Name: Cole G.
Position: HR Manager
Location: Northern Michigan
Dream destination: Ireland. I am half Irish and on my mother’s side of the family, and we’ve always wanted to go to the town where our last name and ancestors are from. I daydream of The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, too.
Drink or treat of choice: Anywhere I go, I will always order a Quesadilla.
Cole always knew he wanted to have a career in human resources. But when he first started working at Marriott as a Voyager seven years ago, he was surprised to find something far beyond a professional interest in HR: a sense of belonging.
“It was within those first few years [at Marriott], when I knew I had found where I belonged,” he recalls. “At first, I was so nervous to be a gay man here. Where I come from is remote and people don’t fully express themselves for their entire lives. We always have our guard up.”
But when Cole met his fellow Voyagers (as we call the associates in Marriott’s leadership development program for recent college graduates) he felt something different from any other job he had had before. “I was treated like a human being and seen for who I truly was. Nobody here has ever said they didn’t want to work with me because of what I did in my personal life.”
When Cole finished the Voyage program in 2015, he was soon offered a position in the sales department. “I started in one of our regional sales offices as a manager selling our Marriott Select Brand Hotels in the Carolinas,” he recalls. “I spent around three years with this office in different teams, selling various markets and brands.”
Cole left Marriott in 2018 to do business consulting and help software companies grow their organization “before finding my way back home.” just a year later.
Upon his return to Marriott, Cole joined Talent Point, a team inside Global HR that provides Marriott’s franchise partners access to leading HR services, like talent acquisition and learning and development. Cole, who works remotely in Northern Michigan, manages relationships with vendors, leads product demos, negotiates pricing and contracts, and develops new business opportunities.
“I have been on this team for almost four years now and much has changed as we progress and grow, but our goal has stayed the same: Make Marriott the number one choice when opening a franchise.”
“Some of our franchisees are not massive companies and it can be hard to negotiate at the scale we do. We help them use vendors we work with at preferred rates. Some of these vendors include J1 programs, recruiting vendors, background checks, rewards programs, etc.” he explains. “We try to constantly analyze the market to see what is working and what is not to bring the most useful vendor services to our franchisees.”
Learn more about Cole’s journey to finding a sense of belonging, in his own words, below.
How would you describe your experience as a Marriott associate?
My beginning was plagued with challenges, but Marriott was always there for me. Something as simple as not having dental insurance for the last 4 years of school. I had this as soon as I joined the company, and it was huge for me because I had work that needed to be done that a college student couldn’t afford. [Also], Before I started working at this company, I had been in early jobs that didn’t provide support or foster an environment for LGBTQIA.
What does belonging mean to you?
Belonging to me has always been hard. In family, in friendships, in relationships and at work. I am so glad now I know I belong at Marriott. Marriott has always allowed me to be who I am, which is always becoming because, as humans, we are always changing. Here, there is always someone there to help pick you up when you fall down. Here, there is always someone there to help you in times of crisis, and there is always someone who is going to help you keep your head focused on what’s next. They challenge you and push you to be a better person tomorrow.
What is your favorite part of working at Marriott?
I love how much I have grown in this company and continue to grow. Time here has gone so fast! I have always thrived in fast-paced environments that are continuously changing, and this is what I like about Marriott. We are not content. We push the status quo. We strive to be the best in all our brands and all that we do. I love that about us. The company wants you to grow as we grow, and I love that for us.
What was your Marriott interview process like, any tips for candidates who want a role like yours?
It started with a recruiter, and I made it through their initial screenings. From there, I interviewed with my Senior Director at the time. After that, I had one final interview with the SVP and VP of the team. I knew I wanted to end up in HR before I even started with Marriott. While I was a Voyager, I met and shadowed associates working at our headquarters in HR. I have always been very proactive in making connections and I believe in fostering those relationships. Today, all those associates I met are still here and working in HR.
Before I started with Marriott, our university relations team would give this presentation called PIE. PIE stood for Performance, Image, and Exposure and it was essentially advice on how to succeed in a role at Marriott. Would you believe me if I told you 80% of the PIE was exposure? This means to always be professionally curious. Do not be afraid to shadow someone in a role you are interested in, connect with people on LinkedIn, stay in touch and always keep an eye out on openings. I have always taken this presentation to heart and ran with it. I have experienced it myself and encourage you all to meet everyone you can! One day, they could be hiring for the role that sounds like your next beginning.
When have you felt the most supported at Marriott?
Completing my MBA full-time while working full-time was never easy, but the company supported me and that helped me move into HR where I wanted to be. I look forward to my remaining years with the company because this has been the most fulfilling experience and far exceeded my expectations.
Which of Marriott’s values resonate most with you?
We Embrace Change. This is huge to me. I love change and thrive in an environment that is never the same. I like doing things differently, seeing operations change and embracing what is to come. This mindset has helped me meet so many people in this industry and I cannot express enough how open you must be to changes.
How would you describe Marriott’s culture?
It is inspiring. When I was in sales, I did a lot more traveling to hotels. This is when you have the chance to see the culture in action. Our hotels are truly unique, and everyone feels like family. I was just at a General Managers conference in May and ran into one of my old GMs. When we saw each other, we shared the longest hug. Many memories over the years working together and many more memories made in the years we haven’t spoken. At that moment, it did not feel like seeing an old GM I worked for, but a long-lost friend. I always find myself re-inspired working for this company. Even that small moment in time impacted my well-being for the better. That is culture.
When have you felt like a part of a community at Marriott?
When I was in the second year of the Voyage program. Year after year, we were a clique of Voyagers who related to each other and became great friends. One sad year, we lost one of our Voyagers in a tragic accident. At that time, I was mad at the world, sad, lost. You lose sight of what is important. It was this tragedy that made me feel a part of Marriott, though. When I saw how the company reacted to this, it truly made me want to stand behind them for anything that could come. When you talk about a community of people who are impacted by something like this, it is the small things that matter. Offers of grief counseling, PTO, the company covering the space for her memorial and just being there for us and understanding. I am still so close to many of my colleagues from those years. It still feels like yesterday, but this is when I first experienced Marriott putting their pPeople fFirst and I will never forget it. It is why I am still here today.
And what is your favorite part of the job now?
I love getting to talk with hotels all around the world and help them with their HR needs. I swear every day I come across a hotel I hadn’t heard of before and get lost on their website looking at pictures.
Describe a moment when you felt inspired at Marriott.
My not-so-new Vice President is a true rockstar. She is not just a person in a chair, but someone who has so much to say, and it is always valuable. Her guidance in the past year has been truly inspirational. She makes me want to work harder and be better at what I do. I lost my little brother back in March and it is not something you ever expect to happen. This is the moment I have felt the most support here. Literally the day after we found out my VP had snacks, drinks, etc. mailed to my house so we did not have to think about what we were going to be eating that day. I am not afraid to admit this broke me. I was in tears. Not because I was sad, but because a leader at Marriott even cared about my personal life. I will never forget it and will always be thankful I ended up on one of her teams. The smallest gestures can truly change one’s life.
What does a good day at work look like for you these days?
Every day on my team is a good day at work. When you are passionate about what you do, you love getting up and coming here.
How have you used the Marriott Explore Rate?
Everywhere I go, I look for discounts. Our Explore Rate not only allows you to find a hotel to stay in a city you already plan to visit but opens your possibilities to find somewhere new and plan a vacation around the discounts available. I have worked with many hotels around the world and have traveled to a ton with Marriott for business and on personal trips. Each day, I add a new hotel to my bucket list.