I love hotels and love the work they do, but I also know they have too much going on.
And that’s where the trouble starts.
In many ways, my time at the Marriott Marquis of Austin was a perfect storm.
I was a young lawyer, the daughter of a retired city police chief and my wife was a college graduate with a bright future.
We had four kids to support, and the job paid well.
I was blessed with an open office on the first floor, a large living room and a comfortable room in the back.
But the job also brought me to the brink of bankruptcy.
So my first impulse was to leave.
After spending nearly 20 years in law, I had the financial wherewithal to stay in the hotel world.
But my time in Austin also exposed me to a new and different kind of hospitality: The kind that pays less and is less safe.
And in many ways the Marriott was a place where my experience and my work were often intertwined.
The business is complicated, and I’ve written extensively about how it operates and the challenges that come along with it.
But let me tell you, it was a life-changing experience for me.
The work was rewarding and the people were wonderful.
And I loved the people who worked there.
On top of that, I also loved Austin.
The city’s diverse, welcoming and artistic, and my experience in Austin was as close to the authentic American experience as you could get.
It felt like home.
Yet the hotels that I worked for at the time were just one part of the equation.
There was a business at the other end of the spectrum that had more than its share of problems.
There were so many of them, in fact, that I ended up losing touch with many of the people I had worked with there.
And when I left, I didn’t know how much longer I’d be with them.
It was a tough time for all of us.
But I still wanted to stay at the hotel.
It was a big decision, and one that I regret now more than ever.
And it’s hard to describe what it was like to be a hotel employee, especially with all of the pressures of work and living.
A friend of mine said, “There was this one time I was in the bathroom of the Marriott and somebody in a hotel suite came in and said, ‘Do you know what I hate about this hotel?’
He was talking to his assistant, and his assistant said, ‘(Noooo) he just said it.’
He was like, ‘I know, you’re not going to believe it, but he just called me n*****.’
So that was that.”
It took a lot of work to get back to the hotel, and that was a painful, draining time.
But we all came through.
We were all very fortunate to have the great hotel community and people like Steve, my boss and the man who gave me my first job, Steve Karp.
He made sure that when I went into the hotel room after my first day of work, that my room was clean, my dress was clean and I was never alone.
He also worked to make sure that I was always welcome.
It wasn’t easy, and it took a little work.
But that was all we could do.
We all had the luxury of going to work every day.
And we all had to put in the work.
And so we did.
And while that was an incredible journey, the rest of the business wasn’t.
When I left the hotel I was a free man.
My family and I had just bought our first home.
And our youngest daughter, Hannah, was living in the States.
She was four and a half months old.
At the Marriott, the company was run by a single person, and when I got my paycheck in December 2007, I was able to spend a few days with my daughter.
I spent my vacation at my parents house, where we enjoyed a couple of days of family time and went out to the pool and ate a lot.
And then I went to a conference.
That was a special experience.
I had spent a lot more time in the lobby at the hotels than I had in the conference room, but there were still moments when I would feel at home.
The conference room was the one room in our home that was truly my own.
One of my friends, Bob, had worked at the company for five years and had the good fortune of working for Steve Karsz, my executive vice president and chief operating officer.
I learned a lot from Bob.
Bob is the kind of person you don’t often meet but know has made some of the greatest business decisions of our lifetime.
And the reason I chose to be Bob’s assistant at the conference was because Bob was so willing to sacrifice his own personal safety for the good of his organization. And