Short Course Almuni Q&A Meet Ally Harkrider

The first week of January in Houston is a special one. We dedicate this week to elevating our industry stars into superstars!

Since 1940, THLA is the only state association to offer what we call our “Short Course.” Our Short Course attracts mid-level and aspiring supervisors, to department heads, to general managers.

This week-long course is recognized as the “Best Educational Program” in the nation by the International Society of Hotel Associations. Our Instructors have backgrounds in hospitality law, communication and marketing, engineering, accounting , and so much more.

I found out about THLA by attending Short Course in 2016. It opened my eyes to the endless opportunities hospitality offers. I am lucky enough to now work for a team that gives back to the industry through our educational programs, legal assistance, marketing, and legislative actions.

I’ll be “catching up” with various THLA Short Course Alumni’s throughout the year and giving you a look into what they have been up to.

Our first Alumni happens to be one of the people I met in Houston during that special week.  Without further ado… Meet Ally!

Ally Harkrider 

Fast Facts:

Title: Director of Sales for Fairfield Inn & Suites-San Marcos, managed by Castle Hospitality

Time with company: I have been with Castle Hospitality since October 31, 2016. This is my first Fairfield but I have been working at Marriott properties since September 2015.

First hotel job: Marketer for a Wyndham Time Share in New Braunfels, TX

Hometown: Beaumont, TX

Best advice she ever got: Roll with the changes. One of my former Director of Sales, Chelsea Hord, used to tell me there will always be last minute changes or additions in the sales world. It will never be 100% perfect. My job is to roll with it. Be as flexible as possible while keeping the hotel’s best interest in mind.

Texas summers can be downright brutal. Most summer vacations include a cool pool, a lazy river, or a big blue lake, anything with water. Texas offers many sweet summer spots to visit, but San Marcos is definitely one of the best in the state.

Ally Harkrider sees non-stop action through the summer season. To keep up with the fast pace, she wears many hats. THLA’s Short Course gives you the chance to take a look into the different aspects of daily operations and try those hats on. Ally spoke with us about her Short Course experience and how it has made a difference in her life.

You never know what opportunity may come from trying out new things and learning to roll with it!

Who invested in you attending Short Course?  I was actually nominated by Paige Rice, one of my former Director of Sales, and won a scholarship through the Tarrant County Hotel Association to attend.

What inspires you?  My family inspires me. My parents taught me to always work hard and do my best at anything I try. They taught me to value the team that I work with and to always acknowledge that I can’t do everything by myself. With that in mind I have always  made sure that I have a good mentor to look up to, friends to unwind with, and that I stay focused on my work when I’m at work. My family has always supported me and they push me to be the best version of myself. I try really hard to bring that process to work in hopes that I can inspire someone else or just be that person that they can always count on.

Who do you look up to at work?  I look up to my former Director of Sales, Chelsea Hord. She has taught me so much about the industry and how to handle the curve balls we are thrown. She has seen me go through the ups and downs with life and the industry. She has always encouraged me to dream big and go after what I want. I still call her when I have questions about how to handle something that I’m not sure about. It’s really nice to have someone like her to consider not only a mentor but a good friend. I only hope that when I am given the chance to teach someone that I can be half as good as she was.

How has attending Short Course influenced your job?  When I returned from Short Course I implemented new training on how to handle meetings. I also spoke with my Executive House Keeper and Operations Manager about the things that I had learned to see if anything else could be implemented or tweaked for not only our benefit but our employees and guest’s. I have since taken those items and applied them to my new property. The thing that I  use the most is showing employees how each item that we are implementing affects them and why it is so important to do things a specific way whether it’s the setup/refresh/teardown of a meeting room or it’s the setup of goodies for a guest in their room.

What was your most memorable moment at Short Course?  I really enjoyed the language barrier exercise that we got to practice. Not being able to speak or communicate really opened my eyes to the struggles that some of our employees go through. It really caused me to reevaluate how I explain things that either need to happen or that I would like to happen. I’m currently working on trying to do a similar exercise at my current property  for some team building.

What advice do you have for those who are in our industry?  In this industry we deal with people from all walks of life. It definitely gets hard at times but don’t give up. Always take the initiative when it comes to getting needed training as well as cross training. The more you can learn and master the more desirable you become when looking for promotions or new opportunities. Don’t burn your bridges as the industry is not as large as you think and someone always knows someone from your organization. Make as many connections as possible as you never know when you might need some help or advice.

Why would you recommend others to attend Short Course?  I think everyone who can should attend. It is one of the few places where everyone in the industry, from Front Desk to Housekeeping to Sales to Maintenance to Management, attends and are all on the same level.

You get a chance to learn different approaches to common issues to take back that you may not have tried previously. It’s also a great place to get feedback on what you are already implementing. The classes that you get to take are very eye opening because they apply to not only the day to day on goings of hotels, but are also not brand specific. This course allows you to learn how to present the best version of you and the hotel. You learn about the similarities between Marriott, Hilton, IHG, and La Quinta, just to name a few, as well as their target areas.

Not only is it a great learning experience but it is a wonderful networking experience too. I made friends there that I still keep in touch with.

What’s next?  I plan on working as a Director of Sales for the next few years at least in the Central Texas area. I would love to remain somewhere between San Marcos and San Antonio as that is where my friends and family are. Down the road I would like to either become a regional Sales Director/Manager or an Operations Manager.