When Cindy Murphy 10EMBA was younger, she would go to work with her mom every day after school. Her mother worked as the restaurant manager at a Holiday Inn. As soon as Murphy was old enough, she joined her there. She began by bussing tables in the dining room, then started serving guests, and later worked the hotel’s front desk.
“I just got the bug,” she says. “I love making people happy, and at the end of the day, that’s what we do in the hotel business.”
Murphy speaks fondly of her humble beginnings working at the local hotel. After a couple decades learning the ins and outs of the industry, she’s moved up in a big way. Murphy now serves as the regional vice president of operations at HEI Hotels & Resorts.
Taking the Leap
Since she grew up around the business, it was no surprise when Murphy decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. After graduating, she worked her way up through the sales department at Hilton. Then, she moved into a brand management role at IHG Hotels & Resorts. It was during this time that she got her first taste of Emory University when she attended a senior learning theories seminar.
At IHG, Murphy worked on various development opportunities that placed her in front of investors at pitch meetings. She found herself discussing topics that felt unfamiliar to her.
“I felt like, ‘I’m not going to sit in these meetings and not be able to talk in the same language,’” Murphy says.
And I thought, “I love the learning environment at Emory, I live in Atlanta, and I’ve always wanted to get my MBA, so let me take the leap.” I loved the whole experience.
Murphy credits the nationally ranked Executive MBA program at Goizueta with giving her the skills and deep business knowledge she needed to confidently close meetings and elevate her career. She says the university also gave her enriching professional and personal relationships that continue to positively impact her.
When thinking about her time at Emory, Murphy recalls a specific token of wisdom from an entrepreneurship professor, who told her, “If you can find somebody’s pain point and solve it for them, you’ll be very successful.”
“Although that’s a simple statement, it has really resonated with me,” she says. “I’ve taken that into every situation I’ve encountered.”
Putting People First
When she reflects on how fulfilling her career has been, Murphy points to the relationships she’s built. Regardless of the sector of the industry she’s working in—sales, operations, performance support, branding, development—or the iconic companies she’s been a part of—Marriott, Hilton, IHG, Trust Hospitality, Sonesta, HEI—her bottom line is, “the people are the best part.”
“I travel every week, so I’m always in the airport. Even now, I still enjoy watching people embrace when they see each other,” Murphy says. “I love people smiling and being happy. Every day we work to make sure our customers are leaving with a smile on their face. We want them to tell people they had a great experience.”
This sentiment applies internally, as well. Murphy says she loves her current role, largely due to HEI’s leadership and commitment to its employees. “They have a very strong associate culture they call ‘HEI Love’—it’s all about making sure our associates know they are highly valued.”
To embody this culture, Murphy takes on a mentor role. It’s just one way she can ensure her employees have the tools they need to succeed. “At the end of the day, they’re the ones that make it happen,” she says.
If you’re not cascading that feeling of being valued, it’s never going to work. I get a lot of personal fulfillment when I see people that are working for me succeed and grow into bigger roles.
Murphy says this is especially critical, the hotel industry can be tough. On top of the rigors of working in a 24-hour business, employees may encounter emotional blows such as bad online reviews or negative customer interactions. But Murphy is invested in building them up—and in doing so, building the future of the industry.
“If you have a desire to grow in the hotel industry, your opportunities are endless,” she says. “If you show ambition, hard work, the desire to satisfy guests, and you want to grow, we’ll give you the tools to get you there.”
Learn more about Goizueta’s nationally ranked Executive MBA program, and apply today.