What This Army Reservist Does to ‘Be the Best Leader I Can Be’
Name: Lais M.
Position: Assistant Director of Safety & Security
Hotel: The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes; JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes
Dream destination: The Maldives
Drink or treat of choice: In the spirit of humble beginnings and simple things, a nice cold beer is my drink of choice — as for non-alcoholic, cold water is a must.
Reading through Lais. M’s career path and areas of expertise immediately begs the question: “Is there anything this woman can’t do?”
First and foremost, Lais joined the Army Reserve in 2012 as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Specialist (CBRN). “I have always been in the Reserve, and I’m still in the service. My goal is to serve the military until retirement,” says Lais, who has a degree in criminal justice.
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As for her civilian career, Lais is the Assistant Director of Safety & Security at the Grande Lakes Orlando, a sprawling luxury JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton golf and spa resort in Orlando. Her remit includes everything from assisting in the development and implementation of emergency procedures to handling complaints and resolving conflicts to implementing action plans to monitor and control risks to payroll, scheduling, training and much, much more.
“I do not sit in an office all day and tell people what to do,” says Lais, when asked what people might not know about her job. “To be the best leader I can be, I make sure to know how to work every single piece of equipment and operating systems my team uses, and to know every single process and operating procedure for the department, because when needed, I can jump in to assist and fill any gaps that we might have that day.”
Lais first joined Marriott in 2015 as a Security Office at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin. After just three months with the company, she was promoted to department supervisor and stayed in that role for the next three years — all the while honing yet another expertise.
“At the time, I was working on getting my real estate license, but since I enjoyed working for Marriott so much and didn’t want to leave the company altogether, I dropped to an on-call status,” recalls Lais. “After approximately six months working in timeshare and feeling miserable every day, I decided I needed to go back full-time with Marriott.”
So, what is it about Marriott that Lais enjoyed so much?
“I have met incredible people, amazing and knowledgeable leaders that have helped me get where I am today. I have been very lucky to be part of such great teams that have always supported me as their leader, even when I was the rookie in my position,” says Lais. “I have been given opportunities to grow professionally, I have been recognized for different reasons, and that only fuels me to do the same for my team.”
Learn more from Lais about her Marriott journey, including her advice for candidates, below.
What’s surprised you most about your job or about working for Marriott?
The fact that Marriott is always finding a way to recognize and/or show appreciation for its employees, despite it being such a large and worldwide recognized company. This is done not only monetarily with yearly reviews and consequently raises, but also through property specific programs by showcasing the best quarterly and annual employees and leaders.
How has your military experience served you in your Marriott career?
In the military everyone is treated as equal and with the same expectations; we don’t leave anyone behind; we understand that life happens, therefore, you have to be mentally tough to adapt and overcome any situation. We are taught respect and to be disciplined daily and all of those points can be applied on the civilian side.
Do you have any advice for Veterans looking to pivot into hospitality?
Transition is never easy, because in a way you have to get away from that tough mindset and sometimes black and white view to a more flexible and comprehensive one, while understanding that not everyone went through the same training they have and don’t have the same way of thinking they do. The best advice is to take it slow and use their problem-solving skills to solve much simpler problems.
What was your Marriott interview process like, and any tips for candidates who want a role like yours?
At my level, the interview process can be quite lengthy, with multiple interviewers being part of it. Before being hired for my current position, I interviewed not only at my current property, but also another sister property. While interviewing at our sister property, I was asked tricky questions about that property that I didn’t know the answer to. My tip is, do your research about the property you are interviewing for because, even if you don’t receive any questions about it, you will still have the chance to awe the audience with your knowledge.
What of Marriott’s core values resonate most with you?
All Marriott’s core values resonate with me, but Put People First is what I lead with the most. We are such a diverse company where we have the opportunity of meeting with people from all over the world and learning a little bit from each of them. Seeing a team thrive because of their own teamwork and comradery makes me very happy.
Favorite part of the job?
To lead a team and challenge myself to do and be better every day for them.
How have you used the Marriott Explore Rate?
I have used for my own vacations for stays as well as food and beverage discounts. I have also shared with friends and family on their travels.
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