Elsie Namnath, MMH’ 14
San Rafael, California USA
Elsie currently works for Morgans Hotel Group as Business Travel Sales Manager. She specifically contributes to business development of local accounts in New York City and spends a lot of time prospecting and onboarding new accounts. Elsie also works closely with revenue, marketing, and operations to support the end goal of developing ongoing partnerships.
Why Cornell? Why Hotel School?
I started my hospitality career five years ago, taking part in a hotel management training program in Bangkok, Thailand. While living abroad I had the opportunity to travel to Cambodia, which was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Even with a Bachelor’s in International Development Studies from UCLA and having lived in Thailand for five months, I was ill prepared for my excursion to the war-torn and devastated country. Within the first few hours, I witnessed complete starvation, despair, and disorder. However, as my journey unfolded, my first impressions became masked by the wonderment of Siem Reap; I was swept away by the intricate stone carvings of Angkor Wat, delicious Khmer curries, and the friendly people that hosted me. Leaving me humbled and optimistic—I had a renewed sense of purpose. I began to have altruistic thoughts about changing the hotel industry, developing a brand of hotels that focuses on stimulating a guest’s perception of the world and desire to leave positive footprints.
When I returned to the US, admittedly my career took many turns. I worked in timeshare marketing, private equity and then made my way back into hotel operations. I finally found fulfillment managing a front office team through a brand transition. This opportunity solidified my interest to develop a hotel brand best known for its conscientious and charitable efforts. I chose Cornell and Hotel School, because I was confident that earning a MMH degree would catalyze my career goals.
What was your concentration and why?
I decided to pursue the marketing concentration, because of my interest in hotel concept development. The marketing concentration gave me exposure to classes in brand management, consumer behavior, integrated communications, digital globalization, and corporate strategy; but I wasn’t confined, I enrolled in electives in entrepreneurship, revenue management, wine tasting, large boat sailing, and independent study.
What’s your best advice for prospective MMH candidates?
Do your homework. Familiarize yourself with professors and their bodies of work and figure out with whom you may be interested in working. Also be aware that getting in is the easy part! It’s an intense (and extremely rewarding) year.
What’s your best advice for prospective MMH graduates?
I am glad that I made the decision to attend Cornell. I can attest that the knowledge, friends, and memories that I walked away with were well worth the money, time, and any opportunity costs.
There are 15 million hospitality jobs in the US—find one that makes you happy.
What was your career path after MMH?
I joined Morgans Hotel Group as Business Travel Sales Manager in December, under the direction of General Managers, Bryan Woody and Debbie Riga and Regional Director of Sales and Marketing, Vo Tomulich. Their inspiration and leadership has allowed me to be successful in my role and have assurance that I am building on my personal capital. Working for a small hotel company with fantastic leadership is providing me with instrumental experience and laying the foundation for me to leap into entrepreneurship.
What is your most memorable MMH moment?
With my strong interest in entrepreneurship I agreed to take part in the Hospitality Business Plan Competition with my friend, Clowie Tan. Neither of us was enrolled in the business plan class offered by the Pillsbury Institute, so we spent countless all-nighters researching and writing a sound business plan. The entire experience, from working closely with Clowie, seeking advice from entrepreneurs and alumni, to pitching our idea at HEC was an incredible learning opportunity that I’ll always be grateful for.
Where did you find good food in Ithaca?
I was born and raised in California and I grew up going to farmers markets and grocery stores with fresh produce. While I was in Ithaca, I religiously shopped at Wegmans to find the freshest ingredients and cooked most of my meals at home! My favorite meal to make (which all of the ingredients could be found at Wegmans) was Tom Yum Gai (spicy Thai soup)—perfect for a sub-zero winter night.