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! ☺

Networking like a Pro

Networking like a Pro

Having a career in the development industry for the last 10 years I‘ve had the pleasure of meeting a lot of new people.  Relationship building is what I get paid to do and of course raising millions of dollars.  Networking is one of those words that can bring a smile to one’s face or seem like a chore.  People tell me, “You are so good at networking and making new friends, how do you it?” Here are 3 sure fire tips to help you navigate your personal and professional network.

Managing Millennials

By: Ta'Nia Wright

Dear ‘millennials’ and those who manage you:

I know you get a hard time for being part of this young generation, “The Millennials.” I’ve personally had the, ahem, sometimes unfortunate pleasure of managing many of you over the last ten years. Instead of ranting about the problems and challenges I’ve experienced with millennial employees and the differences between managing you, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers, I thought instead I would do something constructive and let you in on a few secrets that will help you gain more respect for both yourself and your generation. You get a bad rap for your supposedly poor work ethic and sense of entitlement, but perhaps you’re just misunderstood – I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. So, let’s begin:

My generation (Generation X) is undoubtedly different to yours. We come to work on time, we actually care about impressing our boss and most of all, we work hard to advance in the workplace.

How I wish I could say the same for you! I am afraid to say that some of you have a completely different work ethic. Some of you don’t work hard at all, and most don’t have a clear idea of what a strong work ethic actually involves. As far as advancing in the workplace goes, I get the strong impression that many of you believe it is something that should just be handed to you because you’ve held a certain position for a certain amount of time – not because you’ve actually earned it.

From my experience as a manager, I think there are two types of millennials:

1) The ones that work hard and give it their all (usually children of Generation Xers).

2) The ones that are lazy, have no motivation, no drive, no ambition, and believe their job is beneath them – really, they’re destined to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, if only someone would recognize their genius!

Wait, you’re probably saying. You said you were going to give us tips, not rant about us! So let’s get to the meaty part. I’ve found that to bring out the best in my millennial employees, there’s an effective system I can use that I call GROW. So what’s GROW?

G- Goal R- Reality O- Options W- Way Forward

Later on I plan to go more into more detail about GROW, but for now I'll give a small definition of what it is and what it kind of entails.

When you grow your employee you are either coaching them for breakthrough or coaching for engagement. Breakthrough means getting your employee to that next level of advancement - usually they are almost there, but we as managers can provide them with the missing tools they need to make the leap to a position of more responsibility.

Managers coach for engagement when their employee is lacking the basic skills to complete his or her task effectively. As a manager you need to try to engage them to become better at their job. When you coach for engagement, one of two things will happen: your employee will become engaged at work, learn the skills they’re lacking, and will perform better; or your employee will give up and leave his or her job (and probably make everyone else's life easier when they do.)

I have faith that you millennials will rise to the occasion, because you certainly possess some beautiful and creative minds; and for you managers, continue to use GROW and practice tons of patience, and hopefully you’ll soon see the payoff.