Name: Taras K.
Position: Multi-Property Director of Front of House
Hotel: Nujuma, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve & The St. Regis Red Sea
Dream destination: Japan and Australia
Drink or treat of choice: Double espresso. No sugar, no milk.
There’s exclusive and then there’s the private island of Ummahat in Saudi Arabia — a locale so secluded, it can only be accessed via chartered boat or seaplane Nestled on this serene island and surrounded by the Red Sea waters in an elite and paradisiacal spot are two of Marriott’s newest luxury resorts: The St. Regis Red Sea Resort, and Nujuma, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, which is set to be inaugurated later this year.
But behind the opening of a hotel of that level of exclusivity is the hard work of hundreds of associates who’ve devoted the past months to making this big reveal perfect. One of them is Taras K., a Front of House Director who’s overseen hiring and putting together a dream team of professionals ahead of the opening.
“In my role as Multi-Property Director of Front of House, I am responsible for the hiring and development of new team members, planning and coordinating the pre-opening stage as well as overseeing Front of House operations,” Taras explains.
Before starting in this role, Taras honed his hospitality chops at some of the most luxurious destinations and hotels in the world. From starting as a butler at The St. Regis Doha seven years ago to his current position, Taras is a people-oriented leader who is as focused on appreciating and recognizing his team’s as he is on reaching his own career goals.
“I could not imagine reaching where I am today without fully understanding and supporting [Marriott’s] culture. I have always been passionate about it,” he says. One day while he was working at The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, he had a conversation with one of the guests about the importance of building and maintaining a strong corporate culture. “It turned out he was a strong believer in that as well, so the next day he gave me a book called “Culture Hacker”, by Shane Green. I remember I finished reading it within a week and this book became absolutely transformational to me.”
Learn more about Tara’s experience becoming a leader and a team-builder, in his own words, below.
What is your favorite part of working at Marriott?
Meeting people and travelling, staying in beautiful hotels in the most coveted destinations I could not dream of affording before. But my favorite part of working for Marriott is the process itself, the journey with Marriott. Today I am in Saudi Arabia, and I never know where Marriott journey will take me tomorrow. It is exciting!
What kind of leader do you strive to be?
I have been lucky to be always surrounded by strong leaders, who strived to bring the best in me. But all of them had different styles and approaches. By observing and absorbing the best from each of them, I strive for an adaptive and transformational leadership style where I can inspire and help people grow as well as involve them in important decisions. In addition to this, I do work on developing my entrepreneurial mindset to support my vision. My people-focus approach always supports my leadership style.
What type of culture do you try to foster in your team and at work?
I would prioritize team appreciation and recognition, particularly needed at this stage when the team is being built. While hiring talent from around the world and putting them together towards achieving one goal I give so much attention to encouraging team collaboration and healthy relations inside the team, as living and working on a remote island does require to build not just a team to work but a community to live in. I also strive to be a mentor, the same way as my senior leaders have been to me during my career journey.
How would you describe Marriott’s culture?
Fulfilling and rewarding. I have to admit that I have always been surrounded by strong leaders with devotion to Marriott’s culture, so directly or indirectly they inspired that in me too. And I have experienced it not only on property level, but above property as well. The company’s culture is best described by its associate’s actions. Imagine a situation when you receive a LinkedIn message from your Vice President and Global Brand Leader whom you never met saying, “Hello, I heard a lot about you from our team in the office and I would like to schedule a call with you to know more about your career aspirations. Thank you for being a true brand ambassador.” For me that is the best demonstration of a strong company’s culture.
What advice do you have for those looking for a position like yours?
My advice would be “Go for it” without any doubt. Marriott is not just the biggest hospitality company in the world, it is a company with such well diversified brands and job families that everyone can find a role suitable for their career inspirations or talent. However, I don’t mean staying in the same role for years and years. Marriott offers opportunities to switch departments, hotels, countries and even continents. I am confident every charismatic talent entering the company has an opportunity to grow into whatever they want, and the company has a strong culture to support internal talent growth, providing them with required tools, resources and opportunities.
When hiring to build a new team, what do you look for most in the candidates?
Usually, I feel when a candidate resonates with me. When interviewing talent for Front of House roles I first look at their personality. There is not a perfect definition of a “suitable personality” but it’s about understanding how the candidate could fit into the role. I prefer to not jump to conclusions from the first minutes and always allow the candidates to express themselves. I pay a lot of attention to communication skills, the hard skills I’m confident can be trained. I also appreciate the candidate’s enthusiasm and willingness to get the role by being prepared for the interview, which includes doing homework: [learning] about the company, the brand, the hotel and its location in particular, and having a general understanding of the role’s responsibilities. Marriott offers easy access to the company’s information, so I do appreciate it when a candidate invests time to research it.
Proudest moment of your career so far?
I do have many of them! I personally believe in celebrating small and big victories, so it is difficult to highlight just one. But if there’s something that brings me joy and pride it’s seeing my team members embarking onto their next career step. I feel proud being involved in their development and leave a very tiny part of my own career inspirations to them.
When do you feel like a part of a community at Marriott?
I feel it every day. Being a part of the Marriott community gives me so much joy, especially when I have to travel to other hotels around the world – both work-related and for leisure. An instant recognition of that feeling like belonging at Marriott is something I cannot express with words, it is a smile on people’s faces that speaks for itself.
Do you remember a moment when you felt supported at Marriott?
I have always received support throughout my career journey at Marriott. Today I am grateful to keep on receiving the support in sharing my story with those who are already in Marriott and with those who might be looking for the best company to work for.