These interviews are part of a series that highlights new hires within the industry. Have you recently started a new role or do you know someone who has? Submit your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeff Zidell and Ellen Zfaney were recently named senior vice president and customer service officer (Jeff) and vice president of supply strategy and innovation (Ellen) of RoomIt by CWT.
1. What are you looking forward to the most in your new role?
Jeff Zidell: I’m really looking forward to working with my colleagues, clients, suppliers and partners around the world to deliver a simple, innovative and seamless experience that ultimately enables travelers to find, book and stay at hotels they love. It’s an exciting time to join RoomIt, as we think about industry challenges from a fresh perspective and continue to grow and evolve our value proposition.
Ellen Zfaney: I am looking forward to helping the team make a big difference at RoomIt. Bringing the best and most unique supply to market is core to our Roomit value proposition and I am excited about leading our team to get there. There is huge potential to dramatically grow our hotel business that is right in front of us. We just need to work together to go get it!
2. How do you think past experiences have prepared you for this role?
JZ: I have 25 years of experience in the travel industry including GDS, Airline, Online Media, Hotel and Real Estate, so I’ve seen the business from all angles. Every position that I’ve held across finance, product development, marketing and sales has provided valuable learning experiences that help me connect the dots and understand many points of view. I’m also a frequent business traveler, so I can put myself in the shoes of our stakeholders every day.
EZ: In my previous leadership roles in the travel industry, I have learned three main things:
-Work as a team – You can’t do it alone. We are stronger and better as a team than any individual.
-Listen – You can learn a lot if you just reach out, ask people and listen. Staying open-minded to new ideas and perspectives often drives the best results.
-It’s all about the product – Today’s market is hyper-competitive. You have to find your own way to innovate and then shout it from the rooftops.
3. How did you get into the industry?
JZ: I began my career as a CPA working for one of the Big 4 accounting firms, but I got my start in the travel industry as a Financial Analyst at Sabre after I received my MBA. Since that first position at Sabre, I quickly became enthralled with the travel industry given the focus on leveraging both technology and human interaction to drive a superior customer experience.
EZ: I made a career change after getting my MBA from Northwestern University. I had been in Finance, Accounting and Consulting for many years but really wanted to be a driver of growth in a business, instead of just measuring it or recommending changes. I’ve been fortunate to find companies that not only match my values, but are also cutting-edge, global and inclusive.
4. What are you hoping to achieve in your new role?
JZ: The RoomIt team has made significant progress in a very short time, and I’ll be working collaboratively with my colleagues around the world to continue that journey. We have a strong vision for the future of corporate travel, and I hope to create a platform to actively listen to and engage with our clients, suppliers and travelers and ultimately build products and experiences that make travel more productive and enjoyable. We have an appetite and culture for innovation, and I’m confident that this will be a catalyst for growth and change both internally and externally.
EZ: I want to be a catalyst in aligning our Global Hotel Supply Team around the same goals and also help to align those goals throughout Roomit and CWT. I hope we can leverage that clear alignment to expand our supply and grow our business in 2020 and beyond.
5. What do you enjoy most about the industry?
JZ: I enjoy being part of an industry that has such a strong positive impact on people around the world. Travel makes the world a smaller place, and the more people travel, the more they understand each other. My favorite experiences as a father have been seeing the world through the eyes of my two daughters, as we’ve explored cities like London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Munich. As the old saying goes, “travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.”
EZ: Travel expands your mind. It can take you out of your comfort zone and bring people together who otherwise may not come together. It helps us bond as people, whether it be for business or pleasure! I also really enjoy understanding the details around technology and product in our industry. We make it look so easy for the travelers but it’s so complex!