marriott area general manager career story
Courtesy of Catherine H.

Name: Catherine H.
Position: Area General Manager
Hotel: Sheraton Grand Zhengzhou
Dream destination: I’ve been to 12 countries so far and my dream destination is to travel back to Istanbul, a city located at the crossroads of world history and modern time.

The Marriott core value of “Put People First” has been billed as the secret sauce of our company — it’s not only our most famous value (thanks to our founder’s celebrated quote: “Take care of associates and they will take care of the customers”), but most would argue that it’s vital to our success. As such, leaders at Marriott are committed to the greater good, to the support and wellbeing of their teams. Case in point: Catherine.

As an Area General Manager in Greater China, Catherine has seven hotels in her purview, including the Sheraton Grand Zhengzhou, of which she has been the General Manager for 10 years. Catherine also holds a third leadership role: Chair of the Central West China Business Council, a middle size Business Council that leads 93 hotels in over 20 cities and 16 provinces in China.

marriott area general manager career story

Courtesy of Catherine H.

In such leadership roles, Catherine’s impact is expansive. But when asked what kind of leader she strives to be, her answer is concise, yet incredibly poignant.

“To lead, not only to manage. To inspire, not only to coach. To follow and serve, not only to guide and instruct,” Catherine says.

→ Learn About the Wide Range of Hotel Career Journeys at Marriott

Catherine’s hotel journey began in 1995 as a Front Office Agent, steadily working her way up in the industry to the impactful leadership positions she holds today. So, with such vast knowledge of the hotel industry, her view on what’s to come is all the more striking.

“We are in a new era of industrial innovation. Work positions in a hotel are no longer single functional,” she says, referencing Marriott’s initiative of combining traditional jobs into broader roles (iJobs) to increase an associate’s ability to experience multiple departments and functions, like a Front Desk Agent being trained and certified to work in Guest Relations, Concierge, Club Lounge service, and more. “The associate could be more competitive in the talent market compared with other hotel counterparties. At the same time, they will have brighter career growth opportunities within Marriott International.”

Below, learn more about Catherine’s Marriott journey, her view on company culture and what kind of skills she looks for when hiring new team members.

What was your career journey to General Manager?

I joined the hotel industry back in May 1995 as a Front Office Agent at the Yinhe Dynasty Intercontinental Hotel in Chengdu and joined Sheraton Chengdu since Feb. 2000. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work in various positions, and each role has provided me with valuable experiences and learning opportunities. In December 2001, I was promoted to Training Manager at the Sheraton Chengdu Lido Hotel, where I was able to hone my leadership and development skills. This role paved the way for my subsequent positions as Director of Six Sigma and Black Belt, and later as Hotel Manager at Le Meridien Qingdao. In June 2011, I was appointed as the General Manager of the Four Points by Sheraton Tai’an, where I was able to further develop my leadership and operational capabilities. This experience prepared me for my current role as the Area General Manager for C&W China.

marriott area general manager career story

Courtesy of Catherine H.

What do your current three leadership roles entail?

I’ve been the GM of the Sheraton Grand Zhengzhou for 10 years since its opening, and for 8 years I’ve served as Area GM helping my Area Vice President to look after seven Marriott International hotels. My third job role is Chair, C&W China Business Council.

I am always proud to share about my role as Chair of the Business Council. It gives me a great opportunity to network with many excellent hotel GMs and Chairs of Sub Business Council. The ‘Serve our World’ mission of the Business Council makes us always aim high and work together with great passion and grow together. This role also allows me to collaborate with other industry leaders and contribute to the overall growth and development of the hotel industry in China. It’s a challenging yet rewarding responsibility that I am grateful to have.

Working as the GM of Sheraton Grand Zhengzhou and overseeing a group of MI hotels has allowed me to develop strong leadership skills and make a positive impact on the operations and success of these properties. I am dedicated to driving results, fostering a positive work culture, and delivering exceptional guest experiences.

How would you describe Marriott’s culture?

Marriott’s culture is based on our five core values: Put People First, Execute Excellence, Embrace Change, Acting with Integrity, Serving Our World. As a hotelier growing with Marriott for the past 24 years, I am always proud to share my strong belief in those five core values and how they have shaped the culture of the company. These values are not just words on a page, but they are deeply ingrained in the way Marriott operates.

  • The focus on putting people first, both guests and employees, creates a welcoming and inclusive environment.
  • The commitment to excellence drives a constant pursuit of improvement and innovation.
  • Embracing change allows Marriott to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the ever-evolving hospitality industry.
  • Acting with integrity builds trust and credibility with both customers and partners.
  • Serving our world reflects Marriott’s dedication to giving back to the communities in which they operate.

Overall, Marriott’s culture is one of respect, excellence, and social responsibility, making it a truly remarkable company of which to be a part.

marriott area general manager career story

Courtesy of Catherine H.

Describe a moment you felt supported at Marriott.

Back to the year 2017, when I was appointed as Chair, C&W China Business Council, I went to Washington D.C. for our Annual Global Business Council Conference. Debbie Harrison and Mr. Marriott came to the first day “welcome new chairs” session and all participants were asked to share “how many years you’ve worked in the company”. I was a new chair and very new to Marriott culture, as that was the first year Starwood was merged in MI. I was quite hesitant to answer the question, as I didn’t know whether I should say ” 17 years” or ” 1 year” only. Then I answered both when it was my turn. Debbie and Mr. Marriott were very happy to see there were seven Chairs from Starwood, and they led everyone to applaud, specifically to the seven of us, for a special welcome to the MI family. I was very touched, and the sense of belonging gradually started to be created.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

When I closed and re-opened a hotel successfully. It happened in 2012, my second year of my being a GM at the Four Points by Sheraton Tai’an, and the hotel needed some renovations and maintenance. We closed for 76 days, during which most of the associates went to sister hotels for task force, while some stayed (mainly security, engineering and key managers). When the construction was finally done, we successfully re-opened. Both the owner and our Greater China leadership were very happy with the business results and efforts from the team.

I’m proud of the great team spirit and leadership that everyone demonstrated in a challenging time. I cherish such moments as they made me grow stronger and much faster, as a first time GM.

marriott area general manager career story

Courtesy of Catherine H.

What type of culture do you try to foster at your hotel and on your team?

  1. Open and transparent communication
  2. Work partnership
  3. Respect diversity and inspiring of an inclusive environment

When you’re interviewing talent for your team, what characteristics do you look for most?

Friendly, willing to share and help, and honest.

What inspired you to become a leader?

Core values that I believe in and have witnessed Marriott leaders walked the talks throughout the years. I would like to follow in their footsteps to become a role model for others and be a change agent to our industry.

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