In Celebration of Women's History Month, We are Showcasing Some of Our Women Leaders!

Read the bios below to learn how our leaders got to where they are now, who the most inspirational women in their life is, and what career advice they have for you!
Ivonne Assistant Director of Rooms

Ivonne

Assistant Director of Rooms

My journey in hospitality began in 1995 with my first job in hospitality as a Front Desk Agent. I have worked in every position on the Front Office, Food and Beverage, Housekeeping, Laundry and some aspects of Facilities and Human Resources. I have worked for a wide range of brands and independent hotels, and have experience with full service, select service, and private boutique hotels. I have had the opportunity to be a part of hotel openings, transitions, and renovations. I started at Deloitte University in 2014 as the Director of Housekeeping and was promoted to Assistant Director of Rooms in February 2017.

The most Inspirational women I know is my mother. She inspires me with her work ethic, tenacity, integrity, her resilient attitude to adversity, her unwavering support for her family, and her selfless dedication to ensure our wellbeing. She has been my rock and role model; I wouldn’t be here without her example and advice.

There are a few pieces of advice I would offer to a woman starting her career. Believe in yourself, be genuine. You are not in competition with anyone. Work hard but don’t let it consume you. It’s ok to make mistakes, learn and move on. And very important! Don’t dwell in the past. Prioritize your health and wellbeing. Enjoy every day as if it was your first day! and celebrate the little and the big success.
Hillary Event & Meetings Manager

Hillary

Event & Meetings Manager

I started my hospitality career as an Office Coordinator for a third-party company that executed and planned large tradeshows for different associations when I was 19. I moved into my first Hotel job as a Hostess for Four Seasons, then moved to Hilton Granite Park in Plano where I started out as the Catering and Events Admin Assistant and was promoted to Sales Manager. My journey with Benchmark started in August 2021 as a Resource Manager, and then I moved into the Event and Meeting Manager Role in February 2022 where I have been ever since!

The most inspirational women I know is my mom! Not only is she my best friend, but she is also an amazing person.

The advice I would give women starting their career is do not get discouraged by your mistakes. Take the challenges and grow from them! Also, find your people! Some of my lifelong friends and most important people I have in my life I have met working in Hospitality!
Laura Director of Event Management

Laura

Director of Event Management

I began my career in hospitality as a Conference Coordinator at the Gaylord Texan. I loved that I started as a Coordinator (Our Concierge role) because it gave me insight into so many areas of the hotel and conference world. I was a part of the opening team at DU as an EMM. I have had several roles all throughout Event Management which is so beneficial to grow your understanding on how everything ties together.

I am always inspired by successful leaders who are charitable and have the devotion of their teams.  It shows the importance of leading with the heart.

My advice to women starting their career is give it your all and take every moment/situation to learn even if it doesn’t pertain to your role now.
Rebecca Event & Meetings Manager

Rebecca

Event & Meetings Manager

My first hospitality job was as a Barista at the Hilton Southlake Town Square. After working as a Barista, I became friends with the Director of Sales who felt I would do well in their office but with no openings, he referred me to another property to gain some experience, Aloft Las Colinas, where I started as a Sales Coordinator then moved to Sales Manager. I spent a little over a year there and once a position opened back up at the Hilton, they reached out to me to come back. I was there for 10 years with my main focus being larger Corporate Groups and Business Travel. I was laid off during Covid and knew I wanted to make a change, I was very familiar with DU as we did a lot of business with them housing offsite guests and when I saw the job posting, I was beyond excited and knew it was meant to be!

