Professional Spotlight: Alfonso Martinez
Alfonso Martinez is a former hotel operations and human resources leader and volunteer on CareerVillage.org. This is his career story!
Written by Corina Chen & the CareerVillage.org team.
From athlete to hotel operations manager to HR leader, Alfonso Martinez is a prime example of a professional who opened every door for improvement, stepped into the room of opportunity, and kept the door open for others along the way.
Before he was running multiple hotels, Alfonso was an athlete. He characterized his high school years saying, “My focus in high school was primarily athletic. I generated the grades necessary to get through school. I attended a bi-lingual American high school in Mexico City.” He continued nurturing his love for sports when he moved from high school to attending college at the University of Denver. There, he played 2nd base and shortstop for the Denver Pioneers while simultaneously working towards his undergrad in Business Administration (BSBA).
When Alfonso graduated, he applied his team player skills and ability to understand human behavior to the working world. He jumped into work with the Marriott hotel corporation, right as the hospitality industry was in high growth mode.
“I began with Marriott when they had 20+ hotels in the early 1980s and left when they had 2,000+ hotels in 1999,” he reflects.
As a dynamic employee with a diverse set of skills, Alfonso also embraced responsibilities that didn’t neatly fall into “hotel operations.” Alfonso describes his career path, saying: “My mentor, the Chief HR Officer for the global company, persuaded me to move from hotel operations to staff HR work. I was particularly interested in human behavior resulting from my athletic experiences (through college baseball) and years leading large operational teams.” He took these interests and began to apply them elsewhere.
Realizing his passion for HR, Alfonso left Marriott to take larger HR roles in other companies and ultimately returned to graduate school where he earned a Master of Science in Behavioral Psychology from John Hopkins University. He writes, “I returned to graduate school at JHU to be at the top of my field — a chief human resources officer.”
During his grad school years, Alfonso also became certified as an executive coach, also known as a leadership coach. He adds, “My deepest interest is to see others overcome obstacles and barriers to reach their full potential.”
Alfonso’s career journey evolved after grad school, becoming Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) for a publicly traded global firm, then a private equity global firm, and finally a global non-profit organization. “I had the great fortune to [be a CHRO] in public, private, and non-profit settings over 20 years.” Half of Alfonso’s career was focused on hospitality industry management — which included hotel operations, revenue management, diversity, and human resources — and the other half on working with employees in global, human resource roles. While he “holds no regrets about [his] 2-path career,” between hospitality industry management and his move to private then nonprofit equity global organizations, he admits that, “I felt too removed from the core of business operations as an HR executive. I really missed that!” For Alfonso, he always enjoyed the relational, people side of work. Missing the closeness of relationships in human resources, he dove deep into his volunteerism work.
As someone quick to jump into people-first work, Alfonso is now an advocate for social equity and the Latino community. Alfonso has served on the boards of the Congressional Hunger Center and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. Not only that, but he has worked with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and been a mentor to minority graduate business students at the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School.
Reflecting back on his long career, when asked what his most significant professional mistake was, Alfonso told this story:
“My most significant promotion moved me from running one hotel to running twenty. After a couple of weeks in the new role, I felt it important to tell my boss the detailed and analytical list of ‘problems’ I had encountered in the operations I inherited. After I lectured her on my ‘problems,’ she stood up from behind her desk, pointed to her door, and said, ‘Get out of my office and never come here with problems-only solutions.’
It took me a week or so to ‘recover’ from my embarrassment, yet it taught me that my value came from delivering results — not smart observations.
This pushed me to mature into a leader that focused on freeing leaders to excel, as opposed to confining leaders to a thinking and behavioral style that I would understand — like my own.”
From this mistake and lesson comes Alfonso’s professional tip to anyone hoping to step into leadership, “The best leaders are very confident and appropriately empathetic — always. Underpromise and overdeliver. Make sure performance expectations are clearly aligned with your boss’s needs.” As he emphasizes empathy, confidence, and consistent delivery of promises, Alfonso reveals the importance of reflecting on life experiences in order to grow in the workplace and build relationships.
To ask your own career question or read through the great advice from Alfonso and our over 100,000 professionals, check out CareerVillage.org!