How Five Women are Leading the Way in Hospitality

The hospitality industry is brimming with hard-working, courageous women who give their all to make sure every guest has an exceptional experience. Smart Meetings asked five of them to share how they found this career, what inspires them and their vision for the future. Read on and you may just find your inspiration.

Related: Leadership Defined: 2019 Smart Women in Meetings Winners

Valerie Pagan, director of sales, Playa Largo Resort & Spa, Florida Keys

For many years I wanted to be a teacher because I wanted to make a difference in the world; I wanted to leave my mark. My first job at a hotel was just a job to pay the bills, but I loved it.  I never wanted a guest to have an issue, but when they did, I wanted to be the person to fix it and make it better. I realize some people save their money for a year to go on one family vacation and getting to be a part of making a lifetime of memories was my mark and my passion.

I am a “lead by example” type of person. Some leaders don’t want to teach their employees what they know because they feel it gives them job security. I feel I am only as good as my team and for my property to truly be successful, my team needs to know everything I can teach them. This goes along with my previous desire to be a teacher and is also a way for me to leave my mark on the world.

My husband inspires me. He has worked for Marriott International for over 25 years with the same passions about work. Also, our three boys and our family are sincerely my inspiration. Seeing them smile and getting to watch what generous, kind and giving young men they are makes me feel successful every day.

My vision for my career, property and industry is simple: Leave every person, place and thing in a better situation/condition than you found them. Do everything you can to put a smile on each face you see, even if it’s by just being silly. That’s how they will remember you and through that you will live forever.

Tiffiany Holmes, hotel manager, Marriott Cancun Collection—JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa and Marriott Cancun Resort, Mexico

I had no idea when I was a young single mother what I wanted to do. One day, I went to interview at a hotel for a cocktail waitress position and remember being blown away by the personal attention that I received as an applicant. One month and six interviews later, I was offered the position and the rest is history. I was in love with hotels and the fast-paced environment where I got to create memories for guests. I was energized by the smiles. Later in my career, I found my inspiration through developing, teaching, training and leading teams of employees. At every level of my career, hospitality has remained my passion.

Leadership is about having a strong vision and inspiring others to follow you on a path to excellence. Leaders have to know where they are going and they need to support the ones who will get them there.

In our properties no two days are the same, but I can say our team inspires me every day. What they are able to accomplish day-in and day-out shows they can make the impossible possible.

My vision is to keep the industry competitive by providing an environment that attracts people to want to work in hospitality. For my properties, the vision is to provide a luxury experience through excellent service. For my personal career of 26 years, my vision has always been to lead a world-renowned hotel while developing as many people as possible along the way.

Anna MacDiarmid, general manager, W Fort Lauderdale, Florida

I have always been drawn to the hospitality business. It began at an early age when I applied as a dishwasher and banquet server for a summer job. The experiences in the industry provided me with new opportunities and allowed me to learn valuable skills. I was fortunate to work in a hotel that encouraged me to become familiar with many departments, which in turn launched me into management positions.

Integrity and humility are two essential factors in leadership. It is also about finding the balance to be both fair and firm. A respectful leader supports, understands and empowers the team/employees while at the same time taking ownership of his/her responsibilities.

I love what I do! My passion for the hospitality industry motivates me each day. I feel invigorated and eager to take on daily challenges and I am always encouraged to achieve excellence. It is also important to surround myself with coworkers who are equally driven. Their spark and excitement toward the hospitality industry fuels my enthusiasm to continually give my best and lead them to success.

It is important for me to challenge myself to be a strong and inspirational leader. I believe that I am not only a general manager, but also a mentor and coach for the team. My hope is to encompass my experience, skill, work ethic and professional development that I’ve learned over the past 36 years and use it to be a resource for our young leaders and help them reach their personal success.

Andrea Ferguson, director of sales, The Palms Hotel & Spa, Miami Beach

I knew I wanted to have a career in hospitality as a teenager due to my travels. My family and I traveled to London, Toronto and New York and it instantly sparked intrigue and joy in me. I enjoyed every aspect of the journey, from the excitement of the decision-making process of choosing a destination, to hotel selection and beyond. I immediately wanted to learn more. That led to entering the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism for high school and subsequently went on to study Hospitality Management at Florida International University.

To me, leadership is the ability to influence a team’s positioning to fit within the concept that you or your organization has established. I demonstrate leadership through integrity, commitment and positivity. Sales is a very dynamic industry with lots of highs and lows. Knowing how to navigate a “no” into a “you will say yes in the future” comes from a never-ending passion.

The unknown continues to inspire and drive me every single day. Not knowing what the day ahead will bring challenges me to be flexible, creative and mindful that although some things cannot be changed, I can adjust my position to yield a positive outcome.

As the hotel industry experience changes due to everything from corporate brand mergers to technology advances, The Palms Hotel & Spa continues to stay true to being a vibrant and authentic, award-winning hotel with laid back sophistication, oceanfront serenity and environmental awareness. We’re proud to have The Palms continue to lead the movement in wellness and living a sustainable lifestyle, something that we see is becoming more and more important to travelers and groups. We’re pleased to be a leading eco-friendly hotel choice for groups, not only through the hotel’s green program but also through various initiatives to help guests impact the world hands-on, like with our quarterly beach clean-ups. I look forward to continuing the property’s passion for living a sustainable lifestyle and having groups be a part of an eco-friendly movement during their time in Miami Beach.

Related: Herspective: ALHI Executive Women in Leadership Conference

Gamil Singh, Corporate Sales & Marketing Director, Bern Hotels & Resorts Panamá

I learned about the hospitality industry when I was studying in school and attended a university fair. I instantly knew my chosen career in my heart after listening to the professor explain how thrilling the tourism and hospitality industry was and how I could contribute to my beautiful country’s representation. People need to know about our exotic destination and its vibrant culture, and I want to be someone that helps spread the word.

I am an average woman with personal and professional dreams. I treat people as I want them to treat me, by listening and guiding them. In order to lead my team, it’s important to be attentive to detail and give solid examples.

I love my family, and they inspire me every single day; they are the pillars of my inspiration.

The passion I have for my work keeps me focused and creative. I enjoy spending time with my second family, my team and co-workers. They are all my motivators.

My vision is to constantly grow and continue learning every single day. There are constant changes in marketing and technology and it’s important to keep up. Hotels and resorts are now finding new ways to provide pleasurable and memorable experiences and I want the properties I represent to be ahead of the game. I aspire to serve my country by being a good role model of a Panamanian professional woman.

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