The Best Part of a Hotel HR Operations Manager’s Job
Name: Anthony R.
Position: HR Operations Manager
Hotel: Residence Inn Washington, DC Downtown
Dream Destination: Italy
Drink or treat of choice: Espresso martini OR Twizzlers
It’s hard not to be persuaded to join a career in hospitality after talking to Anthony R.
Anthony has worked in hotels for nearly 20 years, in what seems like just as many different positions and areas of expertise. And while his two decades’ worth of career growth, travel and opportunities are enticing to say the least, the most intoxicating is the way he talks about his team.
“I love the fact that I get to help the associates here, talk to them, see them every day, ask about their families or chat about their vacations,” says Anthony, whose role as the HR Operations Manager at the Residence Inn Washington, DC Downtown puts him in charge of payroll, personnel opportunities and problems, parties, and everything in between. “I don’t want them to be scared if they have a problem, I want them to come to me.”
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Anthony took his first job in hospitality while in college studying biology, with a plan to go to medical school, and his part-time gig behind the front desk and as a night auditor at a nearby Starwood hotel offered both benefits and flexible hours. But upon graduation, he found himself looking for something different than what he had planned.
“Med school was not my dream. So, I was kind of lost,” recalls Anthony, who decided to take another job with Starwood, this time at the company’s recently opened call center in California. “The call center was stressful, but pretty straight forward work and it was good money at that time.”
Anthony found support in his HR leader at the center, who helped him understand the future possibilities in front of him. Within six months, he was promoted to supervisor, and a few years later, he returned to a hotel position — but this time across the country, as the Complex Director of Customer Care for five W hotels in New York City. And that was just the start.
“If you want to grow in the hotel industry, you’ve got to be open,” Anthony recalls being told early in his career, and he believes it. “You’ve got to be open-minded, flexible, willing to take chances and to think outside the box.”
Think outside the box he did. Anthony’s career has included: working in a Silicon Valley hotel amid the tech boom; overseeing a housekeeping department at both the Westin Los Angeles Airport and the Westin Snowmass complex ski resort in Aspen; swapping the snowy mountains for Virginia Beach as the Sheraton’s Director of Front Office and then moving up to Connecticut in that same department; and post-Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood, landing at the HR department of the White House-adjacent hotel he’s at currently.
Needless to say, Anthony has more than a few words of wisdom when it comes to landing a hotel job and navigating a career at Marriott. Read in his own words, below.
What are your tips for candidates looking to get into hospitality?
In an interview, really be ready to show who you are. You have just a short amount of time, and you’re going to get the STAR questions, the “tell me about a time” questions — they’re not easy. So be prepared, and be ready to tell a few stories, good stories that favor you and something you’re going to struggle through.
Also, show your flexibility and highlight any relevant experience or knowledge you have, even if it’s not in your exact title or it’s just a personal passion. You have to think about what you’re able to do and what you’re willing to put yourself into.
That’s how you get jobs in this industry — it’s based a lot on your talent and what your experiences are, but it’s mostly about what you’re willing to learn and if you’re willing to grow and be open. And of course, it never hurts to know people — never burn bridges, because you never know who you’re going to end up working with.
How would you describe your experience as a Marriott associate?
At Marriott, you have the opportunity and flexibility. Say something moves your family to another city or country — there are jobs there, you don’t have to stress about it. It takes a phone call, or an online internal search to see what positions are open. It might not be your exact position, but guaranteed, a hotel is going to have something open.
It’s incredible to know that you can grow, you can try different things. I know a lot of great managers and GMs that have all started at different levels and in different ways.
If you’re going to join the hospitality industry, why not go with the best? If you’re looking for a new experience, come work with me in DC.
What’s surprised you most about working for Marriott?
Similar to how Starwood was, Marriott allows you to be very proud of your work. It’s such a great name in the industry, it has great values, and it’s a strong company to be a part of. And what’s surprised me most is that it remains consistent, it’s been their philosophy since the very first days, back when they were doing the root beer stand. While the times have changed, Marriott still deeply cares about its associates.
Marriott will have your back if you’re willing to put in the effort and show them that you’re a part of the team. It’s a changing world, and Marriott understands that — and I see a lot of changes coming into play to work smarter and fix issues. We’re definitely working together to create a better Marriott.
What is your favorite part of your job as HR Operations Manager?
Crazy enough, I love, love, love dealing with all the associates. One of the things I liked about working at the front desk was dealing with all of the guests coming in, meeting people from all over the world — angry, happy, whatever, it didn’t matter to me — but being able to have that connection at the desk.
I have brought that same philosophy to this role, but with the team behind the scenes. Diego (the GM and Anthony’s boss) tells me they don’t know what to do when I’m not there, and it makes me smile, it makes me feel good. I love the fact that I get to be a resource for the associates here, talk to them, see them every day, and ask them how their families are or about their vacations. I don’t want them to be scared or hesitate if they have a problem, I want them to feel comfortable coming to me for anything. And if we don’t speak the same language, they know I’ll figure out how to communicate so that’s not a barrier in anyway.
Like when we did open enrollment for benefits, all of them were coming to me for assistance, and assuming I was too busy to help. But as I told them, I’m never too busy for you — I’m never too busy to help you.
How have you used the Marriott Explore Rate?
Oh, to the extreme. My husband just became a U.S. citizen, and we’re in the process of growing our family with the adoption process for a child — so, with all the exciting things we have going on, we have to make time for us to enjoy ourselves.
So, I usually break out my Bonvoy app and search for the next adventure and — boom, boom, boom, we book great hotels. It’s an incredible opportunity for us to be able to experience places with the associate discount, that otherwise we probably would have had to save for longer.
I’m so excited. Being in the hotel industry, we’ve gone all over the world, but we’ve never gone to Italy. And you know what? I believe that’s our next adventure, it’s time.
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