If you’ve ever wondered what a career path to the presidency looks like, meet Jillian Katcher. Between her applied economics and management degree at Cornell and an MBA from Harvard, a stint in consulting, followed by serious ops and brand management roles at Starwood and Marriott. Jillian most recently served as Co-Head of Hospitality Investments at Cascade Asset Management Co., the investment office for the Gates family and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, where she focused on managing the firm's interest in Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts.
Now Jillian will be running the show at Twin Bridges Hospitality, a relatively new asset management company that currently has a portfolio of 14 properties in a range of locations from Hawaii to Georgia, repping a variety of hotel brands. In her role as president, Jillian will focus on taking the organization to its next level of growth while maintaining the company's unique asset management style, which "seeks to disrupt traditional asset management and provide ‘Inspired Asset Stewardship’ to humanize the industry."
A fascinating journey...we chat with Jillian to get more of herstory.
You started your career in consulting, how did that ground your career path?
Consulting exposes you to a number of different industries quickly. It teaches you to work hard, learn totally new subjects rapidly, and live out of a suitcase. It not only helped me find my way to travel but to accelerate my learning once I got there.
Then you went to Harvard Business School, why did you decide to go back to school?
To switch industries from consulting to hospitality.
How do you feel having your MBA has been most helpful in your career?
It’s not the MBA in isolation that has been most helpful, but the combination of it with operations chops. Being both a strategist and an operator - my journey from Harvard to Housekeeping - gives me a uniquely holistic perspective on the industry.
You then worked your way up through the ranks at Marriott, these seem to be data-driven jobs, what are the key skills that helped you progress in these roles?
I deliberately switched functions every few years - first operations, then consumer insights, then marketing/brand management. I was able to do this by being curious, humble, and agile.
Did you have mentors at Marriott?
Yes - both male and female. Mentorship is a wonderfully strong component of the Marriott culture.
How did you make the transition from the marketing side to asset management?
I would consider my role at Cascade to be a form of asset management. It’s helpful in Asset Management to understand the many functions within the hotel business so you know which levers to pull. My diverse experience at Marriott paved the way for me to make that transition.
Now you are going to be running Twin Bridges Hospitality, which currently has 14 hotels. How do you hope to grow the business?
Put simply: by driving great returns. Twin Bridges is unique in its asset management philosophy in that it’s one of true stewardship and partnership. Our asset managers come directly from hotel leadership teams, providing them with insider knowledge and empathy to unlock greater value. We also have subject matter experts in fields such as hotel revenue management—ones who literally helped write the book for the industry—which is uncommon and powerful. As we build momentum, our differentiated approach and talent will yield a track record of impressive results. I’m confident owners looking to entrust their assets to true industry experts will find these compelling.
What most excites you about your new role?
I love that it’s multifaceted and entrepreneurial. I’m also so impressed with the team and feel fortunate to be working with such a talented and passionate group.
Now that you are running the business, who are your role models?
One person I genuinely admire is Reese Witherspoon. She saw how so few films had female leads and, rather than accept those rules, she changed them. She founded her own production company focused on telling stories by women, about women, and it is a smashing success. Her speech about ambition from 2015 is still one I think of often.
What is your biggest strength as a leader?
People say my energy is infectious. It’s almost always high and positive. I bring my whole self to work and I encourage my teams to do the same
Thanks for sharing your journey, Jillian. Wishing you lots of success!