Name: Gabe D.
Position: Assistant Room Operations Manager
Hotel: Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk
Dream destination: Rome
Drink or treat of choice: Strawberry banana smoothie and popcorn
Following your career dreams doesn’t always guarantee an easy ride. For Gabe, an assistant room operations manager at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk, the decision to leave his family and life in Puerto Rico to take his Marriott journey to the next level was bittersweet, but the friendships and connections he’s made on the way have proved to be his biggest support and motivation to grow.
It was at the first hotel where he worked, the luxurious Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, where Gabe met the woman who would inspire him to take his career, and his personal life, to new heights.
“Once I crossed paths with my mentor, I knew I wanted to be a leader exactly like her. One who is driven, energetic, has the correct attitude, always wants to help her associates, and has a huge passion for her career,” he says, remembering the front-of-house manager. Inspired by her, he decided he wanted to broaden his experience and test himself by transferring to a new position at The Ritz-Carlton Denver.
But beyond motivating him to make his next career move, this special mentor also impacted Gabe on a very personal level.
“When I first started my Marriott career, I still had not come out as gay. Not to my parents, not to my friends. My mentor was the first person I ever told, and she welcomed me with open arms,” he recalls. “She helped me see that in this community there is no judgment, and we are free to be ourselves.”
After deciding to move to Denver, Gabe joined the Voyage program — Marriott’s hotel-based development program for recent college graduates — which allowed him to experience and learn more about different departments in hospitality. That experience eventually led him to the position he holds today as an assistant room operations manager, which includes making sure the housekeeping team is fully equipped and ready to start the day at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk.
Learn more about Gabe’s journey of finding family at work and making the most of Marriott’s Voyage program in his own words, below.
How did you end up in the Marriott Voyage program? What was your admission process like?
When I transferred to the Ritz-Carlton in Denver, I met two Voyagers who ended up becoming my best friends. Brittany and Isaiah were two room operations Voyagers who showed me the ropes and explained to me what the Voyage program was. Later, when I was on an assignment at The St. Regis Aspen, I met two other Voyagers who saw my work ethic and gave me the contact information of a recruiter for the Voyage program. I emailed the recruiter, they interviewed me, and in a couple of weeks I was offered a position. The tricky part was that, unfortunately, the property that I wanted to stay at in Denver was not available, so I had to relocate once again. Off to a new adventure!
Describe a moment you felt like a part of a community at Marriott.
Recently, I joined Marriott One [Marriott’s LGBTQ+ associate resource group] and it’s a place where I can feel like myself. It has opened so many opportunities for me and has connected me with people with a similar story to mine. This has not only helped me with my career, but also helped me grow as a person.
How would you describe Marriott’s culture?
Marriott’s culture is very welcoming and friendly. When I first started at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, that was my first experience where I could finally feel like myself without being judged. Marriott’s culture has helped me express who I am and see that there is always a place for everyone. This community strives to accept everyone no matter their race, color, gender, preference, sexuality, and everything else. I have never felt more at home than when I am at work.
Describe a moment you felt supported at Marriott.
Definitely when I decided to join the Voyage program. When I made the decision, I was on an assignment outside of my hotel and I hadn’t yet told my managers about it. When I got back, it turned out they already knew, and they all started congratulating me. Everyone told me how great the program was, how I was going to expand my career and grow into the leader they all knew I could be. They helped me with this decision.
What is your favorite part of the job?
The community. In a position like this, your job becomes your second home. Once you build the relationships, this becomes your second family. If you look at it, you spend more than a third of your day at your job. It makes me happy to be part of a community that on the days when I feel homesick, they make me feel at home. I will never forget the time I was Face Timing with my mother during my break and my associates came over to say hi to my mom and tell her how much they love me. It not only makes me happy but makes my parents happy to know I have a family here.
What does a good day at work look like for you?
A day when I get to see my family and know what is going on with them. A good day is also a day where I get to speak to guests and make connections with them.
What’s next for you?
I have been accepted as an assistant rooms operations manager for the housekeeping department! After being in the front office for three years, I have decided to branch out in the housekeeping department. I am excited about my new role and seeing how this department runs. I am excited to see what the next year turns out to be and how much I can grow.