Hyatt exec Banikarim shares her secrets to success

Maryam Banikarim
Maryam Banikarim

How do you become an effective risk taker?

Maryam Banikarim says you work with people who are smarter than you and who know things you don’t. As global chief marketing officer of Hyatt Hotels Corp., Banikarim shares her wisdom Friday at The Commonwealth Institute of South Florida’s 12th annual Leadership Luncheon at Jungle Island in Miami.

Banikarim made the leap into hospitality after working in the media industry, book publishing, consulting and sales. Most recently she was the chief marketing officer at Gannett Co. “You just have to have confidence your skills will translate,” she said. Throughout her career, Banikarim has held leadership roles and navigated through common challenges many women in executive positions face.

Now as Hyatt’s CMO, Banikarim is responsible for bringing the company’s brands and experiences to life while initiating innovation around the guest experience and driving growth. Her main task has become differentiating Hyatt’s nine brands in the hospitality marketplace.

“When you come from the outside you look at things from a different lens. You might see different opportunities,” she said. “But it’s a combination of the view from outside, plus the expertise of those who know the business coming together that help you see a new path forward.”

Banikarim said leaders must realize it has become impossible to keep up with the pace of change and be fully informed. “You need to have people around you who have different backgrounds ... people who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions.”

As a leader, she has no qualms about voicing her opinions or taking risks. Because she grew up in Iran during turbulent times, Banikarim says she has a higher risk tolerance than most people and excels at ushering companies through purpose-driven change.

For Banikarim, an ideal job is one where she can learn and have significant impact. She once told a former boss: “I will work hard while I’m here, but if there is nothing new to learn I will have to find another job.”

As a mother of two teenagers, Banikarim offers them this advice:

“Pick something you care about, something you really want to do because you will end up spending a lot of time at work.”

TCI executive director Laurie Kaye Davis called Banikarim “a trailblazer for women’s success in the workplace.”

“In every position Maryam has held, she has challenged the standard and made it better. Her courage inspires us and makes us feel optimistic for the future of women in leadership positions,” Davis said.