Alum Highlight: Dagmawi Alemayehu
Dagmawi “Dag” Alemayehu was often told he had a winning personality that would be just right for hotel management. It was a well-informed—if slightly biased—assessment from his mother, who had worked in the business as a telephone operator for 28 years.
“She told me that with my personality—you know moms—I’d be successful,” said Alemayehu, a 2016 graduate of the Georgetown master’s program in Global Hospitality Leadership.
Shortly after he started classes, Alemayehu, who was then working at the Westin Alexandria, became a Front Office Manager at the Westin Georgetown, where he supervised about 40 employees.
The moral of this story? (Actually, there are two.) Listen to your mother—and go to Georgetown.
Why Georgetown? Alemayehu said the University has a wealth of connections throughout the world and in its own backyard—a “backyard” that includes the world headquarters of Marriott, Hilton, and Choice Hotels.
“When you think about it, Washington, D.C., is like the Silicon Valley of hospitality,” Alemayehu said. “There’s nothing like it.”
Students learn from instructors who are industry leaders, a point Alemayehu illustrated with this story from his Westin Georgetown job interview: He said his talk with the hotel manager was going fine when she excused herself to greet a company executive who had arrived early for a quarterly ownership meeting. He turned out to be one of Alemayehu’s instructors at Georgetown, so the manager brought them together.
“We’d love to have someone like you,” the executive said.
Alemayehu had planned to become a hotel manager, but the program got him interested in business development. He is now the business development manager for hospitality and tourism at goDCgo, a District of Columbia initiative that promotes public transportation. His job is to reach out to the region’s vast hospitality industry and the thousands of visitors it hosts, “so that, when people think of D.C, the last thing they want to do is bring their car.”
Alum Highlight: Tom Whitney
Some people have to search hard to find a career. For others, the choice comes naturally.
Tom Whitney was fortunate enough to be in the latter group.
“The hotel industry has kind of fascinated me and pulled me into it,” said Whitney, who has worked for Marriott International, Inc. for nearly 10 years. “The Marriott job found me rather than me finding the job.”
A 2005 graduate of the University of Utah, where he majored in architecture, Whitney joined Marriott in 2007 as a Project Coordinator, then went on to become a Senior Project Coordinator and later, a Design Manager. But after more than three years in the Design Manager position, his career seemed to stall.
“I had hit a ceiling,” he said. “I was getting frustrated, so I decided I needed to go back to school.”
That’s when he found the Global Hospitality Leadership program at Georgetown.
At Marriott, Whitney served on a feasibility team that examined new projects and their potential profitability. He loved the work and wanted to continue it at a higher level, but he noticed that the people being selected for higher-level jobs had backgrounds in finance.
At Georgetown, Whitney took advantage of courses in strategic planning and finance, including Feasibility, Analytics, Valuations, and Business Intelligence for Hospitality Development, which explored the very issues he was dealing with at work. Other classes examined subjects like entrepreneurship and revenue management.
“My master plan is to one day build and open a hotel myself,” he said.
The Hospitality program is small and close-knit. Students get to know one another and work together on assignments. Instructors even give out their cell phone numbers and make themselves available on weekends.
“They were more than willing to take my calls and walk me through some of the concepts,” Whitney said.
Whitney graduated from the program in May 2016. Eight months later he was named Senior Manager, Feasibility and Market Analysis, at Marriott International. Of the Georgetown program, he said “it really accelerated my career.”
Alum Highlight: Mason Harrop
Some people seem to be made for the hospitality business. They get a taste of it when they’re young, then either work their way up through the industry ranks or launch their own business. Think: J. Willard Marriott, who opened a tiny root beer stand in Washington, D.C., some 90 years ago.
Mason Harrop’s story hasn’t reached Marriottian proportions (at least, not yet), but it’s impressive how far he’s come since working as a teenager in his neighbor’s sandwich shop in Ogden, Utah. From the beginning, he was a natural in a field that requires hard work, attention to detail, and a passion for serving the public.
“I just absolutely loved it,” said Harrop, who graduated from Georgetown’s Global Hospitality Leadership program in May 2017.
There was a time when someone could advance in hospitality by learning on the job (see “tiny root beer stand” above). But Harrop decided that in today’s competitive environment he needed a master’s degree. He chose Georgetown for its reputation, location, and Jesuit tradition.
Once in Washington, he landed a job with Wyndham Vacation Ownership, the timeshare division of the global hotel chain, at National Harbor. Since then, he’s been promoted twice and is now an Engineering Supervisor managing about 100 employees in the Operations and Maintenance division of Wyndham’s 250 National Harbor timeshares.
In this job as in his previous ones, Harrop draws on his education, experience, and the intangibles that he’s possessed all along.
“The hospitality industry is all about relationships … about the interaction between one person and another,” he said. “You can’t separate hospitality from the people who work in it.”