marriott front desk agent - rafael career story
Shaunda Zilich

Name: Rafael G.
Position: Front Desk Agent
Hotel: Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk
Dream destination: Paris
Drink or treat of choice: Fanta

When Rafael moved to the United States from Peru eight years ago, he had no idea what he wanted to do or, as he admits, even who he really was — that is, until he came to Marriott.

Rafael’s journey began when his friend recommended that he come work at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk, a statuesque, downtown hotel in the heart of the city’s iconic River North district, just steps from the Chicago Harbor and Lake Michigan. Previously, Rafael had worked as a restaurant server in Park City, Aspen, and other U.S. cities, but, as Rafael tells it, those were jobs to make ends meet and he hadn’t found “his thing.” He knew he didn’t want to continue working as a server, due to the long nighttime hours, but he really wanted something that motivated him, challenged him, and allowed him to grow.

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Rafael just hit his five-year anniversary at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk, where his typical day at the front desk includes checking guests in and out, hearing about their experiences and working to make their stays at the hotel even better. There have been a few instances where his responsibilities have extended beyond the front desk, however, like during 2020. Rafael was one of the first people called back to the hotel following the Covid furloughs. Rafael and a few other associates took on everything from cleaning, the front desk, and guest services, to essentially running the hotel when it first re-opened after the Covid shutdown.

marriott front desk agent - rafael career story

Courtesy of Rafael G.

“I feel like I owe it to this company to do my best,” says Rafael. “They do their best to take care of me. They kept me on benefits when we were sent home during the pandemic. That is huge! I really appreciate all this company does for me.”

“Working here, I am rewarded for my success,” says Rafael. His advice to others? “If you see an opportunity to be challenged, take it. It will grow you and you will be rewarded. This is the best decision I ever made, to come work here. I have so much gratitude for this company.”

To learn more directly from Rafael, check out his story below.

When have you felt satisfaction in your job?

I lead a team of sales agents, and over Easter I was able to create a contest for them. For every certain amount they sell, they get an egg, and in each egg, there would be a surprise, like a gift card. The team got so into it! I would send out notes saying, ‘John, you only need $200 to get another egg.’ It was just a really fun way to drive motivation and competition, and I was able to see my impact on the team. I like to work and like to have fun and Marriott allows me to do that. We are a team working toward one goal. How good does that feel when we accomplish it together?

marriott front desk agent - rafael career story

Courtesy of Rafael G.

What motivates you at work?

When I moved to the U.S. eight years ago from Peru, I thought ‘what will I do?’ I worked as a server but didn’t enjoy the nightlife and a friend said I would be good at this hotel. I wasn’t sure about that, but I tried and got the job, and it started taking care of my bills. Now, a few years later I just bought a nice condo 5 miles away, I feel very proud of myself. I usually give those vibes to everyone that meets me, and we need to be more like that as humans. That motivates me for sure!

But I’m also motivated by creating impact and helping others create impact. Helping these 12 sales agents really motivates me. It stretches me — when I motivate them, they motivate me.

How does Marriott allow you to be your authentic self?

Working here actually allowed me to discover myself. I can truly be the same person here as I am at home. They give me all the resources to make my life better, like a comfortable lifestyle and a healthy combination of work and life. Also, I think you have to have great relationships with the people you work with, and I have that here. We have one goal: If we all work together, we can accomplish a lot of things, and we do that! We are comfortable with each other. Of course, we all have our moments, but we help each other through those as well.

What is your favorite part of working in the hotel?

That I love what I do, and I get to leave around 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. I think that it is important to keep a good balance in life.

marriott front desk agent - rafael career story

Courtesy of Rafael G.

What is your favorite part of your day?

I wake up at 5 a.m. and bike to work every day. I take Lakeview trail and then I bike home, drop my bike and go on a 2-3-mile run. I love that I can be active as part of my job.

What surprised you most about working at Marriott?

It’s easy to grow and develop yourself if you really want to do that. You have to be intentional but if you work hard, you get rewarded. It is only limited by you.

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