Listen to Powerful Voices, Seek Mentorship at HITEC Minneapolis 2019


Written by: Sherry Marek

We are just days away from HITEC and I hope you are preparing your exhibit hall visits, selecting which education sessions to attend, and planning your days around the keynote and general sessions. I am also sure your social calendars are already full each night.

I am especially looking forward to the inaugural Women in Hospitality Technology luncheon, taking place on Monday at 11:30 a.m. at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Four leading professional women will discuss their professional experiences and industry outlooks at the event, which is presented by HFTP and the HFTP Foundation. I look forward to hearing from the panel, moderated by Donna Hale with speakers Kristin Gassick, Monika Nerger and Kris Singleton.

In addition, 17 other women are featured in special profiles in the 2019 HITEC Bytes Special Report and will be recognized.

Read the 2019 HITEC Special Report >>

The best part about HITEC is the variety of skill sets that people bring to the show. Some IT folks have spent their time in software development. Others have worked to bridge the lines of communication between the development team and users, translating the front end requirements to technical specs. A few have spent time as project managers, where they learn a little bit about all of the IT infrastructure that keeps a property running smoothly day in and day out — multiple software applications, as well as hardware. Even those not directly involved with IT may have IT folks reporting to them, especially those in finance. Regardless of your background in IT, you will find plenty of IT-related discussions going on at HITEC.

HITEC is an ideal scene to learn more about your fellow professionals and to learn from those who have been around in the business a lot longer. My advice is to seek out an industry mentor to help you trouble-shoot problems and understand best practices. As you become acquainted with industry professionals from across the business, consider these tips to finding and nurturing a mentor/mentee relationship.

  1. Think about yourself. Be clear on your goals. Are you seeking in-depth career help, simple advice or ideas?
  2. Research your potential mentor. Look at their Linkedin profile, social media posts, articles published/quoted. Get to know the person before you approach them.
  3. Ask what you can do for the mentor.
    Ready to ask? Remember:
    – Acknowledge that you value their time.
    – Be accommodating. If you are in a different time zone, calculate the difference for your mentor.
    – Keep it short; ask for 15 minutes, at first.
  4. Last but not least, find a meaningful way to thank the mentor.

In a preview interview with the Women in Hospitality Technology Luncheon panelists, the women were asked their viewpoint on the role of mentors and advice they would give to a younger version of themselves. Monika Nerger stated that her view of a mentor shifted after a workshop she attended with hotelier and speaker Chip Conley. She sees a mentor as “anyone that you develop a relationship with who shares their wisdom or experience, and ideally there is something you contribute back. Not all mentor relationships are formal or structured.” I think this is an interesting take on the mentor relationship.

Kris Singleton reflects on her career and gives her younger self the advice (and it may apply to you), “Don’t be afraid to take risks! Fail fast and learn; don’t repeat the same mistake!” Donna Hale found her mentors in her current job — often it was the boss who became a good friend.

Last weekend, I finished reading Melinda Gates’ book, The Moment of Lift, which shares a bit of Melinda’s journey in the IT world. She also talks about powerful stories of others, inspiration we can all use. There are chapters on her trips to India, working to prevent AIDS and rid the earth of polio. Chapters are also devoted to women in technology and the barriers faced by women in Silicon Valley and other gender bias. A golden nugget I found in the book had to do with Melinda’s advice for her younger self: “Be myself and I found my voice with the help of peers, mentors and role models.” That is how she was rewarded and promoted within Microsoft.

Here is a nice article on How to Ask Someone to Be Your Mentor.

Hopefully, you enjoy the week at HITEC. Take advantage of the women’s luncheon as a unique opportunity to network, pick up tidbits of information in the education sessions, walk the exhibit hall and mingle with peers all week long. If you are active on social media you can continue the relationships you form at HITEC throughout the year on Linked in, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Happy HITEC!

Sherry Marek is a passionate advocate of helping the hospitality industry make informed and data-enabled decisions to streamline operations. She co-founded Datavision Technologies in 1996 with the goal of bringing broad-spectrum business intelligence to all key areas of hospitality operations. 

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