What initially inspired you to get into the hospitality business? My interest and experience in telling a story with data is what led me to STR. This is where I really learned the full breadth and depth of the hospitality business and the opportunities in this industry. My first experience in hospitality was when I was teenager working as a hostess, then server, at Ruby Tuesday. Working in restaurants throughout my college years taught me so much about the value of people and work ethic. This is where I saw service in action and learned the impact you can have by creating a great experience for people. Ultimately that is what the hospitality business is all about and what I love is to see is all the various ways that plays out across our industry.
Who were some of your mentors or role models, male or female, and what were their most valuable lessons? There are two men that have been the most influential to me and had the most impact in my professional success. The late Fred Harris was the leader of the team I worked in at my first professional job out of college. He was before his time in recognizing the importance of developing female leaders. The most valuable lesson I learned from him was never overact and that your team needs a calm and measured response in stressful situations.
Randy Smith is my other mentor, he has given me unwavering support and advice. The most valuable lesson from Randy has been to take risks and challenge yourself to try the things that don’t always look like they will be successful. It’s easy as a leader to get comfortable and Randy always challenged me to push the limits. When there was uncertainty he coached me to think through what the biggest failure could be if it didn’t work out. That approach to decision making gives me the confidence to take the risk and be comfortable with the unknown.
What’s your outlook for the future with regards to diversity and inclusion within hospitality? Many hospitality companies have recognized the importance of diversity and inclusion and have taken steps to improve. There is still much to be done in the industry. I believe that the outlook for diversity and inclusion within hospitality is positive, as more companies are committing to cultivating diverse and inclusive environments. Our industry is probably the most diverse in the world when you look across all employees throughout the industry. We have a unique opportunity to leverage diversity as a competitive advantage by embracing the diverse perspectives and ideas of employees and customers alike.