The woman who inspires me the most is Dolly Parton, her spirit is so amazing and she does so much for various charities. Fun fact, my mini dachshund is named Dolly after her 😊

The advice I would give to women starting their career is to learn to leave work stress at work, work life balance is important! Also, not worrying about a situation until it happens is another. When I was younger, the “what ifs” would really get to me and 99% of the time, the scenario I was imagining would never actualize.  
Lynn Director of Food & Beverage

Lynn

Director of Food & Beverage

I was a car hop at a drive in when I was 15 and got addicted to the rush!  First job in hospitality hotels and restaurants was at a 385-room resort Wyndham in Myrtle Beach, SC and I was a Restaurant Supervisor at $7.50 an hour. I was then promoted to Assistant Restaurant Manager and then Assistant Banquet Manager in my 1.5-year tenure.  Was asked to go to the El Conquistador Resort in Puerto Rico on task force for 3 months and stayed for 3 years.  I started as the Restaurant Manager of Casa de Langosta then was transferred after 6 weeks to learn and run their 4 Diamond restaurant, Isabela’s Steakhouse.  After 6 months, I then partnered with the bar and night club manager and assisted in the Casino Bar, Lobby Bar, Cigar Bar and Night Club.  After 1.5 years, I was asked to take over a restaurant from our 3rd party in the resort and open it 16 days later with a new concept, staff, and menu (and in Spanish, which I was not fluent).  After three years in Puerto Rico, I then moved to Orlando.  In my eight years with Gaylord, I started as the Assistant Restaurant Manager of their fine dining steakhouse, then Restaurant Manager, then added Auggies Dueling Piano Bar resulting in a title change to Restaurant & Bar Manager. Transferred out of fine dining into a 300 seat Key West inspired seafood restaurant and then was asked to concept and develop a sushi restaurant within the resort.  Once that was opened, I was running both restaurants generating more than 1000-1500 a la carte covers a day.  Shortly after I was promoted to Assistant F&B Director and then 6 months later promoted to F&B Director.   After a year and half in my director role, Gaylord was going through a sale to Marriott, so myself and two Chefs left Gaylord and built a 150-seat sustainable restaurant from the ground up. I ran that for 6 years before returning to large resort operations with Omni and then came to Deloitte University 3 years later!

The woman that inspire me the most is my mom. She lives her life to the fullest!  She doesn’t believe in gossip and chooses not to partake.  Work was a source of income and even though she was very successful, her family and friends always meant more.  She has an incredible circle of girlfriends and sees them regularly as well as being part of a couple’s group that goes golfing every week and then meets for dinner and drinks.  I love that she is private about her personal life, and she says, when you don’t give people anything to talk about, there is nothing to say.  She is always rooting for the underdog and does not hesitate to reach out to CEOs and Presidents of major corporations if there is injustice happening in any way.  She is known for making things happen and for inducing change to help better an individual or a community.  Everyone loves my mother, but my favorite part is that everyone respects my mother and I think that says a lot about her character, which in the end, is what we are judged for.

The advice that I would give women starting their career is  1. Take the chance! Pick a place you would love to work and move there!  The opportunities in the hospitality industry are endless now.  It is a great career choice that allows you to travel the world if you want, meet some of the most interesting people and no day in this business is the same, and that is what I love about it.  2.  Be open to trying new positions in the hotel.  All top-level managers have worked A LOT of jobs in the industry, even for a short time, because it gives you the knowledge you need to be at that level.  Pick a division and learn all aspects of it.   3.  Always remember that your title never makes you better than anyone else.  The ones who wash our dishes are just as important as the Chefs in the kitchen.  We cannot successfully do our jobs without ALL positions, so we need to treat them as they are…part of the team and an integral part of what makes your team successful.  
brittney event and meeting manager headshot

Brittney

Event & Meetings Manager

In 2016, I started at Benchmark as an on-call Banquet Server. I was in school at UNT for Educational Psychology and looking to find something that could work with a hectic school schedule. Soon after graduation, I moved to the Event Management division as a Conference Concierge. Through the years I have had the opportunity to be a Banquet Server, Conference Concierge, Vendor & Event Operations Supervisor, Resource Coordinator, Resource Manager and most recently, an Event & Meetings Manager. While DU was closed during the Pandemic, the need for mental health professionals was at an all time high. I was able to utilize my degree to become a Practice Manager for a local mental health agency. I ran charity drives, helped create after school programs for FWISD kiddos, helped bridge the gap between law enforcement and social service professionals and helped to connect individuals in need with life-changing mental health services. I have also explored and pursued several personal passions. I have volunteered, interned and done service-learning work at many social impact organizations such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Center, Denton Christian Preschool, Goodwill of Greater North Texas and the University of North Texas Office of Development and Family Sciences.

