Having begun her career as a Sheraton trainee, before leaving Starwood in 2008, Tina Edmundson, global branding officer at Marriott International, has seen quite a bit of the industry. Not burning bridgest is key to chart an upward career course in the industry, she says.
How did you begin your career in the hospitality industry?
I started in hospitality as a trainee at the Sheraton. Until 2008, when I moved to Marriott, I worked with Starwood whom I was with for a long time. Starwood was a lot more transient, whereas at the Marriott people tend to tenure longer.
How would you describe the working culture at the Marriott?
Right now it’s hectic, but it’s not cutthroat. The company wants to move forward, so there is a lot of momentum. And integrity is a big part of the company. We’re constantly reminded about the ethos that defines what Mr [Bill] Marriott and his dad [John Willard Marriott] espoused, and some of those quotes remain with you. For instance, ‘the business you do is as important as how you do business.” At Marriott, we deal with a lot of vendors, for instance, and you always want it to be a win-win for both parties. If someone is losing, then no one wins.
As a woman in a senior role at a major company, how would you describe your experience climbing the corporate ladder?
You have to embrace the difference both personally and professionally, as woman. I’m originally Indian, but even in the US, those differences still exist. Maybe because of the role they play in families, women tend to be a bit less aggressive. It’s important to make priorities, focus on what you want to do, and not allow people to tell you what you can’t do. Most importantly, you have to find joy in what you do. When you enjoy it, you find passion in it, and then you become really good at it. That changes a lot of things. It helps you promote yourself, and it helps growth.
Being told what you can’t do… does that happen often as a woman?
I think being told that you can’t do something happens more than you think it does, especially, depending on where you are, the phase you are in your life. It isn’t even necessarily a woman thing. But enjoying what I do is what helps get over that. And it has been that way for me. Even if it’s never been done before, it’s ok, you can still do it. I was fortunate that my mom was an entrepreneur, so I never grew up thinking I couldn’t do anything. It’s nice to have role models.
How well would you say Marriott International does with promoting women into leadership positions?
We have a lot of women in our organisation in the Middle East. We do quite well with that. Neil jones runs marketing, sales, revenue management in the Middle East, for instance, and all his direct reports except one, is a woman. My own boss at the Marriott International is a woman. Half our C-Suite is staffed with women. It’s unusual, but wonderfully inspirational. It makes you feel, when you see women in power, that you can do it too.
What are some lessons you would give to young professionals of either gender just starting out in their careers?
Don’t burn bridges, first of all. Strong relationships are very important. Also, I always believe you learn from the people you love to work with, but even more from people you hated to work with. We’ve all had those people in our lives, but looking at the way they do things is when you make a decision that you’re never going to do that. Besides, some of my bosses have been really hard and demanding taskmasters, but the learning I received, I would never replace. So you have to take the good with the bad.
What advice you would give to young managers rising through the ranks?
That people don’t come to work for just the job. They choose to stick around and work for those they respect, admire and inspire them. If you lose sight of trying to be inspirational to your team, you are losing something that you shouldn’t. Caring about people before the job they do for you, is really very important. Especially so in our industry because we’re in the business of serving people and if you don’t practice what you preach… well then it doesn’t translate. If we provide people with the right environment to be happy, then they’re going to be able to do the job that they are tasked with really well.
And finally, what is a piece of luxury you spend your money on?
I walk a lot, and I wear high heels. So while I love Jimmy Choo’s, they just aren’t comfortable to walk in. So I prefer my Christian Louboutin and Louis Vuitton. The latter especially are very comfortable.
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