Q & A with Shareholder Employees
Anchorage, AK October 4, 2016
A Conversation with Lenora Moses, General Manager of the Residence Inn by Marriott Anchorage Midtown
This is part of a series of interviews with NANA’s shareholder-employees.
Lenora Moses, a shareholder originally from Kotzebue, is the general manager of the Residence Inn by Marriott in Anchorage Midtown. The hotel is owned by NANA and Sodexo, and managed by NMS. Photo by Chris Arend.
What is your Iñupiaq name?
Naquaraq. My mom named me after an Elder who lived next door and visited every day.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Kotzebue. My parents were Ed and Ada Ward. My mom is a Gregg from Kotzebue. She was a nurse. My dad was an air traffic controller for the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).
What was it like for you, growing up in Kotzebue?
My brothers and sister are a lot older than me. When I was in the second grade, I remember watching my sister Nellie get on the jet to go off to college. All of a sudden, it got real quiet.
Since my dad worked for the FAA, we lived close to the airport. Today, I like where I live (in Anchorage) because I can still hear airplanes. To me, it’s like a lullaby. Or, I don’t even hear them. If my husband complains, I ask, “What planes?”
Who has inspired you?
My parents. My mom was comparatively uneducated, but I learned more about life from her, and what she’s been through. My dad was a genuinely nice person. I’d compare every man I ever met to him and wonder, are you even close? He was smart, spoke three languages, and helped me with my homework.
Talking to my parents was like a history lesson. Mom spent a lot of time at (subsistence) camp. Dad grew up in Virginia. He used to ride a horse to school.
Did you ever watch The Virginian on TV?
No, I always preferred to read. Even now, except for “The Big Bang Theory.”
What is your favorite memory of your dad?
We got into a lot of mischief, me and my dad. He was my cohort.
On Christmas Eve, while Mom was at church, Dad and I stayed home and inspected the presents that his family sent from Virginia. He slit holes in the wrapping paper so we could peep inside. On Christmas morning, we’d act all surprised.
When I was in the sixth or seventh grade, Dad decided that our house needed painting. The store was out of paint stripper, so he had me climb up a ladder with a blow torch. I held the torch until the old paint bubbled, so I could easily peel it off. (Don’t try this at home.)
Who inspired you to work at NANA?
About five years ago, I brought my youngest son to NMS so he could apply for a job. While there, I visited with Hilda Haas (a senior HR director) and she encouraged me to apply for a front desk position at the Courtyard by Marriott Anchorage Airport. I absolutely loved it.
What is your current job?
I’m the general manager of the Residence Inn by Marriott Anchorage Midtown. I’ve been in this job for 15 months. Before that, I managed the SpringHill Suites Anchorage Midtown for almost exactly a year.
Tell us about the hotel management training.
It was serious. You learn from the ground up. My training included stints in housekeeping, maintenance, kitchen duty, and front desk operations.
I spent a summer at Denali Lodge, as the morning assistant manager. It was tough, working in the kitchen, when you have 400 people wanting breakfast at the same time. I used to have nightmares. There was never an end to the busloads of tourists. I prefer housekeeping!
Housekeeping is hands down the most critical job in the hotel. If we don’t have a clean room, we’re not selling it.
Where have you lived?
I left Alaska for about 22 years. I went to school in Oregon to become a teacher, but I met my husband. He joined the military, and his career had us living on bases in Louisiana, Alaska, New York State, Germany, Colorado, Japan, Kansas, and back in Alaska. He just retired, after 32 years of service—Alaska is home sweet home now.
What were your favorite places?
Germany and Japan. Both experiences made me see that we’re not so different. People are people.
What jobs have you held?
I took any job I could get. I stocked shelves in the warehouse at the military base’s Post Exchange. I decorated birthday cakes. I sorted mail. I cleaned quarters (housing, not coins). I worked at the equivalent of a 7-Eleven convenience store. I taught conversational English. Working as a clerk in a kitchen store suited me, because I love customer service.
What are important lessons that you’ve learned?
Leaving Kotzebue, I had to do things on my own. I had to come out of my shell and interact with people. I had to leave my comfort zone. I learned, while I was gone, not to take the opportunities we have (through NANA) for granted.
What advice do you have for young shareholders?
Leave Alaska, at least for a little while. Go Outside to school. Travel somewhere on vacation to see how diverse people really are. Leaving can help you appreciate Alaska even more: our Native and village corporations, our parents, our families. You find out what it means to be a NANA shareholder, when you leave and come back.
It’s always a good idea to travel. It stretches your imagination and opens you up to new ideas. Bring those ideas back. You can create change with fresh ideas.
Any surprises at work?
At the Residence Inn, pets are allowed, but there’s a three-pet maximum. One guest tried to check in with a dog, a cat, a bird, and a gerbil. We draw the line at rodents. We found a ferret in one of the rooms. That was a surprise.
Do you have any pets?
A dog named Remy. She’s a Corgi/Husky mix. She kept me company through three of my husband’s deployments (to Afghanistan and Iraq).
Have you had any famous guests?
John Baker and Katherine Keith stay with us before the Iditarod start. (They are both dog mushers from Kotzebue. John won the 2011 Iditarod Sled Dog Race, from Anchorage to Nome.)
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
When I was young, I took piano lessons. I returned to it when my husband was deployed. When I play, it takes all my concentration. I like the Russian composers. Rachmaninoff is my favorite.
What’s the best thing about your job?
This business is all about people, and I’m a people person. 100%! I love my staff. Without our crew, ours would be just another hotel.
Keeping good people isn’t magic. It’s a commitment. Part of that commitment is to give them room to grow and reach their full potential. When they ask to expand their experience and work in different areas of the hotel, we try to accommodate them.
When they have concerns, I listen. They want to do their job; they’re good at what they do. When there’s a problem, the first question I ask is why? Some issues can’t be fixed, but some can be solved by talking it through. When the employee chooses to stay and work through it, we all win.
Even though the hotel business is seasonal, we do our best to keep our people employed full time, year-round. There’s always work to do.
What are the strongest beliefs about what you do?
We have such a great pool of shareholders to choose from. We need to take that seriously when we hire. Currently, we have about 40 employees (at the Residence Inn) and about a third are shareholders. I believe we can do even better. NANA gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m in the position to give back.
Where do you hope to be in five years?
I like where I’m at. I love my job; I’m always learning. I love my staff—each of them has earned by respect. I like the hotel business. It’s not a job. It’s an adventure!
Lenora Moses was interviewed by Carol Richards, Director of Brand Communications for NANA Development Corporation.