The most inspirational woman that I know is my daughter, Imani Ijeamaka Okigbo. She inspires me to be intentional, be present and to focus on the joy that each day brings. When she looks to me, it reminds me of the legacy that I am leaving behind.

My advice to women starting their career is to be open minded, be intentional and be authentically you. Life has a funny way of taking you exactly where you are meant to be, so embrace the journey – even if it doesn’t “fit the plan” you had at the time. Be confident in yourself and your abilities because you will inspire others to do the same.
April Director of Front Office

April

Director of Front Office

My first job in hospitality was as a Front Desk Agent at a Courtyard by Marriott in Bedford (Corporate managed hotel). I started getting bored and asking for more things to do. I then took on the AP/AR for the hotel. I had to present meetings on direct billing with Frontier/Bell/ and Spirit. These corporate meetings showed how much growth I had taken since my start. By this time, I had also taken on the training of new employees and inventory for the front office. I was also learning to make the schedule. All of these made me ready for my next step at about the 3-year mark. I was promoted to an Operations Supervisor for the Residence Inn by Marriott in Las Colinas (Corporate Managed Hotel). Here I was able to learn more of the leadership roles: giving feedback, coaching, and follow through. I learned to develop thick skin and how to bond with a team. I learned a how I was financially responsible for the housekeeping department and what that meant, ordering, budgets, and par levels. This prepared me for the next step which was the Operations Manager for a Residence Inn by Marriott in Fort Worth (Corporate managed hotel). At this property I learned more about leadership and finances. How to help hold a hotel together during a de-flagging of a hotel and to got me a bigger Ops Manager position. I moved to a Courtyard by Marriott in Arlington (Corporate managed hotel). Here I had more training as a leader but also how to manage a restaurant. I learned about F&B and all the ins and outs and dos and don’ts. I then decided to go from the corporate managed hotels as they were dwindling to a franchise as an Assistant General Manager. Here I learned to run a full hotel. I was over the restaurant, front desk, and housekeeping. My goal was to learn more of the financials but as we went and survived Covid I was working ridiculous hours and lots of overnights. I started looking outside of Marriott. I had heard about DU three years earlier but did not get the job, but I knew this was where I wanted to be. Kristen Jefferson told me about the culture and the idea of not having to work holidays was unheard of. I had wanted to learn about full service and this hotel seemed like a dream but one night audit shift I saw a posting on Indeed and I applied. That morning I received an email, and the rest is history. I have enjoyed my time here with Benchmark. I started as a Public Space Manager and feel like I learned it all, I then went on to conquer the tower. This was a large task as the largest hotel I had ever oversaw was 320 rooms, 800 was a bit scary. I did it though. I believe this got me ready for the next step at the front office. I have now been the Director of Front Office for 6 months and still have a lot to learn. I am truly excited for the rest of my journey as we grow!

My sister Lourdes is the most inspirational person I know. She is the Manager for the English for Speaks of Other Languages (ESOL) department at Tarrant County College (TCC) NW campus, Vice President and Co-Founder of Proyecto Immigrate, she has always worked 2 to 3 jobs for her two children and me. She has always been the beacon of light for me and my family, her positivity and strength has shown me what anyone can do. She volunteers for all kinds of causes, and I just do everything I can daily to be like her. She helps people every day and it is her passion to help educate everyone no matter where they come from.

