June Member Spotlight

Looking for someone who exemplifies a life of service, look no further than Jennifer Middleton.  Jennifer attributes her happy attitude, confidence, and career and service success to three key things:
  1. She lives to serve others.
  2. She partners with others to get things done and to think outside the box.
  3. She maximizes the value of many of associations, including the Hospitality Association, Chamber, Lodging Association, and, most of all, SGMP.
Growing up in the area, she began her life of service in high school, joining and serving in the Future Business Leaders of America.   Then Jennifer went off to Tuscaloosa where she earned her B.A. in English and Spanish at the University of Alabama.  While there, she immediately jumped into volunteer opportunities, organizing the first homecoming parade float for the Residence Hall Association.  It was through this effort that she discovered the power of partnering and asking.  She was able to get the trailer, truck, driver, turf, and more all donated by local businesses simply by asking!  Her first taste of conference management and execution was when U of A was chosen to host Southeast Association of College University Residence Halls Conference, and from then on hospitality was in her blood. She went on to serve in many ways while at the University of Alabama, ultimately receiving the President’s Award from the Residence Hall Association.
After college, Jennifer started her career managing trade shows and conferences for Southern Convention Services, then Bentley Systems, then the Tom Bevill Center.  She dove into each role and learned everything she could about sale and leadership.  She joined and served on many organizations, including the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Executives, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber, the Hospitality Association, Many PTAs, Dance Boards, and SGMP, just to name a few.  In every case, Jennifer not only joined, but volunteered to drive the organization forward and lead many successful initiatives.
Through her contacts at these organizations, Jennifer was pulled (briefly) out of hospitality to take a position as the Interactive Media Director for Rocket City Broadcasting.  She excelled and enjoyed the role, but ultimately her passion for hospitality drew her back into the industry, leading to her position today as Director of Sales at Simply Sonesta Suites. 
Jennifer has won awards too numerous to list, from top sales awards at almost all of her work positions, to service awards across every organization she participates in.  Jennifer attributes much of her success to her hospitality mentors, and they know exactly who they are.  Due to the impact that they’ve had on her success in life (not just career but all aspects of life), she actively mentors others every chance she gets in order to help them achieve their goals. 
When asked about the value that the Hospitality Association provides in her life and career, she replied that “Years ago when I attended my first HMCHA meeting, I thought I want to be them when I grow up. I didn’t know much about this business, but I was eager to learn. I attended events, I networked, I volunteered, I learned and I grew into the hospitality professional I am today. Surrounding yourself with business professionals that you admire in your field is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself both personally and professionally. I have made life-long friendships, and we have a circle of trust and support that is irreplaceable.”
Jennifer also offered advice on how we can continue to grow.  “The landscape of our industry is evolving so fast, but as leaders we have to figure out a way to educate the next generation of the hospitality workforce and share the value of education, networking and mentorship. We need to help them see the value of a generational workforce and encourage them to find a trusted mentor or two or three that will help them be successful. That is what I did. We need them to feel comfortable building personal relationships and learning to build rapport in person rather than electronic devices. We need to collaborate with young people so that we can marry the old world with the new, and hopefully that will be the perfect recipe for a successful and peaceful evolution of our industry. I always say, Hospitality has something for everyone no matter what your strength or weakness is. Everyone fits here. We have to do a better job as an industry educating the public about hospitality careers.“
A stellar career in hospitality and in service organizations for over 28 years, Jennifer exemplifies what it really means to genuinely care about and serve others.  While this has greatly contributed to her success, it is not why she does it – she just loves helping people.