DECA Members Discover the Hospitality Industry with Hilton Worldwide

Fairfax DECA members got an EPIC experience this morning as they joined Hilton Worldwide general mangers from across the country for their annual brand training summit in McLean, Va., at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner.

Students were able to first hear more about Hilton Worldwide’s Global Month of Service campaign that is going on for the entire month of October. This initiative encourages Hilton hotels around the world to use their resources responsibly, volunteer in their communities, and donate to worthy causes in an effort to promote Hilton’s dedication to corporate social responsibility.

Students then had the opportunity to sit down with groups of general managers and ask questions about education paths, careers in the hospitality industry and Hilton’s corporate social responsibility initiative. Many students were pleasantly surprised to discover how many GM’s were former DECA members themselves!

One Fairfax DECA member, Libby Powers, said, “I enjoyed seeing how [the general managers] moved up into the positions they have today. Not all of them were planning being GM’s, and through different paths they all ended up here and now all love what they do.”

Hilton’s Senior Manager of Corporate Responsibility, Melissa Robinson, spoke to the students following their roundtable discussions about Hilton’s corporate social responsibility initiative.

“Most companies don’t mesh their CSR with environmental responsibility,” she stated. “Hilton does because it’s a core value of what we do. The hotel industry by nature is going to leave an impact, so we wanted to find out how we could lessen our own impact. It’s not about how much money we can put into our properties to operate at a certain level, but it’s about finding ways to operating efficiently and responsibly.”

Another Fairfax DECA member, Allie Kendrick, loved learning about Hilton’s CSR and efforts to improve the community and world.

“I found it very interesting how Hilton Worldwide is making community service a key point for all their properties around the world. It was also cool to see their focus on environmental issues is and how sustainability is at the forefront of what they want to improve in their hotels. All the tools they have for corporate social responsibility is really enforcing and driving these changes in their properties,” Kendrick said.

Lastly, the students were able to hear from Kimo Kippen, Hilton’s Chief Learning Officer. Kippen started his career as a bus boy, but quickly moved up through the hotel operations ranks until he was able to be a position that matched his true passion, helping others learn.

“I have the best job in the world!” Kippen told the students. “I care deeply about people learning, helping others find opportunities for their futures and providing the best guest experience that we can.”

Kippen shared that Hilton is opening new hotels every 1.7 days, but the challenge is finding enough talent and general managers for all those new properties.

“If you’re thinking about careers, hospitality is one of the five fastest growing industry sectors in the world. Between now and 2050, we will see the fastest rate of development.”

DECA member Sarah Kendall was very happy to hear this news!

 “I loved hearing that hospitality is one of the five biggest growing industries, and it was great to hear how DECA members have so many tools and resources to help them break into this industry and have great success,” she said.

Kippen ended his segment by sharing his top tips for students to achieve success today:

  1. “Be doing what you’re doing – DECA!” Kippen mentioned it’s also important to be great students, as well as great citizens. Think about extracurricular activities that can help benefit the community and provide you with leadership and ownership experience.
  2. “For every language you speak, you’re worth another person.” If you don’t have language skills, be sure to acquire at least one additional language, and if you already speak a second language, think about learning a third.
  3. “There’s opportunity out there, but you have to first know about it, second take it, and lastly play to win.”

These invaluable lessons were just part of the incredible pieces of advice and insight students received today.  

“I though it was cool how [the general managers] are integrating social media in their businesses, but they still have a strong focus on customer service. They’re finding ways to utilize social media to remind the customer that they are still involved and the top priority,” DECA member Schuyler Corrigan said.

“I really liked finding out that no matter what position or area employees work in, like the front desk or room service, they all have such respect for each other and they really work as a team and focus on how they can all contribute and help to make each guest experience the best it can be,” said another member, Aiden Whittleton.

Eden Green, an aspiring hospitality professional, found the event to be a great professional learning experience for her. “Today was so beneficial for me because I want to go into hospitality one day, and to see all the opportunities available and learn from all these GM’s and hear how much they all love the industry was an unbelievable experience.”

Lastly, many students took today as an opportunity to find out more about the various employee engagement strategies employed by general managers at their own properties.

“When I was going around the tables, I asked how [the general managers] engaged their employees, and it was cool to hear all their diff viewpoints and strategies,” Berk Donmez said. “Some managers are really big on using thank you’s to recognize and engage their staff members while other people focus on getting to know their employee’s families. Another GM told me he likes to go downstairs to the lobby of his property each morning just to be present and engage with the staff that way.”

Fairfax DECA had an incredible time discovering the ins and outs of the hospitality industry and learning about all the amazing ways Hilton Worldwide is working to improve its communities and the world around us.

Follow Fairfax DECA on Twitter @Fairfax_DECA and DECA Inc. at @DECAInc.

Categories: Career Advice, College & Career Advice, Hospitality, Job Advice, Tips For Finding A Job