The advice that I would give to women starting their career is to learn to receive feedback as a way to grow and do not let anyone make you feel like you are not good enough. There are so many women that have come before that have cracked the glass ceiling maybe they will be the ones to break it!
Taylor Event & Meetings Manager

Taylor

Event & Meetings Manager

My first hospitality job was as a Server and Delivery Manager for Jason’s Deli. I was introduced into the event world during my college Internship as a Wedding Coordinator for a wedding venue in Denton, Texas while achieving my Bachelors in Hospitality Management at the University of North Texas. I managed the wedding venue for all events (weddings, proms, anniversary parties, etc.) and helped as day-of coordinator during the events. I managed catering, valet, set up/tear down, rental items, etc. Since I started in weddings, I vowed I would NEVER work in hotels. It just never interested me – the thought of working where someone sleeps, working holidays & weekends, etc. Well how humbling that thought was as a 22-year-old when I realized there were no growth opportunities at the wedding venue I started at once I graduated. This led me to the hotel industry and I’m so thankful it did

.I always knew I wanted to stay working in events, so I applied for the only open position which was an hourly Event Concierge at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel in Fort Worth. During my 4 years there before the Pandemic, I had many promotions such as Banquet Captain, Bartender, Event Coordinator and Event Manager. I’ve had the opportunity to open the Delta Southlake Hotel as the Event and Meeting Manager selling and planning the events.  There I was able to work with other Benchmark employees who had worked at DU prior to the Pandemic. Once DU was hiring again to re-open, I took the opportunity to apply and was graciously offered an EMM position here! In the 1.5 years I’ve been in the EMM position, I’ve been given opportunities to learn and grow by managing various departmental projects and taking on more diverse/complex programs.

The most inspirational women I know is my grandmother, Violet. She was the definition of a go-getter. She taught herself 3 different languages, earned her master’s degree at the age of 75, published 2 books and ran multiple successful companies on her own – all while being a mother/grandmother which is a job in itself! She would set a goal and do everything in her power to achieve it. Besides her successful career and personal achievements, she was beyond kind, compassionate and selfless. She had this infectious spirit that made everyone in a room gravitate to her. Whether you were a stranger or her family, she made you feel special, welcome, and loved. You couldn’t help but smile around her and soak in the positivity she radiated.

My advice to women starting their career is that confidence is key and be proud of the work you put out there. Believe in yourself and trust your own judgement. Don't be swayed by others’ opinions of you because your success is not defined by them.
Anne Event Support Manager

Anne

Event Support Manager

I started my hospitality career in the Business Center at a downtown property.  We were responsible for printing, laminating, and binding documents.  The internet was still fairly new, so we also helped guests check their email.  The cost was $15 for 15 minutes of use. After working in the Business Center, I moved into an administrative role for the Audio/Visual department and then eventually into A/V sales.  Once bitten by the “sales bug” I transferred to Catering Sales and worked with smaller programs, under 50 participants.  I really enjoyed the planning side more than selling and officially moved into Event Management.  I grew from planning the small programs to groups with 1,000+ participants and really enjoyed it!  After working for Marriott for 13 years, I hung up my hat with the “open market” and found my way to Benchmark.  I started here as an Event Manager, with my first program(s) being the Summer Interns.  I immediately fell in love with our company culture and decided this was truly home.  My next role here at DU was the Senior Event & Meeting Manager where I had the opportunity to support the Event Managers as they navigated through the property standards.  In my current role as Event Support Manager, I partner with Guest Services, Resource Managers, Off-Site Production, and the Concierge to ensure our guests have an excellent learning experience while on-site.  I’m very excited to see where I go next!

Cliché is not my thing, but truly… my Mom and my daughter are the most inspirational women I know. My mom showed those around her what both strength and kindness looked like throughout my childhood.  After my dad passed, she single-handedly raised three daughters all while growing her own career.  Despite obstacles in life, she always has such a kind and caring spirit.  I’ve had the pleasure of introducing her to several people at DU and I feel they would say the same thing!  I’ve always said, if I could grow into only half of the person she is, I will consider myself lucky.  Terilyn, my daughter, is the most selfless and genuine person I know.  From the time she could walk, she showed great compassion for the world around her.  After rainstorms, we had to walk the neighborhood picking up worms and rolly-pollys, placing them out of harm’s way.  Terilyn has always befriended the underdog.  She finds the kid in class that no one wants to play with and partners up, despite what others may say.  Her best friend passed away last year and Terilyn was by her side every step of the way.  When other playmates took a step back, Terilyn got more involved.  She was not going to let her go through this alone.  I have seen the same strength and kindness in her that I have my own Mom, I can only imagine how much more of an impact she will make on our world.

