Name: Cat W.
Position: Director, Brand Management, Distinctive Brands
Location: Marriott HQ
Dream Destination: Would love to visit Japan someday!
Drink or treat of choice: Iced Chai Tea Latte
A company’s culture encompasses everything that creates an employee’s experience at work. At Marriott, that means everything from the shared values and basic standards to initiatives like Associate Appreciation Week, education workshops, Serve 360 charity programs, sustainability initiatives or the ARGs — Marriott’s Associate Resource Groups, which enable our people to strengthen their networks, celebrate their backgrounds, grow their skills, and give back to their communities.
For Cat, the Director of Brand Management, Distinctive Brands, that’s one of the aspects of Marriott culture she enjoys most.
“I am half Colombian and finding ways to connect with my Hispanic/Latino roots is something I enjoy doing outside of work, so I was excited to know I could continue that connection at work through the Hispanic ARG.” says Cat, who’s based at Marriott HQ. “I love learning about the many cultures within the ARG and I find it so fulfilling to network with fellow Hispanic/Latino members and allies.”
As a brand expert, Cat has been able to witness firsthand how far investing in building a strong and organic culture can go, especially for a company as big as Marriott.
“I have always seen Marriott as a company that has a strong culture. I feel a sense of family when I come to work, and you can see that the leadership believes in the core values of the company too.”
Cat got her start in hospitality 19 years ago, working as a barista at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa outside Scottsdale, Arizona. But how does one go from barista to brand leader? Making the most of every working experience and taking the best of each one towards your next step — that’s what worked for Cat.
“Even though I was still in college and working part-time, I absorbed everything I could and learned so much about customer service, operations, and food and beverage,” says Cat of her barista experience. After graduating college, she transferred to Human Resources where she started as an HR administrative and then an employment coordinator. “I loved the interviewing and hiring process and seeing associates excited to start a career in hospitality.”
In 2011, Cat was promoted to Human Resources Manager at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown where she worked on many aspects of HR, from benefits and workers compensation to onboarding and training. “Being a part of the associates’ Day One onboarding and training experience is when I really fell in love with brand culture; having worked at two hotels with strong leaders that were not only invested in the brand, but also empowered their teams I could see how a strong culture positively impacted the overall hotel and associate experience.”
Later she transferred to another position with Starwood Corporate, which focused on traveling to pre-opening hotels and facilitating culture training to the new teams, as well as orientation programs for General Managers and Sales Directors. When Starwood was acquired by Marriott in 2016, Cat moved into a Brand Management role focusing on Element Hotels and later in all four of the Distinctive Select Brands. Most recently, her role evolved to include the Distinctive Premium Brands.
Learn more about Cat’s journey in her own words below.
In what ways has Marriott made you feel included or like you belong?
I find that I have always been surrounded by leaders that want me to grow and ensure I have opportunities to expand my knowledge and provide development opportunities. I feel the investment they are putting into my career and my growth, and that makes me want to extend that to others within my team and the company at large. I really focus on internal team culture just as much as on guest experience. Ensuring our teams feel special, welcomed, and valued is something I make time for. It’s not a rinse and repeat, it’s personalized, just like we do for our guests.
How would you describe Marriott’s culture?
I have always seen Marriott as a company that has a strong culture. From the partnerships we engage in, to the work that we do, to how we serve our world, I have no question about what we stand for as a company and I appreciate that my values and the company’s values align. I also feel fortunate that we are able to define our team’s culture and how our unique personalities and perspective contribute to the overall Marriott culture.
Favorite part of working at Marriott?
Getting to work with such talented and inspiring teammates. We all have different backgrounds and I learn so much from those around me every day! I also love being able to travel and visit our hotels; getting to meet associates and see how the work gets pulled through on property is so impactful! The first place I usually visit is the heart of house!
When have you felt like a part of a community at Marriott?
I feel a part of a community every day when I walk into the building and I’m immediately greeted by the team that works in the MI Café, to the security team as I go through the turnstiles and all of those on my floor. I feel so fortunate to work in a place where I feel so comfortable and welcomed. I also have to give a shout out to my team on 19W [at Marriott HQ], we have established a daily lunch, all invited, to spend some time catching up each day. I feel so fortunate to have a super fun and inclusive team!
Describe a moment you felt supported at Marriott.
It’s hard to pinpoint one moment as I constantly feel supported by my team and leaders. Most recently we hosted the MSB GM Conference for almost 5000 people. It was a lot of coordinating, planning, facilitating and execution, but knowing the team would jump in and help no matter what made the experience one that I will never forget. We always have each other’s backs!
What was your Marriott interview process like, and any tips for candidates who want a role like yours?
I always see every interview process as your opportunity to showcase how you are the best candidate for the position. This means not only having strong STAR stories, but also industry knowledge, understanding of trends (especially in the lifestyle space), and insightful questions for the hiring manager.
Throughout my career, one thing I’ve always done is reflect on big wins and difficult situations after a project wraps, making a note of these reflections in my phone so when I prepare for an interview, I have a bank of great experiences to pull in my STAR interview. I also love to practice walking through my scenarios with a friend – actually reciting the story out loud can help you prepare by ensuring you cover the right details and stay concise in your story. In addition, when thinking of a role like mine, I would suggest that if you have an opportunity to spend some time on property, you should take advantage of that! You learn so much being in the operation itself.