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I grew up in an all-women household.  My mom instilled a highly independent streak in my sister & me.  We both had jobs at 14, we paid for our own education, and were encouraged to participate in activities that supported our leadership skills – my sister took the path of sports, while I took a path in the arts.  We both chose to move out of the house and move across the country at the age of 17, and made traveling to other countries a priority.  Ultimately, we’ve both landed in the hospitality industry – my sister’s path was restaurants & mine – hotels. And we never believed we couldn’t do anything we set our minds to.

My sister is a workhorse.  She has a ton of energy, could talk to a wall & could sell ice to an eskimo – which makes her a perfect Bar Manager.  She has built up a base of regular clientele at every job she has been in – which is why it was heartbreaking when COVID struck & forced a shutdown to all the bars/restaurants in St. Petersburg, FL.   While the PPI helped support her for a little while, she ultimately lost her job, her insurance, and had nowhere to look for four months because everyone was in the same situation.   Luckily, Ally is resourceful, and spent the time off by regaining her personal training certificate and perfecting her management skills.  As soon as the beach reopened, she worked her contacts and landed a new role with a restaurant that was looking to evolve their business from beer/wine & tourist clientele to the local hot spot with a full bar & regular entertainment.  She actively recruited other hard working women she knew with a focus to give back to others impacted.  And I am a proud big sister to report, she has increased bar revenues by >50% since going back to work.   While Ally found a way out relatively quickly  – not everyone has – but it is people like her that will help us bring the job market back for women. 

My favorite book of all time is Eloise.  It is a story about a little girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel in New York City and how she interacts with all the staff & guests.  I pretty much think I was destined to be in the hotel industry.  When I was in high school my dad hired me to host his meeting in a hospitality suite at The Peabody Orlando hotel, and I was immediately hooked.  So – the first hospitality job I had was working the front desk of a 4 star hotel.  I didn’t want to do it, I wanted to make tips and had applied to be a Bell person – but was quickly redirected.  I don’t believe in coincidences – and that experience gave me the realization that I had the direct impact to make a difference in someone’s experience – and the chance to make lifelong friends.  After college, the job market sucked.  I borrowed a friend’s ratty old truck, sat on phone books & drove myself to a job fair at my alma mater.  That is where I met Carmen.  Carmen was a Recruitment Manager for The Peabody Orlando – and she hired me on the spot as the newest HR Coordinator.  Definitely destiny. 

Then we went through a recession.  It was 2008 and everything crashed.  We had layoffs, and it was devastating to say goodbye to so many talented people I had hired during my time as an HR Coordinator.  I too, would have been on the chopping block – but Carmen & our HR Director, Rosa, had other plans for me – to which I am forever grateful.  They found a flexible work system to ensure I maintained employment – I spent half my time in the Call Center – led by the incredible Susan, and the other half in HR.  I couldn’t believe how much more there was to learn in the hotel industry – even though I had worked at the front desk & job shadowed every position to effectively work in HR – the world of revenue management and systems was all new to me.  It was this role that was the key to realizing how everything in the hotel is connected & how crucial teamwork is to make a great guest experience.  We weren’t hiring anytime soon,  in fact, we were under construction for a massive expansion & renovation – and with the limited inventory, my heroes found another spot for me – and I went to work for Barb.

Barb was recently promoted from the Director of Revenue Management to the Assistant General Manager, and she needed an executive assistant.  Barb is also exactly who you want to be in life – intelligent, filled with integrity, and trusts the people who work with her – a very different positioning than working for her.  I was only too happy to bring her a diet coke in the morning just to have a few minutes of her energy and to collaborate to make our hotel the very best hotel in the world.  With the expansion almost complete, we needed a reopening strategy & Barb invited me to be a part of it – I was on the taskforce to relaunch our internal branding & guest service mantras, as well as used as a conduit to our advertising agency, website agency, and I deployed emails – me, who had worked at the front desk & in HR. She believed in me, and so, I did it – and I loved it.  When I asked her if tuition reimbursement would cover me obtaining a Digital Media Certification at NYU – she not only said yes, but approved for me to take one of my courses in the city & then added a new title to my signature. Barb is a leader you want to follow.  After The Peabody was sold, I followed her – to a new position where I have yet another great woman leader, Mandy.

Carmen, Rosa, Barb, Mandy – these incredible, talented, inspiring women have given me my life.  They believed in me, gave me chances, encouraged my growth, and always treated me like a person.  Hospitality is about people, and these women have taught me how to do that.  Thrive-Women in Travel is so important to me so I have the opportunity to give back the way I received support throughout my entire career.  They’ve shown me what women are capable of in the workplace, given me something to aspire to- not only in my career, but as a person.  Join us.

One Response

  1. Wow, Kate! This, your career life story gave me goosebumps and brought me to tears…(tears of joy). I am very proud of you and of the accomplished young woman you have become. I only opened a door, you had to have the willingness to persevere and do the work. AND YOU DID IT!!! Thank you for the recognition and for being an important member of my team at The Peabody Orlando, such great memories ??

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