The advice I would you give to people starting in their career is to be true to who you are. Mistakes and failures happen, grow from them. Never stop learning.  Ever.  Know your worth, and the worth of those around you. Build and keep connections.  Continue to challenge yourself. Always take a lunch break… away from your desk.  
Cori Event & Meetings Manager

Cori

Event & Meetings Manager

I started my hospitality career at Chaminade Resort & Spa (a Benchmark property in California). I started in F&B as a corporate restaurant manager (VISA, Sony, Genentech, etc.) running their on-site restaurants & catering.  After having my first daughter, I wanted to reduce my commute, so I managed a local Starbucks for a couple years.  I then moved over to Chaminade as a Conference Coordinator, and worked up to the Senior Conference Manager before transferring to DU in 2016.

My mom is the most inspirational woman I know.  I followed her footsteps for many years.  She gave me my passion for food, events & hospitality.

My advice for women entering the workplace is to learn from everyone & everything around you.
Rachael Event Experience & Beverage Manager

Rachael

Event Experience & Beverage Manager

I worked in a Pub in London, only 18, no experience. I talked the manager into giving me a job because I was “blonde and American”. I learned how to bartend there, a skill that has carried me through my career. From that London Pub I went on to bartend in nightclubs in Australia but left the Service Industry after University for the Travel Industry, eventually becoming a Corporate Trainer and moving to Texas. During the 2008 financial crisis I lost my job, but I had that skill of bartending, so I jumped back in bartending at several casual concepts, eventually landing in Fine Dining. There I had two amazing mentors who saw my beverage knowledge and began to teach me the business side of a beverage program. They encouraged me to begin my Sommelier journey (I earned my Court of Master Sommeliers Intro and Certified and Society of Wine Educators Certified Specialist of Wine while with them) and included me on beverage buyer meetings with distributors. The same restaurant group promoted me from bartender to sommelier and eventually Wine Director. Wanting a new adventure, I left restaurants and worked for two Distributors, but quickly learned I am TERRIBLE at being a wine rep, so I came back to front of house and managed a 368 by the glass wine bar. Then 2020 happened, but I used the opportunity to head to Sonoma to fulfill my dream of working Harvest! I returned home to build beverage programs for 2 concepts opening back-to-back, but still wanted my dream job. I found a unicorn role running beverage AND hosting events here at DU and it’s truly the best role I’ve ever had. Here I have the opportunity to incorporate my beverage and business knowledge and training experience while being encouraged to keep growing, Benchmark supported me in obtaining my Certified Bourbon Professional with the Council of Whiskey Masters.

My long-time friend and mentor Lisa DeLano has been invaluable to my career and has continued to be a woman I admire and look up to. As a novice buyer in my 1st Wine Director role, it was easy to get overwhelmed and pressured by the constant stream of distributors and suppliers, especially being a young woman in a male dominated field. As a trusted and experienced wine rep, Lisa helped me manage and navigate those relationships and learn the ropes of the buyer side. She never took advantage of her position, instead used it to give me tips to performing my role more effectively for both sides. Lisa always manages to be the strongest voice in a room and refuses to take anything less than what she deserves, she encourages me to do the same. While I may not have yet figured out how to carry a case of wine in stilettos with the same grace she does, I have learned from her to be a force in our industry, to not be silenced or pushed aside because I’m a “girl” and, above all, to support women in the beverage world because when one of us wins we all win.

Advice I would share with women entering their career is don’t be afraid to stand up for and celebrate yourself. Be your biggest cheerleader and surround yourself with people who cheer for you just as much. When you reach a new peak in your career, turn around and reach out a hand to those climbing behind you, those relationships built on mutual encouragement and growth will help you climb higher with a strong support system.

