favorite must-haves?

Lipstick and business cards! You are always selling! ☺