Meghan Walsh was led to her passion for storytelling and communication by a college mentor, but she found the perfect place to grow her content career at Hilton. As the Senior Director, Content Services, Walsh now oversees essentially all sides of content management and publishing for Global Marketing, and says her role grew with her over the four years she’s spent at Hilton. How has she done it? A lot of heart — and a serious conversation with her tendency to envision the worst-case scenario.
We talked with Walsh about how she’s made her role her own, how Hilton is making storytelling special and what she looks for when she’s hiring (and she’s hiring a lot). She also shared her book recommendations, dream vacation and undying love for true crime podcasts.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I’ve been in this role for four years. Over the years, I’ve expanded my areas of responsibility to include digital asset management, content management and publishing, and adaptive content creation. Before this job, I was at another hospitality company working on content technology strategy and planning. I’ve worked in for-profit and nonprofit organizations, in marketing and technology departments, as a contractor and as an FTE. I’ve seen the different sides of the content conversation.
What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day?
I tend to open email first and process anything new that’s come in overnight. I’m a big advocate for Inbox Zero, so a quick email run-through allows me to move things to my to-do list and get myself situated for the day. I do not spend time answering emails at this point – just figuring out which ones require action.
The last thing I do is review my to-do list and check things off. I like the satisfaction of tasks disappearing from the list!
What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of your job or company?
I spend my days looking at the content lifecycle, seeing how it functions within Hilton’s marketing ecosystem and identifying what we can do to be even better content advocates and publishers. Having the opportunity to focus on content flow, operations, structure and technology at this depth is unusual. There are not a lot of jobs like this one out there and I’m really lucky I have it.
What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about your company that you think they should?
Even as a 100-year-old company, we see there is always room for improvement and evolution. We continue to try new things in how we work internally and what we produce for guests, so we can be even better at championing the importance and value of travel. This is a ridiculously exciting time to be working at Hilton.
What are you trying to improve on?
I really like details and getting in the weeds, so I’m continually trying to step back and see the bigger picture. I’m also working on my ability to articulate those visions to others in clear and meaningful terms. I’m wordy, so that’s hard.
What do you love most about your job or your company?
I love that my job is constantly evolving. I came in to one job, but that grew in its area of responsibility, then another then another. But they are all connected, so I’m adding value to my team and the broader company. That just makes me happy. The growth in and at Hilton has been amazing to watch over the past four years. There are opportunities here to really have an impact, which is important to me.
What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?
Personal guilty pleasure: I’m a true crime podcast junkie. I am fascinated by how people treat each other and you often see the worst and the best in these horrific moments. Professionally, my team has grown exponentially over the past year, so I’m doing a lot of reading to help me be a better leader and boss. A few of those are “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, “Rise” by Patty Azzarello and “The Ideal Team Player” by Patrick Lencioni.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now?
Own what you are passionate about and the work you like to do, and don’t settle for doing things you don’t like or care about. I’m currently hiring a director-level position. This is a transformational hire for me and my team. I ask every candidate what their passion is in the content arena – and there is not a right or wrong answer to get the job. But how a person talks about their passion, how they’ve worked that into past jobs, says a lot. I hired someone once who had limited subject matter experience, but communication was a big part of the job and his passion for teaching guitar came up in his interview. It sold me. I’d hire him again.
Who was the most influential person in your life and why?
A person who had great impact, one that changed the course for me, was my college advisor, Dr. Boyd. I went to school intending to be a teacher, then hated the classroom work. Dr. Boyd’s help centering my focus, encouraging me and challenging me to try different things was pivotal in my decision to change my major, intern in Washington D.C. and find a job that spoke to my passions. He also shared stories of his travel and anti-apartheid advocacy work in Africa, which lead to my dream to go there; I did in 2013. I’m really grateful to him.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
To stop telling stories before they happen. I would get really worked up about a problem, a conversation, a presentation because everything had already gone horribly wrong in my head. 9.5 times out of 10 that was wasted energy because what happened in my head was always a worst case scenario — and that rarely materialized. Learning to recognize that voice in my head and control it changed a lot for me in how I approach work and conflicts. I became a better boss and employee when I stopped — or at least cut back — on telling the story before it happened.
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
I’ve had some amazing bosses and some really horrible ones. The best bosses (I won’t pick just one) always let me have my own voice. That means I didn’t have to mimic their speaking or presentation styles, and they gave me constructive feedback on documents but didn’t try to eliminate my voice from the story. They respected my expertise in content strategy and management, calling on me for advice rather than telling me what to do when they didn’t have the same background. I felt secure disagreeing and debating with these bosses because they not only let me have my voice, but expected me to use it.
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