Michon

Senior Housekeeping Manager

I started my hospitality career in 2010 with Marriott Residence Inn, as a Breakfast Attendant for 12 months before moving to the Front Office as a Front Desk Agent/Night Auditor on Weekends. During this time I was pursuing my Master’s Degree in Hospitality when leadership from the Hyatt Regency New Orleans had a recruiting session on campus. That opportunity opened the door to a 5-year career with them beginning in early 2012. I moved through my career with Hyatt starting as Housekeeping Supervisor, to Assistant Rooms Manager in Bethesda, Maryland, and Assistant Operations Manager for Food and Beverage in Jersey City, New jersey. In 2016, I returned to Hyatt Regency New Orleans as an Assistant Executive Housekeeper over 1,200 guestrooms and 200,000 sqft. of Public Space. In 2018, I left Hyatt for a change in pace, and joined the Wyndham Resorts brand, as Housekeeping Manager at La Belle Maison. La Belle Maison is small vacation rental resort located in the heart of downtown New Orleans. This was a great opportunity to expand my knowledge beyond open market and business trends. Lastly, in 2019 I moved to Texas to establish a permanent residence for myself, which began my current career at Deloitte University. Within the last four years, I have worked as Tower Manager at DU, assisted on Task force at Spruce Point Inn and Resort in Maine, and most recently Senior Housekeeping Manager. I have been in various roles throughout my career all in an effort to expand my knowledge and skillset within the industry.

The most inspirational woman I knew, was my mother. She was an educator by profession and helped develop the futures of many children. She taught in both the New Orleans Public and Archdiocese school systems before branching out on her own as a daycare owner. Several of her daycare students still kept in touch even after high school years. Watching her, I learned to challenge myself to do more than what was required. I learned how to lead by example, because you never know who’s watching, or who’s life you could be impacting. Life will always come full circle.

Advice I would like to give: Be patient, the right things come in time. Never be afraid to change your environment.
Courtney Purchasing Manager

Courtney

Purchasing Manager

My first job was working for Marble Slab Creamery while I was in High School. I was promoted to manager while I was a Senior in High School and juggling playing Varsity Basketball as well. Once I graduated, I went to college locally and helped to manage 3 additional Marble Slabs in the area, with the Flower Mound location my primary location.

I went to college for Hospitality Management, with the goal of always working in hotels. After working at Marble Slab, I began working at Chili’s, getting experience as a server/bartender/trainer and eventually a “key” lead. I was there for 5 years, when an opportunity at a new restaurant opened, (Life’s a Beach) that gave me the management experience I needed. After 9 months there, I got hired at Great Wolf Lodge as the outlet manager, running 3 food outlets and 2 bars. After a year I got promoted to Restaurant and Beverage Manager, eventually taking over the two primary restaurants and all the bars.  I was there from 2007 to 2011.

My Mom will always be the most inspirational woman I know.   She was able to balance a career with Doubletree Hotels as a Director of Catering and eventually a Regional Director, while being an amazing, loving Mother to 4 kids. She was the reason I wanted to go into hotels.  I remember as a kid going up to her hotels, for various reasons, and just falling in love with the industry, the smell of hotels, and the people she worked with.    At her funeral, the service was packed with people she had worked with over the years,  some even 30-40 years before.  One lady flew in from Massachusetts the morning of the service and flew out that night.  That spoke volumes.  Their stories of how they looked up to her and how she impacted their lives, brought so many tears to my eyes.   They spoke about how she helped them through some of their darkest times.  One lady lost a sister to suicide and my mom was the one who had to break the news to her.  Another lady spoke about how my mom sat with her son at the hospital, many times while he was going through chemotherapy.  I have always, and still, strive to make my parents proud in every single thing I do.  Hearing those stories, re-shaped my leadership style.  I have always considered myself as a caring leader, but this made me realize there is so much more to leadership than what happens Monday through Friday from 9 – 5.  She also was always very professional and some of this spilled over into our home life.  She raised us to say “Certainly” when asked to do something, “Please and Thank You” when the time calls for that.  We were never allowed to say the word hate and never allowed to say No Problem.   We also had to answer our home phones with “Hello, this is Courtney/our name speaking,” so the caller knew who they were speaking to immediately.

