Alumni Spotlights

Meghan Macaulay, ’06: Sharing Light and Warmth in the Hospitality Industry

April 4, 2019 by Lisa M. McMahon, '09

Meghan Macaulay, ’06, received Hilton's CEO Light and Warmth Award, the company's top recognition.

Meghan Macaulay, ’06, received Hilton's CEO Light and Warmth Award, the company's top recognition.

September 14, 2018, started out like any other day for Meghan Macaulay, ’06, revenue manager at the Hilton Garden Inn in Woodbridge, Va. It was Housekeeping Week, and she and her staff were starting do-outs to prepare the rooms for their next guests.

But at 12:30 p.m., it became obvious that this would not be an ordinary day. When one of her colleagues was unable to enter a room with her master key, she notified Macaulay, who opened the door with her general manager and found a guest in a dire medical emergency. Macaulay called 911 and, after the ambulance came and went, returned to her housekeeping duties.

“That day was just such a range of emotions,” she said.

That day also earned her Hilton’s top recognition, the CEO Light and Warmth Award, because of her ability to stay focused during the most trying of moments. Macaulay was one of only 13 team members from across the organization’s global managed and franchise network to receive the honor, which was launched in 2011 to celebrate exceptional employees who embody the Hilton’s vision, mission, and values.

“In hospitality, you don’t know what the day is going to bring,” Macaulay says. “From helping guests in their moments of despair, to jumping in to clean rooms because it’s Housekeeping Week, you just have to roll with it.”

The “why” behind the award may be a little unconventional, but it seems appropriate for Macaulay, who first knew she wanted a career in hospitality after reading “The Shining,” a Steven King novel that takes place in the fictional Overlook Hotel. The description of the hotel in the first chapter of the book, which she describes as the “greatest opening scene to a book, ever,” convinced her that her future was in the hotel business. That, coupled with the experiences she had traveling with her family (dad, Kevin, ’15; mom, Ann, ’69; and her eight siblings, including Brian, ’99), led to a fascination with hotels.

The Levittown, N.Y., native enrolled at Niagara while working as a front-desk agent at the Hampton Inn in Niagara Falls. Her job gave her hands-on experience in what she was learning in the classroom and reinforced her career choice.

When she graduated in 2006, Macaulay obtained a job at Hyatt and moved to Jersey City, N.J., where she completed the company’s corporate management training program and held positions as assistant executive in housekeeping, assistant front office manager, and office manager.

Three years later, Macaulay returned to Western New York, where she worked at the Hampton Inn and Suites in downtown Buffalo as an executive housekeeper before being promoted to assistant general manager.

In 2014, Macaulay moved to Virginia to open the Hilton Grand Inn Woodbridge as assistant general manager. Last March, she took on additional responsibilities as revenue manager for the property, a new position that was created for her. Because her background was in operations, Macaulay took online classes and certifications to learn the ins and outs of her new role. 

“This has been a challenge,” she admits. “It’s been immersing myself in things I don’t know and things that I don’t understand, and teaching myself and learning from other people. I was not very good at math or being analytical--I’m more of a people person--but I was able to work on it and know that it was one of my biggest weaknesses, and I was able to turn it around into one of my biggest strengths.”

Macaulay adds that she also draws on what she learned in a planning and control class at Niagara, because the course work—setting rates, taking on group business, determining capital expenditures—is very much what she is doing in her new position.

“I’ll think back to that class, now,” she says. “It was a very intimidating class, but that one definitely helped me in what I’m doing now.”

Today, Macaulay is revenue manager for Uniwest Hospitality, the parent company of the Hilton Grand Inn Woodbridge and four other Hilton-branded hotels in Northern Virginia and West Virginia. But she still wears the assistant GM hat, she notes.

“I still need to be around the action of the front desk and housekeeping and all that,” she says, adding that she likes to “jump into other areas.”

“Last weekend, I was in the kitchen cooking for a banquet,” she says. “When you work for a smaller company, you kind of need to be a jack of all trades.”

And that’s exactly what Macaulay has been.

“I have come forward in my career, but I have spent countless hours cleaning bathrooms, scrubbing floors, plunging toilets, and dealing with emergencies,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what role you’re in, there’s never a time when you can say ‘That’s not my job.’ And if you genuinely believe that, you’ll succeed.”