Page Petry: from front desk to top floor at Marriott
She checked into the Marriott with her family in 1979. Thirty-five years later, she’s still there, playing an integral role in the company’s technical growth
Soon after she graduated from college, Page Petry’s family was in the process of moving to Atlanta, GA. They were staying at the Marriott. She needed a job, so while they were there, Petry asked if there were any openings. She was hired as an hourly associate.
That was 1979. Today, she is senior vice president and continent CIO of the Americas at Marriott International, Inc (Bethesda, MD), a worldwide operator and franchisor of hotels and related lodging facilities.
The company’s lodging operations are organized by continents, with groups for the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and Middle East/Africa.
“I’m what is referred to as a continent CIO,” Petry explains. “I’m responsible to both IT and the people on the functional side of running a hospitality company. I work between those two environments. My focus is on the Marriott-branded hotels in the Americas, making sure we’re successfully delivering IT products and services. My lengthy title isn’t important to me; it’s what I can do for our hotels every day.”
She works with the groups that roll out new products and services to the hotels, making sure the hotels are positioned to be successful.
Striving for synergy in a growing company
“I also represent the needs of the hotels,” Petry says, “working with owners and franchisees on fundamental issues they want resolved. Maybe they don’t like the way support is being handled, maybe they have concerns about an initiative that’s being rolled out.”
At the same time, Petry works as the IT lead on company acquisitions being considered in North America. She was part of the discussion that led to Marriott’s announcement that the Atlantis, a Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas, will become part of Marriott’s portfolio of independent hotels around the world. She was involved in similar negotiations in 2012 when Marriott acquired the Gaylord hotel brand.
She notes that the hospitality industry is very competitive. “You want to deliver the best guest experience possible, and use technology to do that effectively,” Petry says.
Petry has four people reporting to her directly and about 200 indirect reports in the field. Her direct reports are all vice presidents responsible for areas like IT field support, hotel openings, new technology development and deployment, Internet operability and telephony.
Science from the start
A native of Plainfield, NJ, Petry herself does not have a technical degree but comes from a science-oriented family. Her father had a doctorate in chemical engineering and her mother had a masters in chemistry. “My mother was also a fabulous cook and loved to entertain, and I was drawn to the world of nutrition, which combined science with our lifestyle.”
She was a nutrition major at Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY) and earned her BS in that field in 1979, interned in a hospital nutrition department, and went back to school for her registered dietitian’s certificate. Then came her family’s move to Atlanta and their fateful stay at the Marriott.
“I filled out an application and did an interview, and they called me in my room to say that I was hired. A few days later, I checked my parents out of the hotel!”
At Marriott before the technology
“When I started at the Marriott front desk, I checked you in, I checked you out, and I worked the PBX phone system in the back. There was no other technology,” she remembers.
She was accepted into Marriott’s manager training program, and from there worked in many different operational positions in the hotels. In 1982, she worked for a new line, Courtyard by Marriott, as the opening reservations manager. Before long, Courtyard’s reservation centers were incorporated into the larger organization.
That’s when she started in IT, as a project manager. “The IT organization was rolling out some network equipment into the hotels. They needed someone who understood the hotels and reached out to me. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t an engineer or someone with a background in technology.”
Petry went in as a junior project manager and became more and more engaged in the IT world.
In 1992, she left Marriott to work at financial products and services provider Fannie Mae (Washington, DC) as manager of desktop support services.
She was at Fannie Mae until 1999 when she became senior director of customer relationship management services at an Internet startup that’s now part of eFollett.com (Westchester, IL), an online seller of college textbooks.
Return trip to Marriott
After a year, family issues brought Petry back to Atlanta. Coincidentally, Marriott had a regional job available overseeing technology in the hotels. Petry rejoined the organization as regional director of information resources for the southeast region. “We needed a way to make sure each hotel’s IT staff was up to speed on all the current technology programs in the hotels, as well as the new IT products and services,” she explains.
As Marriott grew, Petry’s role continued to evolve. In 2005, she became regional vice president of information resources for the central region.
In 2006, Petry came to Marriott’s Bethesda headquarters as senior vice president of information resources for North American Lodging, where her job included the North American portfolio. In 2009, the company’s structure changed again and she assumed her current title.
Petry is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP) through the Project Management Institute. She also works with the National Academy Foundation, a nonprofit organization that prepares young people for college and career success.
“I love where I am,” Petry says enthusiastically. “I got to where I am by leveraging both sides of my background, and I’ve done more and more project management over time. I want to continue in this role. Technology plays a big part in our hotels and it’s growing every day. I want to make sure our general managers and owners understand the power that technology is bringing to their business.”
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