Maureen DeValkenaere, Sheraton Madison Hotel
IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Maureen DeValkenaere, director of sales and marketing, Sheraton Madison Hotel.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?
There are many challenges in an industry that is ever changing; especially now as we recover from a pandemic. However, the hospitality industry is comprised of an extremely resilient group of dedicated folks who are open to change. We are a creative bunch and will work tirelessly to provide unique and memorable experiences for our guests and clients. The most rewarding aspect is always the people. Getting to know individuals and groups with different interests, backgrounds, and experiences makes this industry so rewarding. Exceeding expectations of our clients and forming lasting relationship brings me great joy. Not one day in a hotel is the same. I love the variety and challenges a day can bring; knowing the next day may be completely different. Keeps me on my toes.
Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?
A former general manager of mine, Keith Kramar. His leadership style is authentic, genuine, and extremely professional. He led by example and always had the good of his team at the forefront. His style inspired me to be a better leader. He was always 10 steps ahead of any issue that could arise. He had solutions for problems before they ever occurred. He was able to create a vision and inspire and engage those around him to achieve the goal.
What has been the high point of your career so far?
Every experience I have had in my career has been special and rewarding. I have learned from each opportunity and taken away new tools for my toolbox. The highlight today is being back in Wisconsin (near family) as the director of sales and marketing at the beautifully renovated Sheraton Madison. I am grateful to be in our great state with the warm and welcoming people who reside and work here.
Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Appreciate all the little things along the way. What you perceive as bad experiences are the best lessons. We learn the most from situations and people that were the most challenging. That bad boss you had taught you how to be a better boss. That job you lost was exactly as it should be — it wasn’t the right fit. The right one is on its way. Be humble, be grateful, and don’t be afraid to tell people how you feel. Your voice matters.
What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?
The people! Everyone is so friendly and happy. There is so much to do in Dane County. Great restaurants, shops, and experiences.
Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?
I write poetry.
What are your guilty pleasures?
Simple guilty pleasures for me. Napping with my dogs when I should be doing laundry. Chocolate! Enjoying a really good piece of chocolate with a cup of coffee any time of day. Binge watching shows (mostly during the pandemic) vs. doing anything productive. Reading a good book for hours vs. cleaning.
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