Rising from Within: Nydia Hoskins, GM, Omni Las Colinas
Fate intervened for Nydia Hoskins, when a random summer job at the front desk of the Omni Corpus Christi, at age 19, caused her to fall in love with the hotel industry. Abandoning her plans for college and law school, Nydia, an eager on-the-job learner, gained experience across multiple roles and departments, grabbing any chance offered to her. She grew along with Omni, traveling to seven hotels, helping on opening task forces, exposing her to leaders across the company. She also took on managerial roles in a variety of departments, all of which helped shape Nydia into the leader that she is today. We spoke to Nydia about her experience––rising to be one of the company’s youngest GMs at age 38, her Hispanic heritage, how to pursue opportunities despite formal education, and the need for flexibility in a post-pandemic world.
What was your first job?
My mom was in news broadcasting, so she had a lot of connections in the city. I tapped her network to find voluntary work experiences in high school, so I had a good taste of the 9-5 office life at a young age. My first paid job was at the Corpus Christi Athletic Club, the president there needed an assistant to help her. It was short-lived, I did a lot of managing her calendar, setting up events, etc., but I would say that my first proper job was with Omni Corpus Christi, as a front desk agent.
You had a little taste of office life, and a paycheck in high school before starting in the hotel business, what drew you to hospitality?
A lot of things changed for me in my junior year of high school, as my parents got a divorce. I had intended to be a lawyer and that was my ambition for many years. I had been looking at schools to attend out of town and then my parents’ decision to separate derailed my intentions for college. My mom decided to move to Nashville, Tennessee, and she gave me the option to move to Nashville, or find a job in Corpus Christi, if I wanted to stay.
That’s how Omni Corpus Christi came about. I was 19 and had just enrolled in Del Mar Community College, the Omni job was just going to be a summer thing until school. I fell in love with hospitality! No two days were the same, I loved meeting new people, and I immediately learned so much. Hospitality is such an intricate industry, and there are so many different trades and job paths under one roof. Hotels were my real path, but I just didn’t know it at the time!
So, were you juggling school and work?
I was able to get a promotion pretty quickly into a supervisor role, and after the first year, I decided to focus on working more and advancing. So that’s where my formal education path kind of stopped, I thought that real-life education of doing the job was the right choice for me. I was dedicated and committed to moving up the ladder.
The rest is history or as we like to say––herstory–you stayed with Omni for over 21 years now. Tell us why?
I can’t say enough about our culture. What I love about Omni is that our company is still that size where you’re not just a number, you’re a person, and it’s very easy to find resources. There’s also something to be said about a company that recognizes dedication and commitment and continues to challenge and nurture its talent pool. There’s been a few occasions where I’ve been given a position despite being measured against people with a lot more on paper experience, and candidate-to-candidate, the other person might have been the “smarter” choice.
I’ve had other opportunities, but there’s no reason for me to leave. I’ve consistently moved up the ladder with Omni, working in many different functions, and also have had the chance to work on several task force assignments and opening teams. I especially love the excitement of being part of a hotel opening, there is nothing else like it!
Have you had roadblocks or struggles along the way?
Yes, of course. It’s not easy to start at an entry-level position and work your way up to an executive position. Even though I have had many opportunities, I’ve also had “wake up” moments where something I thought was right for me didn’t work out. Navigating opportunities and negotiating compensation are always learning experiences. I’ve evolved over my career and learned how to have those sorts of conversations with confidence. Now being a General Manager and experiencing them from the other side, it all comes full circle.
What was it like to be a young manager where you presumably had employees who were older than you and maybe men?
Being a young manager, especially in a predominantly male industry, can certainly come with conflict. This is my philosophy: I’ve never allowed other peoples’ biases to change the way I act in a situation. I try to stay true to who I am as a manager, as a leader, and as a person. I believe that your actions should demand the respect that you need, and lowering your standards is just not something that’s worth it to me. I didn’t always do that well; I think when I was younger, I felt the need to prove myself to others by over-achieving. I don’t think that’s healthy, it’s not a race. You need to be confident enough in your leadership abilities, with that comes self-awareness of what you need to learn and where you need to improve, and people respect that. I’ve definitely learned to adapt my communication styles to the people that I’m talking to so that my message at the time can be well received.
