As the blur of technology’s evolution revolves before our eyes, how do hospitality industry leaders keep their strategy on point? The answer is to continually be open to learning. “We all know that tech is moving at an exponential pace, and it is important to develop skills both broadly and deeply,” according to Monika Nerger, CIO at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.
Nerger is one of four women hospitality technology leaders who discussed their professional experiences and industry outlook on a panel at the inaugural Women in Hospitality Technology Luncheon at HITEC Minneapolis this past June. In addition to the luncheon, HFTP also recognized 17 leading female executives in a special publication profiling each and illustrating the range of talents ushering the industry forward. While it may seem like a novelty to present a women-only technology panel in a field predominantly populated by men (although this is changing), reading through these women’s professional histories and accomplishments reveals a depth of knowledge that is valuable to learn from.
Before their presentation, the luncheon panelists were interviewed for insights about their careers, the direction of the industry and the steps they took to reach professional success. The following conversation was held with Donna Hale, virtual CIO for 5P Consulting; Kristin Gassick, corporate IT director at The Enchantment Group; Kris Singleton, CIO/senior IT executive with International Cruise & Excursions; and Nerger.
There is no question that technology is a complex, detailed discipline to program and integrate, but when the design comes together and the systems are in place, the end results are electrifying. For those whose work life is making it happen, what elements give them a charge?
“Technology in itself is my fave,” Hale said. “However, if I had to choose I would say infrastructure design and assessments. I totally geek out when I’m in design mode, as to how I know the infrastructure should be.
“Some think that the cloud is here to stay, which I will agree, but that doesn’t mean that everything on-premises will dissolve. The cloud doesn’t work for everyone and not everything belongs in the cloud. In order to know what’s staying and what’s going, everyone will need to take a deep, hard look into their infrastructure with a true research and development process.”
“From a ‘trend’ perspective, at the heart of technology lies innovation,” said Nerger. “While it seems like a broad and obvious answer, I think most of us love the changing nature of technology. You are constantly in an environment of learning new things and exploring ways that tech can better serve our guests and grow our businesses. This is a driving and motivating force that keeps my job fresh and interesting.”
An often-repeated hook that keeps professionals in hospitality is delivering "hospitality," and developing the technology to provide a personal experience for guests is a common end goal. Gassick said: “To this day, I am driven by the desire to maintain a single, meaningful understanding of each guest and enjoy leveraging data to gain insight into what’s working and what’s not for our business. Data-driven business intelligence is my passion.”
Singleton feels similarly and identifies one of her favorites as “customer experience management, which goes beyond just [customer relationship management] to managing the customer journey.”
Singleton also noted that there are no flash-in-the-pan technologies: “All technologies contribute to further evolution, even if they fail.”
Read the full interview and the profiles of female hospitality technology executives in the HITEC 2019 Special Report at PineappleSearch.com.
Frank Wolfe is the CEO of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals. He can be reached at [email protected]