Catherine Bolling graduated from Virginia Tech in 2008 in Hospitality and Tourism Management, she currently serves as the Initiatives Chair for Pamplin’s Recent Alumni Board. Catherine recently spoke with PRISM to talk about her career, her time spent at tech as a student, and what she looks forward to as a member of the RAB.
Catherine, thanks for taking the time to talk with me. Can you give me an introduction to your career and how you got to where you are since your graduation?
Yes! In my most recent role I was the diplomatic and international sales manager at Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner… When I was still in school I started as an intern at the Ritz Carlton hotel Company as part of my curriculum for school and when I finished my internship they offered me a full-time position as a manager in training … In diplomatic and international sales I represented the company when working with the embassies, royal families, military delegations, anybody basically travelling on behalf of an embassy or an international traveller that had a little more of a specific need for special attention, that can range anything from security to working with the secret service, the state department, special arrangements.
What was your favorite part of your jobs at the Ritz Carlton?
My favorite part of the job was the troubleshooting and problem-solving dynamic … you have to think quick and look at your resources and solve problems so that the needs of the hotel and the needs of the guests are met.
I would love to hear about your time at Virginia Tech, of all the things you were involved in, which was most transformative?
I joined the hospitality management association, I immediately got involved, at that time the HMA was undergoing a change in the student experience … the president stepped down and I was elected president of the club and we were really successful in bringing on a new board and spearheading new initiatives. It was a great place where I learned many skills that I have used all throughout my career.
Did you have a favorite class while at Tech?
I had the opportunity to take strategic management with Dr. Olsen … he was a crucial person when it came to real world experiences and pushing students to really uncover their full potential.
You currently serve tech as the chair for the Initiatives Committee of the Recent Alumni Board, what are you most excited for in that position?
I am most excited about providing a platform, or some type of a network where we are able to engage and help students be more school. We are sure where we are going, we are just not sure of the initiatives coming so we are actually really excited to discuss and brainstorm …We are really excited to basically build an engage a network where we can help engage and provide mentorship experiences, career advice and enlightenment, and really provide a platform to help students be more successful along their careers.
What piece of advice would you give to students that has been transformative in your career?
I think it is really important always to come in with a good attitude and be a ‘yes’ person … I always tell individuals when I am interviewing, is I interview and hire for attitude and work ethic, and I train for skills. Because at the end of the day, if you have a good work ethic and a good attitude and you show up, you put your best foot forward, you will be ultimately successful.
We are in the beginnings of a project to collect the best books of successful Pamplin alumni so that current students can read them even before they begin working. What is a book that has had an impact on you in your professional career?
Definitely Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (by Stephen Covey), and I actually just recently finished Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In … I honestly enjoyed it just in terms of being a leader because I don’t think it is just for women. My favorite quote from her book, in terms of career progression and moving forward, ‘It is no longer a ladder, it is a jungle gym. I really love that book.
I am sure that there is precious little of it, but how do you like to spend your free time when you have some?
I like to be outdoors, I really enjoy hiking, my new hobby is biking, (also) skiing, scuba diving, sailing, I like new experiences, I like to travel and I like to really take advantage of what the world has to offer.
Anything else you would like students, faculty and other readers to know?
We are really excited to see the level of engagement and the enthusiasm coming both from the faculty and student side, and from the RAB. So I am just thankful to have this opportunity and really thrilled to create and build something new and exciting, and who knows what we be able to leverage it into in the future.