From Night Auditor to Accounting Manager and College Graduate
Fresh out of an associate degree program for accounting and delivering a newborn baby, Sarah Dennis had her foot-in-the-door at the Royal Sonesta in New Orleans, Louisiana, as a night auditor supervisor.
During her night shifts, she remembered how she always knew she was destined for a successful career. She also knew everyone had to start somewhere. Sarah tried starting in banking for a few years, but it wasn’t the right fit. Then, she found hospitality. She will never forget those late nights.
“You have to believe in yourself,” said Sarah, who is now an accounting manager at Royal Sonesta New Orleans. “You have to push yourself because if you have doubt in yourself, no matter what you see, you will always feel doubt in what you can do.”
“[Sarah] was someone who was able to utilize the tuition reimbursement program, which helped pay for her to get her degree. That’s one of the wonderful benefits that Sonesta offers, in addition to some other pretty great ones as well.”
Sarah began the trek to a bachelor’s degree with this philosophy in mind when she landed her first role at Sonesta. As a mother of three with many classes to attend, her consistent work on the night shift soon turned into an accounting clerk position during the day. All of Sarah’s peers at the hotel saw her potential.
“Sarah has really shown that she wants to grow in the industry as well as grow into being, one day, a controller, which I believe she absolutely can,” said Charlotte Grant, human resources director for Royal Sonesta New Orleans.
With the support of the Sonesta team, Sarah continued to move forward in her career and education.
“Sonesta offers incredible benefits when it comes to continuing education,” Grant said. “[Sarah] was someone who was able to utilize the tuition reimbursement program, which helped pay for her to get her degree. That’s one of the wonderful benefits that Sonesta offers, in addition to some other pretty great ones as well.”
Sarah found inspiration to work hard and graduate both in her self-belief and those around her. She used to feel out of place around her peers, especially when her previous professor encouraged her to switch from a major in business to accounting.
“I mean, when I first went into accounting, I used to look around like, ‘I’m the only Black girl here,'” Sarah said.
At the hotel, she felt less alone. Sarah sensed her opportunity for growth as she witnessed multiple people who look like her become directors and managers quickly.
“That just gave me that, ‘Okay, I can do it.'” Sarah said. “I don’t have to wait till I’m 40 to get to that position I need to be to where I feel comfortable.”
In December 2020, Sarah earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting despite taking care of her kids when they got sick and even working from home when she fell ill. Sonesta ensured she was okay, sent everything she needed to accomplish her tasks, and allowed her flexibility to prioritize her family.
Today, Sarah continues to excel as an accounting manager and says she extends her family feeling to her coworkers. They all have each other’s full support.
“Sarah is an exceptional story,” Al Gross, general manager at the Royal Sonesta New Orleans, said. “She just got promoted recently, so give it a little time but I see her as an assistant controller, either here or somewhere else. And eventually, if she continues on that path, she definitely has the talent and the dedication to be a controller in our company.”
To anyone considering a job in hospitality, Sarah said to give it a try. She’s never known anyone in any department to end up not loving it.
“When I moved [to Sonesta], I was at the bottom of the barrel,” Sarah said. “Now I’m their manager.”