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Mary D’Argenis-Fernandez grew up practically living in hotels. Her family spent their summers traveling and staying at different properties, sometimes for weeks on end. While their father worked, Mary and her sister, Katrina, would pass their time people-watching. “We would sit for hours in the lobby and watch the action around us,” says Mary. “We noticed how the staff greeted guests when they checked in and interacted with guests in general.”

Her love of being immersed in the hotel industry was born from these annual trips, but her career in hospitality started when she was in high school working at Disney’s Magic Kingdom making ice cream cones. “I loved my job and the company,” she says. “I had fun every day. I laughed with my co-workers and had a blast.”

Although Mary originally intended to pursue a law degree, she decided to follow the path she knew would make her happier and give her the most professional satisfaction. With that, Mary returned to the Walt Disney Company after graduate school where she was promoted to a restaurant manager and an area manager soon thereafter.

In that first year, Mary was selected to be a facilitator for the Walt Disney Company’s legendary training program, Traditions. “In that role, I realized I could make an impact in the way employees interacted with guests and how they felt about their jobs,” she says. “By helping them feel connected to their work, there was the potential to increase retention, guest satisfaction, and profitability.”

Subsequent roles at Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, and Fairmont Hotels followed the years she spent at Disney. In 2015, Mary launched MDA Hospitality and counts some of the world’s most prestigious hotels as her clients, including Conrad properties in New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles, the Waldorf Astoria Chicago, and the historic Arizona Biltmore. In addition to these iconic properties, clients include luxury residential communities, clubs, a national specialty grocer, and an international technology company.

Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts from the College of the Holy Cross, a Master of Education from Worcester State University, and a Master of Business Administration from Webster University.

Although Florida is home, Mary spends more than half of her time on the road. “It’s just like when I was at Disney,” she says. “I love my job and never feel like I’m working.”

*E – explicit language may be used in this podcast.