Behind the Scenes of Cyber HITEC: Meet the HITEC Advisory Council (Part II)

Last week, HFTP introduced four members of the HITEC Advisory Council: Council Chair Justin Taillon, MBA, Ph.D., CHIA, CHTP; Vice Chair Barry Thomas, CHTP; Executive Committee Liaison Mark Pate, CHAE, CHTP, MBA; and Council Member Ummara Marshall. This week in Part II, meet several more members of this esteemed council, whose collective experiences and industry knowledge influence and refine the world-class education program at HITEC each year. 

This is the second post in a blog series introducing the Cyber HITEC Advisory Council. Read Part I on HFTP Connect and stay tuned for the rest of the series leading up to Cyber HITEC, taking place live October 27-29, 2020 on a computer near you. 

Meet HITEC Council Member Mike Blake, CAE 

“Being involved in the HITEC Advisory Council is a great experience,” says Blake, “because it leverages the insight and knowledge of the other council members for us to build out an educational program that benefits all attendees.” 

At HITEC, “there is such a deep level of networking throughout the event. These bonds really help cultivate friendships that last a lifetime both in my professional and personal life.” Industry connections are now more important than ever in the time of an international pandemic. “Conversations are the most important thing we can have now to produce productive results,” says Blake. 

“We are finding out from hoteliers what new problems they are now facing whether they are in the reopening stages yet or not, and we are finding out from technology vendors what solutions they are creating, and how these can help us in the new normal.” 

Blake was just selected to be inducted into the HFTP International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame this year. He will be presented with this award during Cyber HITEC. He has established an impressive career in the hospitality industry, having served as CIO of Commune Hotels & Resorts and Hyatt Hotels Corporation prior to his current role as CEO , Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG), an HFTP allied industry partner. 

Meet HITEC Council Member James Bina, CHAE+, CHTP 

“Change [in the hospitality industry] can be exciting, challenging and rewarding all wrapped up in one package,” says Bina. “Changes in technology bring about innovation, creativity and coolness. HITEC gives you the opportunity to pick and choose, learn and discern what is best for your operation. Cyber HITEC will allow this to continue in a new and exciting way.” 

Bina is a dual-designated hospitality industry expert who currently serves as the director of finance (DOF) with Rosen Hotels & Resorts. Last month, he conducted an educational webinar with HFTP on ethical dilemmas in hospitality finance and management, which was recapped on HFTP Connect in the post, “A Practical Approach to Ethical Dilemmas.” He is also a director on the HFTP Global Board. 

Meet HITEC Council Member Diane Estner 

“I have always loved the global hospitality industry because it is so dynamic,” says Estner. “It is about creating and sharing experiences. It is about diversity, people, adventures, connections and hospitality.” 

Estner is the president/CEO of DANNI Enterprises. If you were a regular attendee in HFTP’s summer series of online Hangouts, her name might already be familiar. She moderated two dynamic sessions alongside John Picard on social disruption and design innovation through technology (read more about that here). Estner is also very involved at the local level with HFTP as the current president of the HFTP Georgia Chapter. “I love HFTP and all the things we do as a global industry organization,” says Estner. “It’s all about the people.” 

Meet HITEC Council Member Charlie Lystrup, MBA, CHTP 

Even the HITEC Advisory Council members can learn from the educational program they help design. “The educational sessions are a great chance to learn from peers,” says Lystrup. “I love learning how both branded and non-branded properties are handling various challenges such as digital keys, touchless payments and associate panic buttons.” 

Did your company recently make a transition to remote work? Now more than ever, it is important to stay on top of your cyber security and prevent fraud. “Steps should always be taken to assure security threats are minimized,” recommends Lystrup, “and HITEC provides great information in this subject.” 

Lystrup has 23 years of experience leading the IT organization for multiple management companies and has earned both his MBA and CHTP designation. “I am really looking forward to Cyber HITEC this October,” he says, “and to reuniting with vendors and peers at HITEC Dallas in 2021.” HITEC Dallas is scheduled to take place June 21-24, 2021. 

Meet HITEC Council Member Shannon McCallum 

Shared experiences have guided McCallum’s growth in her career and on the council. “Attending HITEC in the past has enabled me as an operator to bring new ideas back to our team to better our efficiency and the guest experience.  

“Being involved with the advisory council has been very rewarding. The ability to bring the latest and most relevant speakers and content into the annual conference is what supplements the products on the trade show floor. Having, at times, multiple CIOs speak to real-life situations affecting all types of business is a true opportunity to learn from their shared experiences.” 

Hospitality is a passion for McCallum, who has enjoyed over 30 years in many different disciplines including hotel operations, food and beverage, sales and conventions. She is currently the board chair for the Nevada Hotel and Lodging Association Foundation and has been the strategic advisor to technology startup companies. 

“We need to keep learning, more than ever, about ways to move our businesses ahead during these challenging times for our industry,” says McCallum. “The virtual Cyber HITEC will provide a great learning experience for IT, finance and operations professionals without the current travel concerns hindering their ability to attend.” 

Return to HFTP Connect Next Week 

There are still more HITEC Advisory Council members to meet. Please check back on HFTP Connect next week for Part III of this blog series. 

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About the Author: Briana Gilmore

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