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Alumnus shares insights on business world

By : Max Lakin

Matt Quimet '80, right, president of the Hotel Group of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., speaks with Binghamton students Brian Kwiatkowski, left, and Michael Britvan at College-in-theWoods' Mohawk Hall.

Hotel executive and Binghamton alumnus Matt Ouimet spoke on leadership and career success during a March 14 program sponsored by the Alumni and Parent Relations Office, the Career Development Center and College-in-the-Woods.

Ouimet, who graduated in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, worked for the Walt Disney Co. in various capacities beginning in 1989. In 2006, he was named president of the Hotel Group for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. He oversees global operations for more than 850 hotels in 95 countries.

During the hour-long seminar, Ouimet spoke about his career and translated his experience into practical advice for the roughly 50 students in attendance.

Ouimet described the business and personal tactics he gleaned in his 17 years with Disney — time he spent in roles as executive general manager of Disney Vacation Club, president of Disney Cruise Line and president of the Disneyland Resort, where he oversaw two theme parks and three hotels with 20,000 employees.

“I always wanted to be the person that fixed the problem,” he said. “I was always task-oriented.”

Ouimet, a Seneca resident and resident adviser during his time on campus, pointed out simple ways of thinking and acting that have contributed to his success, such as “building a personal toolbox.”

“The biggest single investment you own is you,” he said. “Work 5 percent harder than the other guy. It gets noticed.”

Ouimet, who reports as a member of Starwood’s senior leadership team, also suggested graduates attempt seeking employment in places they may not have first considered, even if that means stepping out of their comfort zone.

“Work for a company where people are smarter than you,” Ouimet said. “Don’t be the smartest guy in the room.”

“I think it’s an incredible opportunity to hear from an actual president of a major company,” said Bryan Kwiatkowski, a senior management major with a concentration in consulting and leadership. “It’s a symbol of where this University is going in the future.”

Speaking on why he decided to return to Binghamton, Ouimet cites his own career search.

“I don’t remember having the opportunity while I was here,” he said. “Students need the exposure to real situations. I’ve got a believable story they can identify with, and I’m 25 years ahead.”

The former Binghamton wrestler addressed questions about the weak American dollar, as well as the value of fluency in a second language in a changing and burgeoning global economy. He cited development in China and the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing as an unprecedented business market.

Perhaps some of Ouimet’s most point­ed advice, and that which seemed to garner the most rapt attention, came in his closing remarks, in which he provided three basic business obligations: obligations to yourself, to team and to family and friends.

“Surround yourself with the right people,” he said. “Someone values your ideas ... someday you’re all going to be leaders in some way.”

Kwiatkowski, a captain on the University swimming and diving team, said he had heard of Ouimet’s athletic achievements, and was excited to listen to someone with similar aspirations.

“It’s good advice about how to take on your career,” he said. “To know what to expect in the future.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08