Heather Ciszczon’s hospitality career began at Troon Golf, where she was responsible for the design and development of golf clubs and spas across the U.S. During the 2008 recession, the Phoenix native went back to school, pursuing a graduate degree in construction management from Arizona State University, and eventually landing at Two Roads Hospitality (now part of Hyatt). In 2019, Ciszczon joined NuovoRE. Recently named chief development officer, she has been integral to the development of properties like the 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis, which exemplifies NuoveRE’s philosophy of restoring historic properties into transformative experiences that honor their locations.
When did you know you wanted to work in the hospitality field?
Heather Ciszczon: In high school, I worked for a semi-custom home developer, where I had a variety of responsibilities. It opened my eyes to so much in the real estate, design, and construction field. The more I learned, the more I wondered ‘why does it happen this way and how can I make it better?’
How did you get into design?
HC: I studied English in college (mostly because I love to read), but it took time and several people in the industry to pull me into design. Architecture school was all about being a Starchitect and creating statement buildings. I hate being anywhere near the spotlight. I just wanted to create truly memorable experiences in buildings. It took a while to realize there was a space for me, leading talented teams from behind the scenes and diligently working to keep a vision intact.
What were your memorable career stops along the way?
HC: I’ve worn about every hat there is. I started with Troon Golf, essentially tech services for clubhouses, fitness centers, spas, and maintenance barns, but we also designed in-house too. I moved on to an architecture firm to start their in-house interior design department, and we focused on clubhouses and hotels. I loved that our managing principal encouraged back-of-house tours and hotel stays. The recession of 2008 killed all my projects, and it devastated me when I realized that I personally needed to see drawings come to fruition. The owners of the Hermosa Inn [in Paradise Valley, Arizona] believed in me, and we bootstrapped a small renovation there where I handled design, FF&E, purchasing, and install. It was insane, and I enlisted my friends and even my family [to help].
How did you end up at NuovoRE?
HC: From there, I got a master’s degree in construction management from Arizona State University. After a few more project management and design jobs, I landed a job with Shirli Sensenbrenner at Two Roads Hospitality. Shirli has led amazing projects and trusted me with [a lot of] responsibility. That bloomed into a relationship with Mike Everett, who was at NuovoRE opening the Revival Hotel Baltimore. I’ve been at NuovoRE for the last four years. We have so much exciting impact work and initiatives ahead of us. It’s the next adventure in my career.
What did you learn from your time at Two Roads?
HC: Four things: ask questions, be direct, don’t get involved in drama, and have fun.
Most rewarding part of the job?
HC: The team. It takes a lot of people, points of view, and skill sets to pull off these projects. I love supporting my teams to coax the best out of each person and to create an environment where collaboration can happen. The process is almost as rewarding as the final product.
What inspires you?
HC: Art. Museums. I love how art asks questions whereas design aims to provide answers.
What keeps you passionate?
HC: The industry keeps me passionate. It’s full of curious, collaborative, caring, and hardworking people who are driven to provide a wonderful experience to others. That drive is invigorating to me. I never go to bed thinking, ‘I’ll just ease up on X, Y, and Z.’ It’s always about ‘What more can I do tomorrow?’
Favorite place to travel?
HC: I’ve kept a journal where I tally all my trips every year since I was in high school. As long as I am traveling and I have a big trip planned in front of me, I’m good. That said, I have my eye on Melbourne, Auckland, and Oslo.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
HC: Stop asking for advice from others. Just plow ahead the best you can.