When I asked Claudia Infante, SVP of Revenue Strategy, Margaritaville Enterprises, how she came to be a hotel technologist, I expected her to say she went to school for hospitality or that her family owned a restaurant or hotel and that was how she became interested in the industry.
“Well, I went to school for art and soon became a ‘starving artist,’” she told me with a laugh. “So, my fallback was a part-time job working as a banquet server at a Marriott hotel. I loved the fact I could make people happy just by being decent and kind and helpful.”
Born and raised in Mexico, Infante strongly believes that her ability to connect with people has to do with her country’s culture and the way her mother raised her.
“Hospitality is in my blood in more ways than one,” she explains. “My mother made sure I learned how to make people feel welcomed and cared for when they visited our home, and that’s because Mexico has a deeply rooted hospitality culture. In fact, hotels and resorts in Mexico used to set the standard for service in the hospitality industry.”
As Infante began to pursue a career in hospitality, she took on a role in the Reservations department and that’s where she began to learn about the technology that powers the hospitality industry. And while she also held positions in operations, front office and guest services, she kept coming back to the technology side of the industry.
“Hospitality technology really tickled my brain in a great way,” she says. “It appealed to my creative side (problem solving) and to my analytical side (Infante loves data). So, finally I decided to focus on revenue strategy and technology.”
Just the Tip of the Iceberg
As Infante looks back on her career, she’s had to face many challenges to end up where she is now.
“Everyone faces difficulties in life or in their career, but it’s how we face those challenges and work to overcome them that makes the difference,” she explains. “And no one can make it alone. We all need a support system to survive and thrive in this world.”
Infante assures me, she’s been fortunate enough to have an incredible personal support system. From her husband to other family members and friends, her “people” surrounded Infante with patience, unconditional (and sometimes tough) love, and encouragement – enabling her to succeed.
Infante has also had many individuals within her professional life who helped her grow as a leader. For example, one boss recommended that she leave her office (where she was constantly hard and work) and connect with her coworkers more often. Why? So that they could learn from each other, better understand how to work together, and find new ways to help the company succeed.
Meanwhile, another boss told her that she needed to do a better job of listening to coworker’s ideas during meetings. Infante tended to look past the big idea and dive into the challenges that idea might present which made coworkers hesitant to share their ideas. To help her recognize when she was doing this, her boss would cross his arms during meetings as a visual cue that she needed to take a step back and reassess her communication style.
“These are just a few examples that demonstrate how getting very specific pieces of advice helped me become a better employee and a better leader,” she notes. “I worked very hard to get where I am, but I didn’t do it alone. I’m just the tip of the iceberg – I stand on the shoulders of many men and women who contributed to my development.”
What the Future Holds
Companies – both within the hospitality industry and without – are just beginning to scratch the surface of what they can do using data and artificial intelligence. Margaritaville Enterprises is no exception, and Infante has found herself immersed deep within this environment.
“I’m fascinated by data and the way it can help companies like ours to make strategic decisions,” she explains. “In particular, I can’t wait to see how artificial intelligence, consumer data and privacy laws might evolve. I can see that a line is being drawn in the sand, and I know I have to be careful not to cross it, but the line keeps shifting! So, I’m working really hard to create trust between our brand and our guests and using the data we have responsibly.”