Q & A with Employees
Anchorage, AK February 11, 2016
A Conversation with Jason Hill, Director of Operations for NMS Lodging
This is part of a series of interviews.
Jason Hill, the spouse of a NANA shareholder, is the NMS Lodging director of operations. He has long ties to NANA. His father worked at Red Dog Mine for 17 years, and retired from Teck.
What is your Iñupiaq name?
Iñuġana. My father-in-law, Shield Downey, gave me my Iñupiaq name, after his favorite uncle. I feel honored.
What is your job?
I’m the director of operations for NMS Lodging.
How long have you been with NMS?
Have you had other jobs within NANA?
Yes, first as a hotel revenues manager with the task of maximizing revenue. A hotel room is a perishable commodity, based on fluctuating supply and demand. We have to make sure the rooms are priced correctly.
After that experience, along with more Marriott training, I became the Residence Inn’s operations manager. Basically, that’s the number two position after the GM (general manager).
Most recently, I was the general manager (GM) of the Courtyard by Marriott Anchorage Airport hotel.
What was it like managing the Courtyard by Marriott?
As the GM, you’re the hands-on manager. You’re responsible for building a team. We take good care of our employees, so they can take good care of our customers.
Our hotel is open 24/7, 365 days a year. You always have your phone next to you, because your job never turns off.
What are your main job responsibilities now?
As the director of operations, I oversee the business activity of our four Anchorage Marriott hotels. And I ensure that the four general managers have the resources and support they need to successfully perform all the functions of their jobs.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Anchorage.
What is your tie to NANA?
I’m the spouse of a shareholder; my wife is Sheila Downey Hill.
But my ties to NANA go further back, to when I was a kid. My Dad worked at Red Dog Mine for almost 17 years. He retired from Teck.
When I was younger, I was a loadmaster for Northern Air Cargo. We used to fly into Red Dog. I’d ride in the cockpit, and then load and unload cargo. We also flew into Barrow, Deadhorse, and Fairbanks.
What was your first job?
As a senior in high school, I worked for Cal Worthington Ford, washing cars. I moved into a sales position and became a service advisor. When I first met Sheila, I was the general manager of the dealership where she was buying a car. It was love at first sight!
Where did you study or train?
My training has all been on-the-job, and through Marriott.
Who has inspired you?
My family, starting with my wife Sheila, who has been a huge inspiration. She’s a true professional.
Our daughter surprises me. She started a Japanese immersion program in the first grade, one of only two students who weren’t there for Kindergarten. It was tough for her, that one year makes a difference, but she’s really thriving. We went to Epcot Center once, and I found her speaking Japanese with ladies in the gift shop.
When our son was two years old, he was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Now he’s a sophomore at Dimond High School. His ability to overcome the challenges associated with his autism is a daily inspiration.
Another person who impresses me is Sheila’s half-brother, Henry Downey. He grew up in Ambler and came to live with us, starting in the 6th grade. Henry’s now a senior at Dimond High School. He’s on the honor roll, takes AP classes, and participates in the Dimond JRROTC. He hopes be accepted to either West Point Military Academy or Annapolis Naval Academy; he has Senatorial nominations for both.
Tell us about someone who has inspired you at NANA.
Jeanette Duenow, the VP of operations for our NMS lodging division. She provides oversight for all our hotels, and directs more than 200 employees. She saw things in me that I hadn’t seen in myself. She threw me into new situations, thinking I could handle it. Her confidence and trust in me—to represent the company on behalf of NANA—has meant a lot.
What do you like best about your job?
It’s rewarding when you become the one to encourage employees to work toward their full potential. I have people here who are rock stars.
What are important lessons that you have learned?
Surround yourself with really smart people and take advantage of every learning opportunity. I grew most from being put in new and uncomfortable situations. At first, you might get nervous. You might sweat a little, but you come out better.
Don’t hesitate and don’t be afraid of challenging situations, because it’s those difficult encounters that make you stronger. It’s never the easy days, it’s the tough spots that prepare you for bigger and more demanding things.
What advice do you have for young shareholders or employees?
Make it known what your aspirations are. Don’t just tell people that you want to learn more or do more. Show them through your actions. Be reliable.
Among my employees, the ones who stand out go above and beyond their duties. They ask what they can do to help out, when things otherwise might be slow for them. They prove that they want to progress in their job.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
I love to cook for my family, especially on weekends when I have more time to spend in the kitchen.
What do you want people to know about NANA?
I want to do the company right. I want to do the best job for the hotel and the company. I want them to continue to know that they can rely on me.
Jason Hill was interviewed by Carol Richards, Director of Brand Communications for NANA Development Corporation..