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Leadership Profile: Zanne Saunders

Leadership Profile: Zanne Saunders

Leadership Profiles: Suzanne "Zanne" Saunders

What do stealth bombers, spray paint, and hotels have in common? They are all part of the distinctive career story that led Zanne Saunders from industrial engineering to her role as Vice President of Design and Construction for HVMG. Zanne shares some of her best advice and unique experiences here.

What was your first job in hospitality?

I was part of a team that converted 100 Ameri-Suites Hotels to Hyatt Place in 12 months, thus creating a new brand. It may be one of the only times critical mass for a brand was reached in just a year.

If you weren't in the hotel business, what would you do for a living?

I would be in construction for sure. As a little girl, I carried around a Tonka dump truck instead of a baby doll. I was meant to be in this field!

You've got a free plane ticket and a complimentary hotel stay anywhere in the world. Where are you headed?

Somewhere in the South Pacific like Bora Bora. I would stay at a resort with overwater bungalows - those rooms on stilts in the water.

Aside from your current job, what position in your career had the most profound impact on you?

In my first job out of college, I worked as an industrial engineer on the B-2 Stealth Bomber project, which was classified at the time. I had a secret clearance which was a big deal to a 22-year-old! While in the beginning, it was just a job, it became so much more than that because I was working on a project that was going to help keep us safe in times of war. That had an impact on me. I got transferred to the final assembly plant at Edwards Airforce base in California, and it was there that I saw the impact that just one person can have on something much larger than just the one job I did.

The plane had never been flown before. There were only two planes at this time, and we had another five planes in some form of production. The first test pilot came into our super large secret hanger with no windows to speak to us about the impact we were making for our country. To hear his confidence in us, these young kids right out of college, was incredible. I was impressed by the courage he had to take that leap of faith to be the first pilot to test this plane that we all were making. I felt very patriotic and honored to be an American. To this day, I have never witnessed it in flight personally; that is a bucket list thing for me. When I left the program it was still classified and so none of the planes flew out in the open. It was still a secret.

What pandemic-era change are you most eager to get back to normal? What change are you planning to hold onto?

I'm ready to meet in person and make connections with people. I do enjoy working from home a few days a week.

What is the craziest thing that ever happened to you in a hotel?

I am in construction and renovate and build hotels (I'm not in operations so do not have that perspective). During one of my renovations, I walked into a room that was under construction, and one of the workers was spray painting his car bumper on the new carpet. This project was in Denver in the dead of winter, and he wanted to use the heat of the room to keep him warm. Crazy!

Who is your business hero?

My Dad. He passed away in 2004 and, as I've gotten older, I've discovered things he accomplished in his career that are amazing. He rose through the ranks at Dupont where he worked his whole career. He had no formal higher education yet ended his career at the top position in engineering and an industry leader/expert in all things "piping." Most of his work applied to manufacturing plants/facilities that use piping to carry liquids to make products such as gas, oil, paints, and even radioactive elements like plutonium. You see, he had a top-secret clearance at one of his first jobs and worked at one of the only plants in the USA that made plutonium, the Savannah River Site. Maybe like father, like daughter?