Can you give me an example of when you have to change your communication style to relate to your team?
Well, as a hotel manager you’re always dealing with a vast range of people with varying levels of backgrounds, education, exposure, etc. Despite what department I am with, I have to be able to relate to them, and for them to relate to me. It needs to be a consistent relationship, that’s very important to me. I don’t want to be detached from any level of the organization. You should be able to hold your own during a budget meeting, for example, but then also be approachable for any member of the team that has an idea or an opportunity. I try very hard to make sure everyone in the hotel knows that my door is always open to listen to any feedback or concerns. One of my favorite quotes is “leaders that don’t listen are eventually surrounded by people that have nothing to say.” Leaders certainly have to communicate a lot, but communication should also include listening.
You’re of Mexican descent, is it important to you to lift up other Latino women that are either around you or beneath you?
I’m proud to be Mexican and Texas is a huge melting pot of diversity. Yes, I’m lucky enough to be a charter member of Omni’s DEI council. I’ve always tried to represent the Latin community in any role I take on, whether it be as a Chamber of Commerce member, or part of hotel associations. Within Omni, it is important for me to mentor, or even just share my experience. I think we all need uplifting in some ways, even just hearing stories like mine is motivating for anyone starting their career.
How come you never went back to college?
I didn’t feel that I needed it at the time and overall that feeling has not changed, but candidly, I will say that it is an insecurity of mine. I’ve never felt from other people that it was an issue, just internally. I’ve opened up a lot of hotels, I’ve learned about marketing and budgeting, and the financial expectations of running a hotel over the years, through mentors and through my own dedication to learning. Because of my own unique journey, I make it a point to make sure that everyone on my team gets exposure to financials as well. I’ve met a lot of young managers, all with great educational backgrounds, who have never had to deal with the day-to-day of operating a business. Some have culture shock when they get on property and learn all that needs to be managed, so there’s definitely something to be said about the value of actual work experience. However, I have looked into education options, and it’s something that I’d like to pursue when my kids get a little older.
Why do you think it’s important for you to get that education?
I think that we all have to continue to move forward and continue to improve our skills. Business changes constantly–these last two years are a perfect example of that–– so as a manager, you can’t be stagnant, you have to continue to evolve otherwise you’ll be left behind. I want to continue to learn and be the best that I can be for the people that rely on me.
You mentioned you have kids, how many and how did you handle being pregnant at work?
Yes, I have two kids! A six-year-old and a three-year-old. I got married and pregnant during a very busy time in my life. At that time, I was on the opening team for our Nashville hotel, and I was very busy working. The hotel opened up in 2013, right before Nashville blew up as the “place to be,” and it was jamming from the get-go. While I was pregnant, I did not slow down, all the way through to the end I just kept going. I had the misguided mentality that if I wasn’t working the hotel would fall apart. Obviously, that wasn’t the case because I had a fantastic team around me, but I guess with age comes wisdom. I value work and I work hard, but I have learned the importance of ensuring there’s a balance there with my family life, even if I don’t always get it right. My husband works from home in video production, and we are blessed that he has a lot of flexibility for our children.
There’s this phenomenon which has been called ‘the invisible workload’ which refers to the work that women take on like administrative stuff around the house, do you find yourself taking this on, or is that your husband's responsibility?
Well, my “Type A” personality sneaks in wherever it can, I’m definitely still the planner of the household, but that’s just my nature. But with a full work schedule, my husband is a wonderful partner to me. I do make it a priority to be around to attend events at school and extra-curricular activities, and watching my children grow and being available for them is the most important thing.
What lesson has been most valuable in your career trajectory?
