Derek Morrison, Hilton Madison Monona Terrace

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Derek Morrison, general manager, Hilton Madison Monona Terrace.
Pow Derek Morrison Headsot

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

The most challenging and rewarding aspect of my job can go hand in hand at times; however, I truly love working with people. From my associates to guests, it is so great making a difference on someone’s day. It is exciting hiring new associates and helping them expand their skill sets and grow into new roles. The recognition of one’s hard work and helping them take that next step in their career is hard to beat. From a guest standpoint, nothing is better than being able to help someone. You never know what each guest is going through in their day but being able to assist and make their experience memorable is why I am in the business.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

I’d have to say my father. He worked for Nestle Foods for over 30 years in human resources, where he negotiated contracts and lead labor relations for Nestle USA. He has been a mentor and always someone I could go to for an honest perspective or just to bounce ideas and approaches off when I’m faced with difficult decisions or situations.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

I’m living it. I couldn’t be happier than working here at the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace for Marcus Hotels & Resorts. I am grateful for this opportunity and to be in a city I love and where I began my hospitality career. To be able to come full circle still gives me adrenaline each day.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

I would tell myself to be patient and keeping working hard — great things will come.

What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

Simply, just how vibrant it is. Driving in on John Nolen Drive by the lake each morning energizes me as I see people active on the paths or in the water. I also love how many things there are to do and see in Madison. From Art Fair on the Square, the Dane County Farmers’ Market, Taste of Madison, concerts, and of course Badger football games, there is always something to do. Not to mention, few things can beat sitting on the Union Terrance watching the sun set over Lake Mendota.

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I speak Spanish fairly well. I won’t say fluent, pero yo se bastante. I have surprised many people when I start off morning huddles or respond in Spanish!

What are your guilty pleasures?

I love catching people off guard. Often at the end of a check-in for a guest or a long day’s work for an associate I’ll say, “Can I ask a favor of you?” Guests are often surprised whereas associates say yes, but reluctantly. My response to the guest is, “Please make sure you enjoy your stay and here is my card if there’s anything I can do to help make that happen.” To the associate, I suggest they go home to rest and enjoy their evening. Either way, I almost always get a smile or a playful eye roll after that.

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