The advice I would give to women starting their career is to do what you love and enjoy what you do.  Find something that makes you happy.  Coming into work should be something you look forward to and make the people around you better.  Always keep an open mind and truly listen to what your team is saying, even if its constructive feedback for yourself, learn from your mistakes and move on.
Sonia HR Manager

Sonia

HR Manager

My first hospitality job was as a server at the Wichita Falls Country Club. I moved to the DFW area from Wichita Falls and someone suggested I apply at the Sheraton in Arlington. I was a server with Sheraton which was managed by Interstate Hotels. I loved being a server, I thought it was so much fun!  It helped me as a young single mother to provide for my son and still have flexibility to be there for all of his after-school events and volunteer at his school. Then, I moved to San Diego and Phoenix with different hotel brands under Interstate. I was promoted to F&B Supervisor when at an Embassy Suites in Phoenix. When I moved back to the DFW area, I went back to the same hotel that I started with under the Marriott name supervising the F&B outlets. My manager at the time told me about a little hotel that was being built in Grapevine called The Gaylord Texan.  He encouraged me to come with him, so I did. I was part of the opening team at Gaylord. I started as the assistant In Room Dining manager that also managed several suites, a lobby bar, coffee bar, and ice-cream parlor.  It was a lot and I learned so much!  Within a year I was promoted to General Manager of In Room Dining and then moved over as General Manager of the Riverwalk Café. After being at the Gaylord for five years, I then went to the Omni in Fort Worth as their restaurant manager at the Cast Iron.  While at the Cast Iron I was approached by a friend from the Gaylord to manage a free-standing Italian Restaurant. I was the General Manager for Patrizio in Cedar Hill for a short stint. That was so different for me coming from hotels. It was a big challenge but taught me so much.  While at Patrizio I got a call from the Senior VP of F&B who used to work at Gaylord but had moved over to Benchmark. With my former experience managing the buffet restaurant at Gaylord, he thought I would be a good fit with the Market concept and other outlets.  I then moved over to Benchmark in Food and Beverage. It was such an amazing transition! I got to do what I love but have most weekends and Holidays off! But most of all, I loved the culture and the people! Fast Forward about eleven years later I saw a great opportunity to move to Human Resources.  This was a dream of mine for many years. My favorite part of my job has always been working with my team.  I absolutely love my position in HR. I have been here for just under a year. I have learned so much and am so grateful to be a part of this amazing HR team!

My mom has always been my rock. I had a bit of a rocky road when I was young, and she always was there for me but didn’t do things for me. She allowed me to work through some things and learn from my own mistakes. She is a woman with great character and strives to do what is right. She has always shown me how important it is to give back to your community. She is always there when her family and community need her.  I strive to be more like her.

Someone I also must mention who I don’t know but has had a great influence in my life is Maya Angelou. Her story speaks to me. But her words through her quotes, poetry and literature have been a great inspiration to me for many years.

Career advice I can offer to women starting their career is never burn a bridge. It is a small world and the relationships you build will be a big part of your growth. Everyone is your teacher. You will learn what you want to do and what you don’t want to do from everyone. Stay humble, admit when you make a mistake so you can learn from it. Share what you know and help others around you grow. No matter what position you are in currently, do your very best and have a good attitude. You are always building your reputation for the next step in your career. Always try to come to a place of understanding before judgement.  Keep an open mind and lead with an empathetic heart.
Danielle Barn and Bistro Assistant Manager

Danielle

Barn/Bistro Assistant Manager

My first job ever was as a skating carhop at Sonic after I graduated. I worked there for a little over 2 years. During that time, I started working here at DU and eventually left Sonic. I started here at DU as a server down in the Barn as part of the opening team back in 2011. After serving for a few months, I moved on to be a bartender and earned the role as Peer trainer for the Barn. Shortly after, I cross-trained into the Bistro as a bartender and continued to hold my Trainer role for both barn and Bistro for 3-4 years. Eventually I became Barn/Bistro Supervisor, then promoted to F&B Guest Experience Manager/ Barn Bistro Assistant Manager, which is my current title of 4 years now. During all this time I have also trained in banquets and the Market as well.

