How I Got the Promotion: from General Manager to Corporate VP with Manny Rappenecker, Marriott
When Manny Rappenecker started working in the hotel business in the early 1990s she dreamed of being a General Manager. “GM was the big ambition back then. When I started working, Marriott only had two brands, Marriott and Courtyard,” Manny recalled. And that’s what she did, starting as a Management Trainee at the Marriott Miami Biscayne Bay, and working her way up over two decades, zigzagging the country…Alabama, Oklahoma City, back to Florida, and finally to New York City becoming GM of the Renaissance Hotel. Earning the top job at the iconic Algonquin, part of the Autograph Collection, and finally across the Hudson to lead the trendy W in Hoboken.
Driven by her passion for the industry, along the way Manny taught as an adjunct professor for the hospitality programs at Johnson & Wales, FAU, and NYU. She even contemplated transitioning to full-time teaching. This aspiration led her to embark on an Executive MBA journey twenty years after finishing her college degree, as universities require a master's degree for a professorship.
Getting Restless is a Sign to Make a Move
As a three-time GM who had worked in five brands, Manny was getting restless. While teaching part-time at NYU and running the W in Hoboken, she saw a listing for a VP & Brand Leader role at the Marriott Corporate HQ. Despite Marriott being a large company, Manny happened to know the hiring manager for the role. She called him and asked if he thought she was qualified.
“He encouraged me to apply. However, I fit squarely into the classic statistics from the often quoted Hewlett Packard study, women apply only if they meet 100% of job qualifications, whereas men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications. And I was worried I wasn’t up to the job.”
Interestingly, in a follow-up study on job applications by gender reported in the Harvard Business Review, 22% of women said their top reason for not applying for a job was, “I didn’t think they would hire me since I didn’t meet the qualifications and I didn’t want to put myself out there if I was likely to fail.”
Not Afraid to Fail
Manny didn’t fall into the “afraid to fail” camp. She put her application in thinking, “If you don’t ask, you definitely don’t get.” About six weeks went by and crickets. She assumed she wasn’t being considered and then…she got the call and after a series of interviews across the C-suite, she was offered the role. We chat with Manny who shares her best advice to go from property level to corporate.
What is your job with Marriott International?
I’m the Vice President and Global Brand Leader for All-Inclusive and Delta Hotels by Marriott. One of the overarching roles of brand management is to enhance the performance and positioning of brands within their competitive segments. My role is accountable for defining, developing, and executing the guest experience globally in a way that is consistent with the brand’s strategies business model and creates maximum profitability and enhances the long-term health of the brand. This includes building brand preference for both customers and investors, to on-site product and service touch points.
What has been your biggest advantage coming from operations into corporate?
Having the lens of the operator and owner on every decision that is made to make sure it can be achieved at the property level, globally. My years running hotels in all sizes and various markets is a tremendous asset. It might surprise you, but many people in corporate have not worked extensively on property.
What were you most nervous about when starting out?
When I first started out, there were lots of aspects of the job I was nervous about. Something that stands out in my memory, was how meetings felt like they were speaking a foreign language, even though I definitely knew the business and was an expert in understanding the guest experience. Then I got more fluent in the "corporate speak" and asked plenty of questions. Once I started asking questions, it turns out, other people were happy I asked because often they didn't understand either. Don't be afraid to speak up if you don't understand.
Takeaway: Don't be afraid to speak up if you don't understand.
What has been the biggest change for you working in corporate versus in operations?
Because we are making decisions and planning on a global level, I often have to slow down and ensure I’m involving all of the stakeholders. I have had to adjust my timelines, it takes a bit longer to complete projects at corporate versus on property you can make decisions and see results very quickly.
Are you happy you made the move?
Absolutely, moving to corporate is part of growing my own skill set and pushing myself outside of my normal comfort zone. There have been pros and cons, though.
Pros: gaining a global perspective and understanding of every decision made about the business.
Cons: because the position is global, decisions take a bit longer and I’ve had to adjust accordingly. But all for good reason.
What suggestions would you give to women looking to make the move from operations to corporate?
Go for it – but never lose your property lens.
Network – as big as Marriott is, it’s still very small and close-knit, and collaborative.
Everything you do represents your personal brand. How you present, write emails, coach, and mentor others. How you show up matters every day.
What is next for you in your career?
My next role has never been what I planned it to be, it’s more about what opportunity presents itself. But I’ve also learned along the way to be discerning and make sure the next job makes sense for me personally and professionally. My next job isn’t about title or money but rather I want to be continually challenged and learn new things and if title and money come along with it, even better! In reflection, while I have been open to opportunities, I have always been intentional about my career. I always have a next step in mind, and make a point to learn what skills or what accreditations are needed to advance. Again, here I would advise women, if you don't know what skills you need for the next promotion, ask the people doing those roles.
I’ve been with Marriott for almost 34 years and it’s been very good to me, I’ve lived in locations I never would have thought, I’ve traveled to places I never imagined, and I got an MBA while working full-time, so I’m wide open to see what’s next.
Quickfire with Manny!
What is your morning routine?
I'm an early riser, I get all of my big decisions and conversations done in the am. If I can squeeze in a fitness class or walk, then watch out I’ll be raring to go!
What do you do for self-care? I’m a big proponent of “me time” whether alone and pampering myself a bit, or spending it with loved ones and friends, that’s what gives me great energy. And being sure to be in the moment, phones off and present. I also don’t do any technology in the bedroom, no tv, phone charges in the kitchen, and no tablet or computer in the bedroom.
What is your top travel hack?
Professionally – travel light, never check a bag, have a roller bag with four wheels (easier on the wrist), a great backpack, a crossbody bag, and be sure that your portable charger is always charged in case you get stranded somewhere and need a charge (be sure to spend the money on a great charger). And try to build status with one airline.
Personally – Every woman (more so than men) has that pile of clothes that’s not quite ready for goodwill, I use that as my “disposable” clothing when traveling, then I wear it and toss it which makes more room for a few items to bring back.
What is the best advice you ever got?
Start contributing to the company's retirement savings plan as soon as possible and max it out.
What is the worst advice you ever took?
At one point in my career, I let a hiring manager convince me to apply for a job that my mentor advised me against. I was just anxious for the next role and flattered to be considered. I should have been patient and waited for other opportunities that came thereafter.
What movies, TV shows, or podcasts are you into right now?
Ted Lasso & Shrinking – Just to lighten things up!
Yellowstone – a Western version of the Sopranos
Positive Intelligence, by Shirzad Chamine
The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown
Most of all, I love listening to music, it’s always on, and varies depending on what I’m doing.