This month, we’ve celebrated the incredible women at Hilton across the globe. We had the chance to interview Alexandra Jaritz, SVP Focused Service Brand Management APAC to hear about her newly created role, her move from McLean, Virginia to Singapore, her leadership style, and career advice.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your role?
As SVP, Focused Service Brand Management APAC, my role is to firmly establish our focused service brands in APAC. This includes:
- Understanding the complexity of the APAC region which is comprised of 5 regions (China, India, Australasia, South East Asia and Japan), and many subregions (so lots of travel and learning about each of the regions which has been great!)
- Working closely with Corporate Strategy and Development to determine a development strategy (which brands, in which countries, at what time, etc.) and ensuring we have a strong support infrastructure to support the brands in the markets we enter.
- Ensuring our brands are clearly differentiated in the market- aligned with the global positioning, but locally relevant.
- Optimizing our consumer and owner value proposition and working with the various teams to drive performance in key areas like commercial performance, guest satisfaction and owner returns.
2. You’ve just moved to Singapore. How has the transition been?
I grew up in Asia so knowing the culture helps with the transition. My family has come with me including my husband, eight year old daughter, and my mother. Having family support helps. The hardest part of work was starting as a team of one.
3.How did you get your start in hospitality?
My father was in hotel operations and I spent my childhood growing up in hotels around the world. At first, I fought this path. I had always been very analytical and loved rigorous analysis and strategy. When I first graduated from college I went into banking. My first day, I came to work at 9am and left the next day at 11am. It was very competitive, and very much about how long you can stay up. Talk about not thriving – all the perks in the world couldn’t make up for it. After a year, I went into feasibility and then went to business school. During my last year of school, I secured a job with a hospitality consulting company to begin after graduation. However, a day after graduating, they rescinded the offer due to the recession. I am a German citizen so I had eight weeks to find a new job. By pure accident I applied to a hospitality job in Washington, D.C. They called me and said they were about to offer the job to someone else but wanted to meet me. I drove from Durham, North Carolina to D.C. for the interview, interviewed for nine hours, and I got the job! Fate literally pushed me back to hospitality and realizing how much I love this industry. It is so much a part of who I am and is in my DNA.
4. You had the chance to build Tru from scratch and you’ve been recognized for leading the fastest growing hotel pipeline in the history of the lodging industry. What stands out to you as critical for this type of success?
Building Tru by Hilton was one of the best experiences of my life– both professionally and personally. Creating a brand from scratch in 8-10 months was very aggressive. We built the team from the ground up and everyone rallied around our aggressive vision. Because they were so vested in it, they went the extra mile. It was a pivotal career moment for me where I learned the incredible power of vision and teamwork. Once you have a clear vision, and the team buys in, anything is possible. We had a team so diverse in thought, but so invigorated by this goal we had. Together we built a great product and strategy. The bonds we built are memories of a lifetime. Between the owners, Hilton Team Members, and guests, it was incredible.
5. How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to live the values of Hilton and focus on helping others. My approach is: let’s be genuine, let’s be transparent and humble, and let’s do what’s right for the company.
6. What advice do you give to aspiring leaders?
Always set a vision for where you’re trying to go and bring people along from the very beginning. Don’t wait to get their attention at the end. Give your team the chance to get out of their comfort zone and grow – let them push themselves. However, you have to create the vision and let people come along. No matter how big the success, always stay humble.
7. What advice do you give to young professionals aspiring to grow their careers?
Work hard. Know your stuff. Be prepared. And of course, be passionate about what you do. You will inevitably get so many things thrown at you – if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you just won’t have the energy to get through it. If you don’t feel it, all the hours and the ups and downs you’re going to take won’t be worth it. Life is too short.
8. What advice do you give to your mentees?
Listen to people. This is such an important skill to have. So many people are already formulating in their heads what their response is when they should be listening. Having the skill for listening and empathy are common things we sometimes underestimate because we’re so focused on getting the job done.
Also, remain unflappable in moments when others are not able to. Being the one that says “everyone please pause, do not panic,” being tenacious, and having patience is a huge advantage.
9. You are a very successful professional, a mom, a wife, a daughter, a mentor – how do you find balance?
Here’s what I’m starting to realize for my life: I have not been able to achieve a perfect equilibrium of work and personal. Sometimes the focus is work, and sometimes it’s personal. For instance, the next two weeks I’m on business travel in China, Vietnam, and Indonesia. This compromises my home life. This idea that we can create a perfect balance – I don’t think we can. But, I do find balance in that I am taking all of Spring Break off and taking my mother and daughter to Thailand where I grew up. I take it day by day, week by week – Hilton is very flexible and that’s what I love about this company. It is a constant checking on myself and my schedule and trying to plan and prioritize. I’m becoming more and more ruthless with calls and meetings but it is very challenging. However, you have to be able to say no. It is a constant evolution.