Life After Marriott

Life After Marriott

September 17, 2014

Life After Marriott…

The number one question I am asked when re-uniting with a past co-worker is: What is life like after Marriott?

It’s a question I have answered now hundreds of times. However, I feel like I need to start with what was life like while working at Marriott. That is the more interesting story. Don’t worry, I’ll still answer the question, but let’s first start with…

What Was Life Like At Marriott:
My first day at Marriott was September 29, 1991. It was a day that changed my life forever. I was only 19 years old and decided I needed a “job”. I never realized it would end up being a career. The very first question that I was asked when I started continued to be the same question that I was asked in every new position that I held over that 18 year time frame:

…”What is your long term career path? What do you want to do 5 years from now?”

They were not asking me what I wanted to do next. The question was clearly what do I want to do after “the next step”. I remember thinking,”well, shoot, I just want to learn this job and see how it goes, I don’t know what I want to do tomorrow much less 5 years from now”. But what those questions started at an early age was long range planning, strategizing, and habits that are powerful in all aspects of my life.

Marriott, not just being in the hotel business, but Marriott – the company – taught me community/social responsibility before it was a popularly coined statement, they taught me all about professionalism, communication, negotiations, leadership, and public speaking to name a few competencies. The atmosphere is and always has been one of intense work ethic and not because it’s required but because you wanted to be there. You want to and crave to help other people (co-workers, guests, owners, etc) and with that comes some unique and intense hours. No one ever complained about them…it is just part of the culture.

It’s funny, one thing you know about a hotel person is that they often eat very fast and they are used to eating a cold meal, because often times the only time you would have to eat was fast and often later than planned. There is never a dull moment when there are guests or employees to serve.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The Spirit To Serve

Life at Marriott was all about heroic and uplifting stories. To be a hero is to do what every person at Marriott does every day, so it was also a competitive atmosphere, because to achieve super hero status meant being creative and really pushing the limits (if there really were any) on customer service, employee service, and owner service (aka profit).

Lastly, Marriott has always been known for having subject matter experts in every aspect of the business. As a leader I knew there was always someone I could call, because the amount of brilliant resources available was staggering. You could do well if you were willing to sponge up a learning opportunity and let someone enlighten you.

I know I could write a book with all of the stories and experiences. The first thing you learn about life at Marriott is that if you take care of your employees they will take care of your guests and the guests will come back. That isn’t a precise quote, but it’s the way I always remembered it. And, it is how I felt. I felt like, as an employee, my destiny was in my hands and I had an army of supporters behind me.

What Is Life Like After Marriott:

Let’s see if I can remember some of the emotions that I had: Terrified. Alone. Unsure.

First Steps

It took me 6 months to find myself; to realize that there was a little creative genius underneath all of that institutionalized woman. The fear that I felt was because I didn’t know if I had a single unique thought in my head. I had been surrounded by outstanding training & backed by brilliant strategists and executors. When they were stripped away from me, I felt naked and vulnerable. It was an incredible experience to stand on my own feet and take my own steps to gain my footing.

It is like walking on a beach with shoes for so long that when you walk bare foot it’s a new and terrifying feeling but to feel the sand beneath your toes and to experience what your own foot print looks like is something critical to living.

Once I realized I had a tremendous amount to offer the world, the two things that I had missed the most are what came to me as the most freeing realizations: I craved simplicity & creativity.

Simplicity. You see at Marriott the word collaboration is pretty much collaboration to the power of 10. If you have an idea, it may come back to you in 2 years and you might be told “congratulations, your idea is going to be implemented”, however, you look at it and it doesn’t even resemble what you proposed by the time it has passed through every potential “stakeholder”. Then, the even more comical statement is usually “How exciting, your plan will be implemented over the next 3-5 years”. Just like in every major corporation, the complexity that exists is what bogs down the system. If you are a patient soul, then this is never an issue. Patience isn’t exactly one of my signature strengths…I’m an active person.


Creativity. When you have perfected a chili recipe, there isn’t much room in that kitchen for a creative person who wants to mess with your chili recipe. Those folks are usually booted out of your kitchen quickly. I’m pretty sure the only reason I lasted as long as I did at Marriott is because I was never in any one’s kitchen long enough for them to boot me out. If you move around quickly and gain many experiences, you’re hard for them to catch. Being nimble and embracing change has it’s advantages.

Marriott is that fine tuned chili recipe. Life after Marriott is all about finding your inner chef and really designing and fine tuning your own talents and using them in other industries. Remembering how to be creative is much like remembering how to play like a kid. People spend so much time training that “kid” out of you that you really can forget how to play with crayons and mud. In many ways, being an entrepreneur is like being a kid again. You are free to be yourself and go back to playing but in a more sophisticated and polished manner.

My brain is now on fire every day with creativity percolating…creativity is all about allowing yourself to make mistakes; art is about knowing which ones to keep.

I am blessed. I have had the great fortune to have worked for Marriott and now for myself. Both are rewarding experiences and create balances.

If you have your own story to share, please feel free to reach out and share it with me!