Hoya Highlight: Donna McNamara (MBA'07)

Ricky Ashenfelter

Senior Director, Luxury Brand Management, The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company LLC

Describe your current profession.

I lead the global brand strategy and initiatives affecting the guest experience for The Ritz-Carlton portfolio around the world. In a nutshell, I use global consumer insights to develop experiences that enhance our perception as a relevant, global luxury brand.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your career and how did you overcome it? (Or what are you doing to try and overcome it?)

Taking my first steps out of business school! I was singularly focused on entering the travel industry, and the luxury segment and finance discipline specifically, to align with my personal, lifelong passion for travel. It was tempting to take other positions, but I stuck with it and got my first position at The Ritz-Carlton corporate office in finance the September after graduation.

Whom do you consider to be your influencers?

I would say my parents, who are serial entrepreneurs. Having owned their own businesses for 30+ years, they always provide a very calm, balanced perspective with good advice. Two former bosses also are my mentors and amazing role models. They taught me key lessons about how to advocate for your people and gain executive alignment.

What was the most useful piece of career advice you ever received?

One of our global officers at The Ritz-Carlton recently told me to “Be aggressive and ask for what you want, but don’t be disappointed if you don’t get it.” That really stuck with me.

What characteristics or skills do you feel are necessary for one to possess to excel in your industry?

Be truly passionate about what you do. At The Ritz-Carlton, the brand becomes an authentic part of who you are. It shows both personally and professionally and has a deep impact on my ability to drive results for the brand.

How do you think your time at Georgetown affected your professional decisions?

Being surrounded by such talented classmates and professors gave me a lot of confidence professionally. Having the global experiences I did at Georgetown also ignited my desire to work for a global brand. And Georgetown continues to affect me through networking and working with current students.

What professional associations, conferences or trade publications have aided in your career development?

For me, it’s about constant networking. I’ve gotten every job I’ve ever had through networking and really believe the strength of Georgetown’s alumni is one of its most meaningful differentiators.

What’s a phrase, motto or quote that you find yourself saying to yourself or your team constantly to keep momentum going?

I always remind myself to “Be Present.” Giving someone your full attention allows you to build relationships and make the connections critical to success in my field. Something as simple as keeping your phone in your bag during a meeting can make a world of difference.

Anything else you would like to add?

Never settle. Stay focused on what you want and be single-minded about the strategic steps that will get you there.