Just a little more than two years ago, Michelle Brandel was still a student at the University of South Carolina, working on a degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. Today, the 2014 graduate is a fast-rising star in one of the world’s largest hotel companies.
“I’m speechless sometimes when I think about it,” Michelle Brandel said. “I’ve skyrocketed.”
The HRSM alumna was recently promoted to Regional Operations Manager for the Florida
/ Caribbean region for Marriott Vacations Worldwide corporation.
That means Brandel, after just three years with the company, takes charge of operations for more than a dozen hotels and resorts, working with the general managers for each location.
“The things I did before this put me in the spotlight,” Brandel said. Her rise through the ranks began as a USC student. The 11-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force first connected with the Marriott company in the halls of HRSM.
“Marriott had a recruiter in-house and I latched on and built a relationship,” she said. She worked as a front desk agent for the Courtyard Marriott Downtown, then applied for and won a place as a Voyager in Marriott International’s prestigious Global Leadership Development program. She worked in Nashville while part of that program, rotating through different departments and earning an 80 percent event satisfaction score, 14 percent higher than the department goal.
“Relationships are everything. That’s what hospitality is all about,” Brandel said. “It’s having a positive attitude and exuding confidence even when you’re not 100 percent sure of the answer. You know you can find it.”
Her success as a Voyager earned her a place as food and beverage manager for the Marriott Vacations resort in Ft. Lauderdale, where she won a string of accolades including Manager of the Quarter. She also led the resort in increasing beer sales by 193 percent over the previous year, 93 percent more than other resorts in the region. That kind of work demands attention.
Brandel credits her talent for leadership partly to her time in the military, but also mentions her USC experience as a life-changing one.
“I think the hospitality program in general has phenomenal leadership,” she said. She cited Glenna Gillentine, Amy Jackson, Tina Weaver, and Neal Smoak as particularly strong influences.
Brandel said she loves working for Marriott, and is looking forward to her new position and the frequent travel around Florida and the Caribbean it brings. The future for her looks very bright. As she put it, “Being in a corporate level role [since the latest promotion], the sky’s the limit.”