Alex Zoghlin was appointed Global Head of Technology for Hyatt Hotels Corporation in March 2013. Zoghlin leads the company’s network and systems operations, technology support and risk management, technology architecture, global planning and field services, E-Commerce and marketing systems portfolio, reservations and sales systems planning portfolio, property systems portfolio, and corporate systems portfolio.
Zoghlin has more than 20 years of technology expertise, most recently as chief executive officer of VHT where he was responsible for the development of innovative technology solutions for the real estate industry. Prior to this role, Zoghlin was founder and chief executive officer for G2Switchworks, an alternative airline global distribution system that automated ticket exchanges, ticket refunds and ticket price changes. In 2000, Zoghlin was founder and chief technology officer of Orbitz LLC, where he oversaw all aspects of the company, including strategy, design development and operations. Zoghlin also served as founder, chief executive officer and chief technology officer in 1999 for SportsGear.com, a business-to-business sporting goods distribution company.
Zoghlin also held a series of technology positions at Venture Capital Firm, Neoglyphics Media Corp and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, as well as a cryptographic technician for the United States Navy.
Hyatt Hotels Corporation, headquartered in Chicago, is a leading global hospitality company with a proud heritage of making guests feel more than welcome. Thousands of members of the Hyatt family strive to make a difference in the lives of the guests they encounter every day by providing authentic hospitality. The Company’s subsidiaries develop, own, operate, manage, franchise, license or provide services to hotels, resorts, branded residences and vacation ownership properties, including under the Hyatt®, Park Hyatt®, Andaz®, Grand Hyatt®, Hyatt Centric™, Hyatt Regency®, Hyatt Place®, Hyatt House®, Hyatt Zilara™, Hyatt Ziva™, Hyatt Residences® and Hyatt Residence Club® brand names and have locations on six continents. As of June 30, 2015, the Company’s worldwide portfolio consisted of 618 properties in 51 countries. For more information, please visit www.hyatt.com.
What do corporations need to do fill existing technology jobs?
In my opinion, corporations need to recruit differently – there is a well- documented lack of minorities, including women, in technology. So rather than only recruiting on college campuses, I think it’s important to consider an approach that’s more well rounded. For example, Hyatt works with YearUp, an organization committed to providing urban youth with the opportunities to build marketable job skills through hands on experience.
What is your vision for the future of STEM careers, through diversity?
My vision centers around STEAM versus STEM. Everyone learns differently so it’s shortsighted to discount art, design, music etc. and I am pleased to see that more studies are supporting this way of thinking and learning. By expanding ways to trigger the right-brain skills that help drive a passion for technology, we create a diverse workforce who can help drive innovation.
I think a great example of this is Apple – the technology has shifted the way the world lives and our relationship with technology. But I think one of the crucial components of driving the irrational loyalty the brand has achieved is due in large part because they so brilliantly blended technology with sleek design.
What do we need to do in the U.S. to continue to be at the top of innovation?
Innovation is so broad so first, it’s important to remember what innovation is. The dictionary definition is literally to introduce something new or different. But the thing about innovation is that it has to be relevant to people’s lives to be meaningful.
At Hyatt, our innovation efforts are focused around empathy. Before we undertake any technology effort, our first question is always, “how will this help care?”. So we can build and test things and experiences all day, but those efforts would be misspent because they don’t help us achieve success. It can be easy to mistake insert technology everywhere because the tech option is sexy. But a tech-forward option might not always be the best solution – for us, the key learning is to come back to the core issue so we are using our team’s creativity in a productive way.
So for the U.S. to be at the top of innovation, I think that we need three key elements:
- An emphasis on STEAM versus STEM – this helps spur creativity and provides a natural intersection for right and left brained thinkers to really drive meaningful innovation. As Steve Jobs once said, “Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”
- Solve for the human factor – this is why I love design thinking. It encourages the team to think beyond themselves. There’s an example we use internally to demonstrate this: Grad students at the Stanford d School, who Hyatt worked with to introduce design thinking to the company, took on a project to improve infant mortality in developing countries. At first, they set out to build a lower cost incubator but found that these infants were born too far from cities to get help in time. So they shifted their perspective to helping parents in remote areas. That tweaked language shifted the solution to helping parents give their infants a greater chance at life rather than create a device for hospital use.
- Bring great thinkers inside the organization – it’s hard to think of any company that shouldn’t be focusing on innovation. At Hyatt, we have brought innovation in-house so with the goal for it to be part of our culture and an expected part of everyone’s job. This will be critical for driving disruptive innovation and has already helped solve numerous small annoyances for guests and colleagues, with the purpose of creating a more loyal customer base and more engaged workforce.