One of the biggest lessons I learned early on is that building working relationships shouldn’t be taken for granted. Taking advantage of traveling for task force opportunities to meet people across Omni has accelerated my career. Many times, there were situations where I’ve helped someone on an opening task force for a couple of weeks, and that has helped me stand out in a pool of applicants for promotions. Moving to different cities wasn’t so natural, leaving home was hard, in Hispanic culture mainly people stay in their hometowns, so it was a big step for me, but the people I’ve met along the way that I’ve stayed in contact with, have been really important in my journey.
How do you stand out on a Task Force team?
No matter the situation, task force, or regular hotel roles, when you think of others and make a point to connect, that makes an impression on them. Take time to really listen and engage, even simple things, like remembering people’s birthdays. Early on, I made a habit of logging everyone’s birthdays on my calendar, and I think it’s those little things that truly make people feel valued and recognized.
You oversaw a multi-million-dollar renovation of the Omni Las Colinas in 2020, that included a new resort-style pool and lounge area, three new eateries, and upgrades to the hotel’s common areas. What are your tips for successful hotel renovations?
A continued focus on communication and adaptability. With new builds and renovations, communication is crucial because in most cases you need an answer yesterday and you need everyone involved to be fully in the know or you are not set up for success. At the same time, nothing ever goes as planned! You have to be able to enact plan C, D, or even E and stay on track and moving forward.
You know, I think a big change that I’ve seen – and I hope continues – is that I don’t feel that this is so much of a male-dominated industry anymore.
What would you like to see change for women in our industry? You know, I think a big change that I’ve seen – and I hope continues – is that I don’t feel that this is so much of a male-dominated industry anymore. I feel as though the food and beverage area is behind slightly, but even so, more and more women are gaining leadership positions there as well. Ultimately, we are all in charge of our own destinies. It’s also a responsibility of ours, as we continue to advance, to mentor other women and share our experiences to better prepare them. Women are very creative beings, and creativity is an untapped source, so I’d definitely like to see that continue to move forward.
What are your aspirations now, what’s next for you?
I remember, very distinctly, when I thought that director of rooms was a pipe dream, and then getting there I was like, “Wow, this is really a reality, I need to set my dreams higher.” I’m still a new GM. I’ve only been a GM for three years, and I feel that COVID took some of that away from me. I’m content with where I am right now, and I’m excited to grow and develop in my current role.
How’s the labor shortage going for you?
After we closed the hotel for three months and reopened in June of 2020, we were blessed because we had a lot of associates waiting to return. We were able to bring back a good pool of people at that time and continued to rebuild the team into 2021. Food and Beverage back-of-house positions continue to be a pressure point for us, but for the majority, like with housekeeping, we were able to reemploy our former team. We’re expecting 2022 to be close to pre-pandemic levels from an occupancy standpoint and although it’s definitely been a tough two years, it’s so exciting to have business settling back in.
Tell us about Omni’s new “One and Done” hiring program?
With “One and Done,” Omni brings in candidates for hourly positions and supervisory roles onto their properties for a single round of interviews. At the end, if we like what we hear, we make an offer and close the deal. This premium on speed ensures two things: First, that the candidate doesn’t accept an offer from someone else while the hiring team is comparing notes. Second, that the property can get back to its full suite of revenue sources — rooms, restaurants, resort activities — as quickly as possible.
Has poaching been an issue for you?
Poaching has definitely been an issue, with varying wage asks, so we, as a company, are trying to be very creative. We know that we can be an employer of choice for anyone because we have such a strong culture, but you have to be creative on top of that, like offering extension packages, retention packages, flexible scheduling, etc. Tenured hospitality leaders tend to be very set in their ways, and so are reluctant to introduce flexible scheduling. However, in times like this, you have to adapt. As previously mentioned, food and beverage has been particularly hard, so if we have someone come in who can only work a certain amount of hours, we have to take that into consideration and make it work in our scheduling.