Three decades ago, hospitality wasn’t quite the intended career of Sarah Derry. Fast forward to 2022, however, and she has risen to become the Chief Executive Officer (Pacific) of hospitality group Accor.
“I just finished uni and was, you know, looking to explore the world. But the minute I stepped into a hotel, I just loved it. I love the people. I love the customers. I love the feeling. And I saw all the possibilities,” she said in an interview.
Sarah joined Accor in 2017 and served as Vice President for Talent and Culture for the Australian region, where the company has over 10,000 employees and over 200 hotels. She then transitioned to Senior Vice President for Talent and Culture for the Pacific region before becoming the CEO.
Her extensive experience in hospitality includes focusing on areas of strategic management, culture transformation, leadership development, strategic business management, organisational behaviour and executive coaching.
Sarah, who completed post-graduate studies on HR Management, Training, Executive Coaching and Organisational Development, owned and operated her own successful business for a full decade before joining Accor, putting her on a unique spot as a leader of a company with a large global reach.
The executive said she took the human resources path on her way to becoming a top business leader because of her life-long passion and purpose of “connecting people to their potential” – a virtue that has guided her throughout her career.
Sarah has been known to champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and even making cultural changes in the hospitality space. She believes that a diverse organisation is in a better position to deliver excellent service to the customers.
Her appointment as CEO of Accor also comes at a time of talent shortage, triggered by many factors but largely by the pandemic. But she is more than willing to face the challenge as she heads one of the largest hotel operators in the world.
“The first thing that Accor is doing now is to really understand people who want to work in hospitality – what’s important to them and what’s their personal purpose,” she said, adding how this paved the way for Accor’s Work Your Way program.
The Work Your Way program elevated the recruitment process in the tourism space by offering flexible work, advanced career development, travel and work around the Pacific, and personalised benefits, among others.
Accor has also started a partnership with Australia’s largest digital platform for high school leavers, Year13, to open the eyes of Gen Z talent to the possibilities of having a career in hospitality.
“We pride ourselves on our multi-generational workforce and we see Gen Z as a highly impactful generation with an extremely important voice,” Sarah said.