I have to say, I have had so many women that have inspired me and helped me to grow throughout my career. I think our HR Manager Sonia has been one of my biggest inspirations though. She is always so positive and caring for all people that she encounters. That is something that I strive for everyday is to be a positive influence for people both in my professional life, as well as my work life. Sonia has taught me so much and has helped push me to strive for more and always continue growing. She is always there when I need advice, or just someone to talk to and listen. She is a great leader.

To women just starting their career I would say, always be true to who you are. Don’t try to minimize your personality. Show who you are and be proud of who you are. Also, even if you are scared or think you aren’t ready, apply for the job! Even if you do not get it, you still get the experience and feedback needed to help continue to grow. You can’t get a position if you are too afraid to go for it.
Jen Manager of Event & Meetings Managers

Jen

Manager of Event & Meetings Managers

I started as a receptionist with a Pharmaceutical Company, moved up to an Administrative Assistance and then to a Regional Office Administrator who planned our regional meetings for our division/territory.  I unfortunately was laid off from this position, but I was always interested in how the hospitality side operated with Events.  I then began my career with Marriott as an Event Manager to help expand my knowledge full picture of event planning from the client side to the hospitality side.  Marriott than merged with Starwood and I was promoted to Sr. Event Manager and was part of the opening team for the first Starwood Property under the Marriott umbrella.  At this point in my career, I decided I needed more work life balance with my small kids which led me to Benchmark to become a Meetings an Event Manager.  This has been my best decision as this allowed me to grow and take the next step in my career and passion to lead a team. I was promoted to Manager of Event & Meetings Managers in March of 2022!

The most inspirational woman in my life is my mom, a true superhero.  She showed me how you can have a career and still be amazing mom!

The advice I would give to women starting in their career is that you can do anything, some days will be tough, but the hard work always pays off!
Taylor Recruiting Manager

Taylor

Recruiting Manager

I started my career in hospitality with Benchmark in October of 2015, while pursing my Business Administration degree in Human Resource Management and Organization Behavior from the University of North Texas. At the time, I was only looking for a job that would pay the bills, BUT I soon fell in love with the industry, and with Benchmark. It was at that point that I decided to work Full Time and pursue my Associate degree in Hospitality Management. Within my time at DU, I was a peer trainer for the Barn/Bistro team for about 2.5 years, before transferring to the Guest Services Team as a Guest Service Agent. After completing both of my degrees within 2 years, I became a mother to my first daughter, and took a leap with Benchmark by transferring to a new Benchmark Property, the Delta Marriott Dallas Allen. I got the chance to be part of the Grand Opening team for the Delta, as a Front Office Supervisor in December of 2018, and was quickly promoted to Assistant Front Office Manager and remained in this role until leaving the company in June of 2020 due to layoffs during the Covid pandemic. During 2020, I took some time off and even ventured to other jobs outside of hotels. I quickly found myself return to the industry in November of 2020, as I found a job with The Sinclair, Autograph Collection in Downtown Fort Worth as Front Office Supervisor. Within the year, I received a promotion to Executive Administrative Assistant. In this role, I grew my knowledge in HR and recruiting. By October of 2021, I was honored to be provided an offer to return to DU as the Recruiting Manager. It has been great being back ‘home’!

Someone who I’ve always admired most since growing up is my older sister. Since childhood, with a single mother raising us, I watched my sister take the role of caregiver and teacher to me, at a time when most are only concerned with the role of daughter and sibling. It wasn’t until I was in high school before realizing how blessed I was to have her, and her support. I continue to admire her as she has always shown me how to see the brighter side, even in not-so bright situations. Even when struggling as a new mom and college student, my sister always rose to the occasion and is now a great leader in the Marketing industry. The most inspiring words she has said to me is to “never forget your worth, always be your genuine self, and if you’re passionate about something, give it your best efforts and make the dream into a reality.”

For women starting in their career, my advice would be not to fear failure. Because as you learn from your failure, you will find success. Don’t let anyone, or anything, dim your light – as everyone deserves to shine bright.