Interviewed by a Millennial (Part 2)

March 29, 2015


Cornell University School of Hotel Administration students

My Favorite Things, Career Advice & Online Dating

My blog assistant, Ayanna, was so probing with her questions last week that we had plenty of good material left over.  (If you missed it, here's Part 1.)  As with all good interviewers, Ayanna waited until our blog session was almost over to throw me a few zingers.   Millennials aren't afraid to ask anything. 


Ayanna: The second half of this interview will be switched to some fun questions. What was the last song you listened to?

Me: It was Benny Goodman’s, “Flying Home”, and that meant happiness and being in love. This was sung and played back in 1944.

Ayanna: Where’s your favorite place to vacation?

Me: I have a number of favorite places depending on the season. In the summer, I stay in New Hampshire on Lake Winnipesaukee, where I’ve been going for over 70 years. The leaves are spectacular in the Fall.  After Christmas, I head to Ft. Lauderdale for a while. In March, the entire family goes on spring break to Camelback Inn for my birthday parties. My birthday coincides with their school breaks every year, so it’s been a tradition to go to Camelback since 1968. That’s a long time. I think it’s important for families to develop routines and have a favorite place or favorite thing to do. It’s something that sticks with you. 

Ayanna:  Where’s one place you have not visited and would like to in the near future?

Me: Not very many, but I am going to visit Venice, Italy in June and see our new JW Marriott Venice Hotel on the island off the coast of Venice.

Ayanna: What’s one thing you wish everyone in the world could experience?

Me:  I want them to be happy. Enjoy your work and love your family. We help make the pursuit of happiness through travel and through hotels. I equate my personal happiness through my relationship with my Father in Heaven, my wife Donna, and my children and grandchildren. I’m truly blessed in so many ways.

Ayanna: Now taking a turn to love in the digital age. What are your thoughts about online dating?

Me: That’s about as silly and soulless an activity as I’ve ever heard. Get off the computer and get a life. It’s just plain weird, strange and an oxymoron. This gets back to the work/life balance. Unplug.  Take a hike. Visit a museum. I’m not a dating expert, but online dating doesn’t sound like dating to me. How can you hold hands online?

Ayanna: I'll pass that along to my generation. Who’s your favorite President, and why?

Me: Eisenhower.  I remember once he came to my father’s farm in Virginia for the Christmas holiday when it was really cold. We were scheduled to go hunting and it was cold and miserable outside.  A nice fire was heating up the living room when the President turned to me -- I was newly commissioned in the Navy – that’s the lowest form of animal life in the military -- and said, “Bill, what do you think we should do? Should we hunt or go sit by the fire?” I said, "sit by the fire." He was a great man. He was willing to listen to a very young officer and ask what I thought. I learned a lot from that – that’s how he got along with all the egomaniacs he had to deal with during the war, like Montgomery, de Gaulle, and many of the others. He was truly a great man.

Ayanna: When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Me: I grew up in our family business.  I never really wanted to do anything else, but be in the restaurant business. At age 14, I wasn’t qualified to work in a restaurant so I stuffed envelopes in the mailroom in the summer. In college, I worked as a soda jerk. I worked on the deep fryer, on the grill cooking hamburgers, and making ice cream sundaes. I also washed a lot of pots and pans. When I returned from the Navy, my father got me into the business. I really loved it, in spite of my father’s reluctance.  He knew how tough the restaurant business was. He was afraid I wouldn’t be happy working 24/7 in this crazy family business he’d established.  But it’s been a great ride for me and I’ve loved every minute of it.

Ayanna: Now, let’s go back for one second – what’s a soda jerk?

Me: A soda jerk is the person who works the fountain, dishes up ice cream, and puts all kinds of sauces on the ice cream. Back then we made fudge ice cream cakes – that was two pieces of cake, ice cream in the middle and chocolate sauce poured all over it. You have to have a space in the middle, because that’s where we put the whipped cream and the cherry.

Ayanna: Do you still know how to make this?

Me: I do!

Ayanna: What is the biggest change you see affecting the hospitality industry?

Me: It’s two things: how you book rooms and the changing travel habits of your generation. Your crowd doesn’t want a lot of fuss. They want a stylish lobby and plugs for their technology.  I used to work in my room. Now, everyone wants to get out of their room. The other big changes are the numerous ways to book a room online. I know you Millennials are into sharing, but you better bring your towel with you when booking with Airbnb.

Ayanna: Any advice for aspiring leaders?

Me: First, love what you do. Learn how to motivate people. Listen and learn from others around you. And ask lots of questions. My favorite question is what Eisenhower asked me, “What do you think?”  Another one is, “why?” You’ll be surprised at the answers and how it will help you make the right decision. Are we done?!

Ayanna: Yes, we’re done! Now, can we say the tagline together?

Both of us:  "I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move."

Listen to the blog here


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