Wildcats@Work with Wendy Blaney

By:
By Aviva Doery,
UA alumna, Wendy Blaney '88, worked her way up from the front desk at hotels to the chief sales officer for the Atlantis, Paradise Island Hotel in the Bahamas. Read more about her path to success.

What has your career path looked like from graduation to your current role today?

I really worked my way up. I started out behind the front desk of a hotel checking people in. I knew that I wanted to work in the hospitality industry. I took job opportunities where they came and moved a lot. I lived in Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles working for all different kinds of hotels. I got experience in airport hotels, luxury hotels and downtown hotel properties. I then had the opportunity to go from working for individual properties to working for headquarters with Sheraton. I worked to sell Sheraton as a brand in New York.

Soon after, one of my customers, Johnson & Johnson, asked if I would work for them. So I went from selling hotel rooms to buying hotel rooms. I became very involved in hotel and travel procurement which allowed me to negotiate all kinds of travel contracts. What has now become the technology of travel, such as Expedia and Travelocity, I was doing on the business side of things way before those websites existed for Johnson & Johnson’s corporate travelers. I gained a very different perspective on the industry since I got to sit on the customer side of my business for 14 years.

I decided that I missed the hotel side of things but didn’t want to go back to a traditional hotel company. I didn’t have a lot of managerial experience so I wanted to grow that skill. I got a job with Caesar’s Entertainment and I started managing a large organization in the gambling world. I managed their East Coast group sales department selling the nine hotels in Las Vegas and the four hotels in Atlantic City with a group of 25 remote salespersons that reported to me. I am currently the chief sales officer for the Atlantis, Paradise Island Hotel. I am responsible for the pricing, distribution and guest room revenue for the resort. I manage a team of 150 employees ranging from vice presidents to line-level call center agents.

 

What is your favorite part of your job and what do you find to be the most challenging part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is that no two days are ever alike. And the thing that’s most challenging about my job is that no two days are ever alike! In reality, the most challenging part is that I am dealing with people’s vacations, something that is experiential. It is something that is not very tangible to be dealing with people’s expectations. It is not black-and-white and can be a very emotional experience for customers which is very difficult.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into hospitality?

First of all, they have to love working with people. If they don’t love working with people, this isn’t the right field for them. They must be patient and open-minded. I would also say that they need to be the kind of person who seeks to understand and wants to serve. They have to look for ways to solve problems in ways that aren’t always obvious. I would also say that networking is really important. I think people should reach out to others in the industry they want to learn more about. People want to help others, and most of us have been helped by others. I had many people who helped me when I was right out of school so I think networking and mentoring are a great way to get started in an industry.

What do you do for fun outside of work?

I have three kids, one that is a UA graduate, one who is a senior at the UA and a 13 year-old. I travel and enjoy exercising. I love to spend time with my family and my husband as well.