Maria Duddin is the general manager of the Brewery in London.
It was the glamour and ethos of hotels that Maria Duddin stayed in as a child that attracted her to a career in hospitality. Following a degree in hotel and marketing at Sheffield Hallam University, Duddin says she was the only one of her student peers to stay in the industry.
A year out sandwich placement in London at the Marriott Grosvenor Square hotel cemented her passion for hospitality. "I did it all, from housekeeping to reception and everything in between. I loved Marriott and the training they provided."
Upon returning to Sheffield, Duddin joined Swallow Hotels, which she says was "BaM-ing" (becoming-a-Marriott) at the time, as conference and banqueting manager at just 21-years-old. Taking on such responsibilities at a relatively young age was not without its challenges. "I was a young lady going in to manage people twice my age but I'd learned to communicate effectively at all levels. I had to prove myself, definitely."
As her fellow graduates began leaving the city, Duddin returned to her home town of Newcastle to "start building" her career. She decided that she wanted to work in events and stay with the hotel brand she valued so highly. An event sales executive vacancy at Marriott Metro Centre gave Duddin the opportunity to grasp the events business from a sales point of view.
"It's not rocket science to me. People buy people. They have a need and we can help them," she says.
A desire to be unrestricted by the traditional hotel ballroom space led Duddin to London and the Brewery, which at the time was part of the Whitbread Marriott franchise. Within seven years, she had progressed from the role of senior event manager to the top job of general manager.
"Basically I worked my way up commercially. I didn't set out to be the boss, it just sort of happened. Not that I'm complaining," she explains.
Key to Duddin's success is her passion for employing and retaining talent. She recruited and developed the Brewery's senior management team, which she describes as her own mini board.
"We've got the best talent in the business - they're phenomenal at what they do," she says. "And you're only ever as good as the people around you."
HIGHS… Last year, the Brewery held its own mini Glastonbury festival - in this case Glaston-Brewery - complete with artificial grass and trees, food stalls, live music and a silent disco. It attracted around 500 corporate and agency event planners and Duddin says it really put the Brewery on the map.
"That's when we realised that our brand was so strong. It was hailed as the corporate showcase of all time.
"Seeing the whole team pull together and the success that followed was hugely rewarding."
Duddin's success in her first year as general manager at the Brewery was recognised with spots in the Event 100 and C&IT Power 50, two event industry shortlists of high performers.
"To be recognised with top industry peers at that level was great," she says.
LOWS… Duddin's biggest career challenge came right after being appointed general manager at the Brewery. She says that despite being taught everything she knows by her predecessor Claire Lawson, the collapse of the economy was an unexpected test of her abilities.
But she credits the efforts of her team for the Brewery's successful charter of the credit crunch.
"We found ourselves in foreign times. Companies were going into administration and I thought we were in dire straits," she explains. "But the great thing is it taught me so much that I wouldn't have known in a period of boom. Our business is more robust as a result."
Family Single, workaholic
Favourite holiday Marbella
Motto The devil is in the detail
Check your contracts, think before you sign and always think of the worst case scenario before you make a decision