August 11, 2020

Behind the Scenes of Cyber HITEC: Meet the HITEC Advisory Council (Part I)

Written by Briana Gilmore

Behind the scenes of every great HITEC is a group of highly knowledgeable industry veterans lending their expertise to the planning and coordination of the conference’s education program. These individuals share a deep understanding of the complexities of the hospitality industry, as well as its strengths, challenges and continuous evolution. They take the challenges that often face hospitality professionals and collectively seek the voices that can share sustainable solutions to these challenges.

In this blog post, meet a few of the great minds at work behind the world’s first-ever Cyber HITEC. This is the first post in a blog series introducing the Cyber HITEC Advisory Council. Stay tuned for the rest of the series leading up to Cyber HITEC, taking place live October 27-29, 2020 on a computer near you.

Meet the HITEC Council Chair: Justin Taillon, MBA, Ph.D., CHIA, CHTP

“My favorite thing about working in hospitality and tourism is meeting and connecting with people from around the world,” says Taillon. “I still remember my first HITEC. I was star-struck by the industry leaders I met. Furthermore, these same people were willing to spend time and guide me. Some of the most memorable discussions I have had in my career took place at HITEC.”

While the traditional, face-to-face networking of HITECs past will certainly be missed, Taillon looks forward to the new, unique networking opportunities that will take place at Cyber HITEC. He also anticipates new educational advantages presented by an online format. “Most years, I can only choose one session in each timeframe,” says Taillon of his past HITEC experiences. “This year, I can attend the HITEC sessions live, including the Q&A with the speaker, and then attend the other sessions at a later date. I am excited that I can maximize what I take away from the overall conference.” The educational sessions will be recorded and accessible to all Cyber HITEC registered attendees for one month following the live event.

Taillon is professor and department head of hospitality and tourism management at Highline College. He spent eight years in hospitality operations prior to moving to academia including stints with Starwood, Marriott and Hilton. Taillon is also a director on the HFTP Global Board.

Meet the HITEC Council Vice Chair: Barry Thomas, CHTP

“I fell into hospitality by chance,” says Thomas. “Something just clicked. I finally felt at home, and one day, I realized that I was no longer an IT guy working at hotels. I was a hotelier working in IT. It was at that point I knew this was where I would spend my career. I love that the technology solutions which we implement in our hotels have a direct impact on our guests’ experiences and contribute to making unforgettable experiences.”

With 21 years of experience in the IT industry, over 12 of which have been spent working in luxury hotels, Thomas now leads Rosewood Hotel Group’s global property technology team. As a tech-saavy hotelier, Thomas understands the challenges that have been presented by the current pandemic and how technology can play an important role in overcoming them. “As we all, know, this year has been one of the most challenging in most of our careers. A year with unprecedented change, however, also presents a number of opportunities. We have seen teams adapt quickly and adopt technologies which previously would have taken substantial time to deploy.

“Our industry, guests and associates are embracing contactless experience driving major transformation in our hotel operations.” With its virtual tradeshow, Cyber HITEC is an ideal way to learn more about the technologies that are currently transforming the hospitality industry. “When I first started working in hospitality technology,” says Thomas, “I knew that HITEC was a must-attend event. Not only is it the world’s largest and most expansive hospitality technology event, it consistently delivers unparalleled levels of education sessions and amazing networking opportunities to build and renew professional relationships.”

Meet HITEC Council Member Mark Pate, CHAE, CHTP, MBA

Pate is the HFTP Executive Committee Liaison on the HITEC Advisory Council. Of his time spent on the council, Pate says: “There have been multiple times that I look around the conference table (or these days, the Zoom screen) and see the caliber of the industry experts volunteering their valuable time to help make the hospitality industry even better, and I am truly amazed. The fact that I can call many of them friends still blows me away.

“My favorite part about working in the hospitality technology industry are the amazing people you meet at HFTP events, and how willing they are to share their knowledge and help solve a real-time, right-now problem.”

To Pate, the value of HITEC lies in its show floor. “This includes the Tech Talks, vendor sessions and talking with all the business partners right there together under one roof. Their product and software knowledge is amazing. Many times, I leave for HITEC, our operations team or controller will give me a list of products they are interested in, or problems that require a tech solution.

“They recognize the fact that the industry experts will be at the show and can help us find the right product or solution to help our business.”

Pate is the assistant controller and IT director at Highpointe Hotel Corporation. He also currently serves as vice president of the HFTP Global Board.

Meet HITEC Council Member Ummara Marshall

“HITEC takes some of the best thought leadership and technology solutions and makes them available to anyone interested in learning and embracing growth and excellence,” says Marshall. “I have been serving on the HITEC Advisory Council for three years, and I have been privileged to gain a broader perspective and exposure to intellectual capital as a result. In addition, serving on the Council has been a rewarding experience in helping to pay it forward.”

Marshall is a product strategy, development and implementation executive with over 25 years of experience across various industries including hospitality. She received her B.A. in Economics from Harvard University, also earned a Lean Master Black Belt in Six Sigma and has spent the last 13 years of her career with Marriott International. “The broad and deep knowledge and network of experts gained from the exposure to HITEC has helped me inform and shape our strategies, product roadmaps and execution plans, as well as enhance the quality of solutions/experiences we offer our customers and associates.”

Return to HFTP Connect Next Week

There are still many more HITEC Advisory Council members to meet. Part II of this blog series introduces several more council members.

Behind the Scenes of Cyber HITEC: Meet the HITEC Advisory Council (Part I)