From Pastry Cook to GM to HQ Senior Director: How Veketia Built Her 26-Year Career at Marriott
Name: Veketia G.
Position: Senior Director Global Operations, PMS
Hotel: Marriott HQ
Dream destination: I’ve never been to Hawaii so that’s on the list, but I’m just looking forward to wherever Marriott takes me next
Drink or treat of choice: Anything warm and cozy, like tea and coffee
When 19-year-old Veketia G. started working for the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown as a pastry cook, she didn’t foresee the impressive career she’d come to build over the next 26 years. In fact, what she was looking for was just a job, plain and simple.
“Not a half job, a whole job — and quickly,” Veketia recalls telling a friend at the time — she knew the friend through church, and he worked at Marriott. “He remembered me working in the church kitchen, and that I baked cakes, so he asked the pastry chef to hire me.”
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Despite having no formal training, she was hired on the spot — not because of her pastry prowess, Veketia admits, but because of her disposition, as the then-Director of Human Resources told her: “Skill can be taught, but attitude is everything.”
That attitude, coupled with a robust work ethic and her innate ability to cultivate relationships, propelled Veketia into a whopping 15 different positions with the company: through the ranks of pastry and culinary (“Working the line was one of my favorite jobs — the excitement of the line, I just loved it.”); into operations and events (“I had, like, 28 weddings a year” — AKA, one every other weekend!); and eventually into the top job of General Manager at four different Marriott hotels across the mid-Atlantic and in Atlanta.
She didn’t stop there. In November, Veketia accepted her latest opportunity with the company: Senior Director of Global Operations, based in Marriott’s Bethesda, Maryland headquarters.
To know Veketia is to know Marriott — from her resilience to her inspiring work ethic, to her genuine smile and kindness. Learn more about her Marriott career journey in her words, below.
What makes Marriott a company that you want to continue working for?
I did not go to college, but growing up I knew how important school was, and I enjoyed knowledge. My mom was a nurse, and my dad was a custodian — they were working people — so college was kind of an afterthought, and not necessarily the forefront of our household.
I started working at Marriott when I was 19 years old, and one of the things that I immediately recognized is that Marriott is a teaching culture. I went to Marriott University. I may not have gone to a prestigious HBCU or accredited university, but I went to Marriott University — I learned the company’s digital systems, conflict management, professional and executive presence, I’ve learned PowerPoint, Excel, and more. There’s so much out there that you can just learn on Marriott’s platform.
For example, when I transitioned from working in the kitchen, where fussing and yelling is absolutely acceptable, to a more corporate environment where I was essentially at the executive level, I had to learn how to polish up, how to manage up and down, and how to manage conflict very quickly. Thankfully, Marriott has a number of self-paced trainings for things like that — managing conflict, how to have a conversation, how to listen better, and more. So, I was able to literally teach myself how to move from supervisor to manager to director to exec, and those different little nuances that are needed in people management.
Any tips for candidates who might be looking for a career like yours?
Build relationships. Whatever you have an interest in, whatever you want to be better at, find a resource who excels in it and build that relationship. So, if you aren’t great at public speaking, and you see someone who seems to flawlessly talk openly in front of a crowd, go partner up with that person. If you see someone who seems to be very technically sound or just very quiet (because that’s an art that I’ve been working on, how to be quiet in the meeting and listen!), and that’s not your skill set, make the connection and build the relationship.
You’ll learn everything you need to know to be successful. You cannot sit idly and expect the opportunity to come to you. You’ve got to move, and that’s how I did it.
How would you describe your experience as a Marriott associate?
I’ve been with Marriott through some extremely difficult times — through 9/11, the 2008 recession, and the pandemic. What I’ve seen, consistently, is that Marriott is a company that always recovers. That’s the reason for my journey here, and why I’m happy to be a Marriott associate, is because we always seem to recover.
What’s surprised you most about working for Marriott?
The spaghetti connectivity of everything. Everything is connected. I used to think that being such a huge, global company, everything must be siloed — but that’s not the case at all.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part about Marriott is our ability to touch continents, touch cultures and touch communities. And everyone is different, my team is so diverse it’s like a melting pot.
Marriott is like the United Nations. It’s so fantastic, and we do a really good job connecting people. I love it.
How have you used the Marriott Explore Rate?
As a member of the Quarter Century Club, I take advantage of it and I travel. I’ve been around the world, thanks to Marriott. Chicago, Memphis, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware, Florida, Miami, Costa Rica, Paris and I’m going to Los Angeles in February.
I also use it on a group level with my church, we utilize Marriott properties for most of our conferences and conventions.
There’s nothing better than to be able to just travel for like $49 to $59 and $69. It’s fantastic, I’ve been up and down the world this year.
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