As a finance professional in the hospitality industry, Steven Dowd, FCMA, CGMA, director of finance at the Marriott International hotel St. Regis Dubai, The Palm in the United Arab Emirates, has worked for a diverse range of luxury and boutique hotels and large resort complexes around the world. He has moved from his home in the UK, to Egypt, Jordan, and the UAE, where he has spent the past 23 years.
For nearly ten years he has worked within Marriott International's finance function, where he led the team that opened the JW Marriott Marquis (the tallest hotel in the world), and subsequently oversaw approximately 30 UAE premium branded hotels. Fortune consistently lists Marriott International among the best companies to work for. Currently, 86% of the organisation's employees say it's a great place to work.
If you're a finance professional looking to work with Marriott International, read Dowd's advice for landing a job within the finance function at the company.
Describe your ideal candidate for an entry-level job in the finance department at Marriott International.
Steven Dowd: An ideal candidate would be either a recent graduate who has studied or majored in a finance discipline and who is seeking a career as a management accountant, or a person who is working in hospitality and is interested in pursuing a career in finance, having made some internal steps to gain some short training exposure.
What are the top three technical skills your organisation is looking for from people who come to work for you at the entry level?
Dowd: The top three technical skills would include a basic knowledge of spreadsheets, an understanding of computers and relevant technology, and a strong command of the English language (both written and spoken).
What types of educational and/or work experiences are helpful for people starting out at Marriott International?
Dowd: We look for those who have studied finance or have a finance-related degree, those who have cross-training experience across functions, people who have completed an internship in the finance department, and those who have prior experience at a company that is relevant for the role being applied for.
Describe your ideal candidate for a mid-level management position in the finance department.
Dowd: An ideal candidate would be a graduate who has studied or majored in a finance discipline and is seeking a career as a management accountant, who has at least three years of experience in the finance department, and has shown willingness to train and learn about other areas outside of their core role.
What are the top three technical skills your organisation expects from people who come to work in management roles in the finance department?
Dowd: Three top technical skills include intermediate spreadsheet skills, experience managing at least one subordinate that includes appraisal, and achievement of core KPIs.
What soft skills do you think are important for people to succeed as employees at your company?
Dowd: Important soft skills include active listening, attention to the task at hand, working well within teams, and a willingness to accept tasks (from time to time) that are outside their core responsibilities.
Describe what type of employees end up being good fits for your company culture.
Dowd: [They] are assertive and dedicated, have a desire to make a difference and leave a mark on the role for others to remember them by, and consistently achieve core KPIs.
What's one thing most people don't know about working here?
Dowd: Working with so many different nationalities and cultures is such a rewarding, yet sometimes challenging, experience. It requires patience to listen and understand another person's culture, upbringing, and viewpoint in working together. Everyone is different and will have a different way of achieving the same goal or task. Therefore, working with Marriott International requires the skill of not insisting someone completes tasks in an "A, B, C" way, but in allowing someone to complete tasks and achieve goals according to the ability of the person concerned.
How would you suggest a candidate prepare for an initial interview with Marriott International?
Dowd: I would recommend they get familiar with the background of the hotel they're hoping to work for, as well as the facilities it has for guests. They should be able to talk confidently about the experience they have gained so far (even if it's only about soft skills) and focus on experiences that are most relevant for the role they're applying for. I would encourage people to speak up about how they hope to grow their career with Marriott.
What are red flags for you when hiring? Is there anything job candidates should avoid doing?
Dowd: Some red flags might include talking about experience (or only having experience) that has no relevance for the role being applied for, being unable to explain frequent job change[s], and unrealistic salary expectations.
What is different or unique about your company or finance department that makes a job with you especially appealing?
Dowd: Our company promotes the internal movement and development of employees. A career-minded person will be able to set his or her development goals and have the opportunity to gain experience and knowledge of other areas of work that will support their knowledge. We also support people in different disciplines, for example a waiter, who aspire to have a career in finance, by providing cross-training opportunities that will lead to a permanent position.
What do you see changing within your department going forward with regard to recruitment and hiring?
Dowd: We are now adapting to the current generation's expectations of a more diverse career growth, so instead of someone working in a specific role for two years before moving on to the next area for another two years, we are now supporting and providing more cross-training opportunities in different areas at an earlier stage. This should allow someone to gain a mid-management or leadership role in a 3-to-4-year period instead of the traditional 5-to-6-year period.
— Hannah Pitstick is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, FM magazine lead publisher, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.