Education: BS, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; MBA, Simmons College
First Job: Management trainee, Howard Johnson’s Restaurants
What I'm Reading: Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, by Jung Chang
My Philosophy: Be true to yourself.
Interests: Skiing, travel
Favorite Charities: Boys & Girls Club
Denise Coll • Starwood Hotels & Resorts
President, North America Division2011 award winner
As I think about where my career has taken me over the years, I quickly realize that three fundamental beliefs have influenced me every step of the way. I believe in order to be successful you need to be doing something you love, something you’re truly passionate about. I believe that throughout your career you need to challenge yourself and take risks in order to keep learning and growing. Most importantly, I believe that none of us can be successful alone. You need to search out great leaders to mentor you along the way. I do think my beliefs are simple to understand, but may not always be simple to implement.
Finding work that you are truly passionate about takes time, trial and error. And I can tell you from experience, you will know the right role when you find it or when it finds you. I have spent most of my career in hotel operations, taking a couple of side paths along the way. I spent some time in information technology and human resources, and those experiences provided me with great learning and development opportunities. But neither was my true calling. Nevertheless, it was because of these varied experiences that I came to realize my real passion was in operations.
Taking on different roles as I searched for my passion required me to challenge and stretch myself. I will admit, taking a role in IT was a real risk, as this was not my area of expertise. But I had confidence in my ability to listen and to learn and to develop new skills. I developed an understanding of intelligent risk taking and made it a part of my career development strategy.
I also learned early in my career that I could not do it alone. I needed people who were willing to teach and to mentor me. When it comes to mentoring for a specific skill or talent that you want to develop, seek out someone who is already good at it. You’ll be surprised at how willing others are to support you and how much you can learn in a casual conversation over a cup of coffee or lunch.
How you think about your career is personal and it will change over time. So, where do you start? Start with the courage to try new things, make choices that give you the opportunity to stretch and surround yourself with great people for learning and support. As Stephen Covey said, “Live out your imagination, not your history.”