On Thursday, February 10, the Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality hosted a Fireside Chat, led by Professor Sean Hennessey, where attendees got to hear from three hospitality executives, Steen Petri, David Ran, and Simon Turner, and learn about career opportunities in hospitality investment and development. The discussion not only detailed their personal journeys and differing roles within hospitality but also offered insight into building a career and navigating such a dynamic industry. Petri’s, Ran’s, and Turner’s roles are:
Mr. Steen Petri - Senior Vice President of Investments at HEI Hotels & Resorts
HEI is a hotel investment and third-party management company which manages 85 hotels across the United States. On the investment team, Petri’s overarching responsibility is to continue to grow the company and identify hotels for acquisition and investment.
Mr. David Ran - Senior Analyst at LW Hospitality Advisors (LWHA) Asset Management Group
LWHA operates in four main areas and provides appraisal, advisory, asset management, and litigation support services for clients worldwide. Ran is most involved in their advisory and consulting services.
- Mr. Simon Turner - Managing Director and Founder at Alpha Lodging Partners; Tisch Center Adjunct Professor
After 35 years in banking, Turner now works in global development and real estate, helping to make selective investments and provide advisory services to hospitality sector companies, boards, and investors alike.
When first starting their careers, none of the three panelists set out for the jobs they have today. While Turner did attend hospitality school, he switched tracks in his first year and transitioned from wanting to be a club manager to working in hotel operations. Then, he ended up pivoting again upon realizing he would much rather work on the business side and be responsible for elements beyond hotel operations, such as branding and market positioning.
However, neither Petri nor Ran had initially set out to work in hospitality. Ran went through most of college as solely a mathematics major before choosing to add a degree in hospitality and tourism management to his undergraduate education. And Petri never actually saw himself working in the hospitality industry until taking on an internship at a hotel. One significant draw to Petri was the instant gratification he received from helping clients and hotel guests - Petri later went on to study at NYU’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality and earn a master’s in Hotel Development and Asset Management. When detailing his journey, Petri explained that with his first job, he was not originally placed in his desired division. At the time of Petri’s application, the only available and relevant role that the company could offer him was assistant to the Director of Operations. Petri was eventually transferred to development where he got to do more transactional work as preferred. With this, Petri noted the importance of him seizing the opportunity and gaining valuable industry experience, even if it meant that he did not start in his ideal position.
During the discussion, Turner used the analogy that hotel business and hospitality work are like Rubik’s Cubes. Through his work with hotel operations, both inside and outside of the hotel setting, Turner came to appreciate the fact that hotels operate within a hard asset - a piece of real estate. The Rubik’s Cube effect is created by all the moving parts within the larger scheme of hotel operations and the need to coordinate every element as if one was working to solve the puzzle and make a solid face on a Rubik’s Cube. All three panelists agreed that much of knowing how to address these complexities comes from experience. Whether it be repeatedly working with various parties and identifying their negotiation styles or completing a general task at work, once one has performed these tasks and navigated these situations enough times, working more efficiently and learning how mistakes are made, as well as how to solve them, will start to come more naturally.
Towards the end of the conversation, Petri, Ran, and Turner proceeded to offer insight on how to best succeed whilst building a career in the hospitality industry. One recommendation that they offered was to always understand the rationale behind any given task - it is not enough to simply know how to complete tasks and pass them on to the next person. The three executives also emphasized the importance of relationships within the hospitality industry. While developing professional relationships is an overarching recommendation in any field, much of the hospitality industry can rely on trust and being able to maintain business relationships, and ideally use this trust to continue to work with certain partners, groups, brands, etc.
A final note was that whilst working in the hospitality industry, it is crucial to know what you can and cannot control. The hospitality industry is multi-faceted and allows for diverse career opportunities and growth, and regardless of the position or division that an individual is working in, Petri, Ran, and Turner, all concluded that one should continually strive to find places where they can create value within their company. It was an honor to host this discussion and hear from accomplished industry executives such as Mr. Steen Petri, Mr. David Ran, and Mr. Simon Turner.