Name: Kyana G.
Position: Director of Operations, Rooms
Hotel: Charlotte Marriott City Center
Dream destination: The Greek islands, Bali, and I would be ecstatic to attend a traditional Indian wedding in India.
Drink or treat of choice: Malbec and kettle corn
For Kyana, hospitality began as a family matter. She discovered her passion for culinary arts and customer service at only 10 years old.
“My family, mainly my grandmother, operated a concession stand on Sundays during softball games in the local community. I was eager all week for Sunday to arrive so I could help cook, serve, and interact with all the customers.”
Throughout middle school, Kyana intended to become a mechanical engineer, but her exposure to the hotel world just before college solidified her commitment to the industry. Kyana took a job as a culinary intern at Frenchman’s Reef Morning Star Resort in her hometown of St. Thomas, USVI, during the last few years of high school.
“I got my start in hospitality in high school because that was, in my opinion, the coolest career track to choose. As a part of our program during our senior year, we attended classes in the morning and did on-the-job training each afternoon. Being a part of the team at Frenchman’s Reef, there was a sense of family, and we took great pride in our work.”
Once she started college at Johnson & Wales University’s Providence campus, she returned to the resort during summer and winter breaks to work as a cook and in the pastry shop. She later completed an externship at the Marriott Golf and Beach Resort in Hilton Head, S.C., as part of her Baking and Pastry Arts degree program.
“[The Marriott] company culture carried through to my college externship in Hilton Head where my pastry supervisor, Ms. Anne Mitchell, took a personal interest in my development as a hospitality student as well as a young Black woman.”
Upon graduation, Kyana held several Food & Beverage roles at Ritz-Carlton properties in the Washington, D.C., area, before moving into Banquets and Events, where she held leadership positions across hotels in D.C. and Charlotte, NC, before moving into her current role in Rooms Operations.
“I went from Events to Food and Beverage, then back to Events. I enjoyed the reactionary nature of the outlets, but I truly loved the proactive and anticipatory nature of events.”
When Kyana first returned to an Events role, it was the team at The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C., that drew her back.
“There was something artistic and uplifting about the events we executed together. Everyone on that team was truly a master of event production. From the sales team to culinary to banquets, everyone had an eye for detail and understood the assignment on each and every event. The feeling of accomplishment was unmatched.”
Next up, Kyana has her sights set on becoming a General Manager of a premium or luxury property.
“It has been my dream since I was 17. Long-term, I expect to be with the company until retirement and then teach or train in some capacity. I find tremendous joy in helping to develop leaders.”
Kyana is inspired by the work being done at the Marriott-Sorenson Center for Hospitality Leadership at Howard University and hopes to be involved with the center to help elevate the industry.
“My favorite part about working at Marriott is the world of opportunities, the ability to do and be whoever you want. The plethora of professional and personal resources is invaluable.”
Learn more about Kyana’s unique career path to hotel operations director at Marriott, below.
What was your Marriott interview process like?
My first Ritz-Carlton interview process was one for the books. Before ultimately being offered the Event Concierge position, I interviewed and did meet-and-greets with 11 different Ladies and Gentlemen. It was well worth it. My more recent interviews have been less involved.
Any interview tips for candidates who want a role like yours?
The main thing I tell leaders to focus on are our pillars of success: Associates, guests, and financial excellence. Tell your story and what you did to help the team achieve results. As a senior leader, it is less about your individual accomplishments.
One tip passed to me that improved my interviewing skills tremendously was asking for feedback on your interview responses, even when you are not selected. Another is keeping a STAR journal. We do amazing things every day and the next day we move onto the next amazing task. We often forget the impact and the details.
When you’re interviewing talent for your team, what characteristics do you look for most?
Positivity is definitely number one. Once you believe you can, you will. Any problem can be solved, and any challenge can be overcome if you are willing to commit to the process. I do not want someone to paint a perfect picture for me. Our daily operation is far from a walk in the park. It takes dedication and tenacity to be successful.
Describe a moment you felt like part of a community at Marriott.
My grandfather passed away when I was in my early 20s. I found out while I was driving to work. I was so upset when I got there and explained to my manager that I was unsure of what the next steps were. Being solution driven, I immediately began to think about getting to my family and being able to attend the services, but I quickly became overwhelmed with more emotion as I began to worry about travel expenses.
Days later, my banquet manager presented me with a card. The banquets and events team at The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C., pooled funds for me. This will forever warm my heart. It brought the value of genuine care to life. I have always carried that feeling with me and take all possible opportunities to duplicate it for others.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Currently, I enjoy Sunday morning checkouts. I enjoy being in the lobby as guests depart from a festive weekend. During this time, I have the opportunity to listen to our guest feedback firsthand and witness the teamwork it takes for a successful departure rush.
What kind of leader do you strive to be?
I try daily to be a fair leader. There are so many factors that affect our daily work lives. Balancing business and relationships can sometimes be challenging. Being moldable and open to feedback, while keeping goals as the compass, helps me to be the leader each of my teammates needs me to be to them.
How have you used the Marriott Explore Rate?
My friends and family have enjoyed that benefit way more than I have! It is a privilege to share the fruits of my labor with my loved ones. In all honesty, I love traveling! Some of my most memorable trips and experiences have been using my Explore Rate. I was able to spend nine nights in Dubai, and last December, I was very fortunate to snag the rate at the beautiful Westin Grand Cayman.