• Meet Robert Watson, Growing Up in the Business

     
    POSTED June 6, 2019
     

    Robert Watson celebrates 30 years with Hilton, but his résumé in hospitality goes way back.

Hospitality is somewhat of a family business for Tulsa, Oklahoma– native Robert Watson. After all, his career started as a teenager working alongside his father at downtown Tulsa’s renowned Mayo Hotel. “I started out at the coat check station and then moved into a role as a steward [dishwasher]. My father’s roles included banquet manager, catering manager, and food and beverage director,” recalls Watson, who came on board last summer as general manager of Hilton Anatole in Dallas.

Watson recently celebrated his 30th anniversary with the Hilton brand. He came to Hilton Anatole from Hilton Austin, where he led his team to win “Hotel of the Year” for 2018. “I’m thrilled to work toward the same goal for the legendary Hilton Anatole. We will be celebrating our 40th anniversary in 2019, and my goals will revolve around making this milestone year the best in terms of instituting a culture of care, value and respect for our team members while continuing to drive record performance and ensure our guests are having a great experience during their time with us,” says Watson.

Watson says the Dallas property continues to be a high-demand destination for meetings in the U.S., with Cvent ranking the city among the country’s top 10. “The Hilton Anatole was also ranked a top 10 hotel destination and is the only hotel in Dallas that made that list,” he notes.

Dallas’ central location from points around the country, says Watson, is one of the reasons for its popularity as a meeting locale. “Our climate is another big factor, especially for meetings in the first and fourth quarters when weather and natural disasters can cause a lot of risk for meetings being canceled in other parts of the country. And finally, our people: Dallas has become a melting pot destination with over 100,000 people a year migrating here, and they all seem to adopt the Southern hospitality and genuine sense of kindness,” says Watson.

Nickole Kerner Bobley describes her childhood in The Woodlands as charmed. Summer days were spent exploring the community just north of Houston. One of her favorite activities was watching the installation of The Woodlands’ iconic public art. She and her friends would sit in awe, perched on their bikes, as the giant cranes carefully positioned the sculptures in place. It had a lasting impact on her. “I attribute my adult love of art to where I lived,” she notes.

 

Tony Michaels is no stranger to navigating choppy waters. The CEO and executive director of The Parade Company, which puts on traditions like America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Ford Fireworks, took the helm of the Detroit nonprofit during tough times, at the height of the financial crisis. “2008, 2009, are you kidding me?” says Michaels.

 

Originally from Ontario, Heather Odendaal got her start in event planning early, serving as her high school’s head of social events. She ended up on the West Coast, courtesy of her studies at the University of British Columbia, and launched her career in Whistler, working for the resort in marketing and events. Today, she’s CEO of Bluebird Strategy, a boutique event planning firm, and CEO and founder of WNORTH, a global community of women who have their sights set on the C-suite.