The Scene: Week of May 19


Marriott International honoree Gregory Scott takes a selfie with Chairman J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr. (Courtesy of Marriott International/Courtesy of Marriott International)
May 18, 2014
Marriott awards : A whisperer worth shouting about

Nejet Beshir is known to her colleagues as “The Guest Whisperer.” She is the front desk supervisor at the Residence Inn Alexandria Old Town/Duke Street, and they say she has a seemingly innate way of knowing what her customers want.

When a guest came to the front desk demanding something other than plastic hangers for his fine suits, Beshir said, “give me 20 minutes.” She knew the hotel didn’t have any, so she drove to the department store down the street to buy fancier ones. When a 70-something couple said they got the best sleep of their life on the hotel’s pillows, Beshir let them take some home.

Beshir and eight other employees of Marriott International were honored Wednesday with the hotel chain’s J. Willard Marriott Award of Excellence, which honors rank-and-file employees who have excelled at one of the company’s 4,000 hotels around the world. Honorees this year came from far-flung cities, including Mumbai, Hamburg and Doha. The staffers were feted at a ceremony at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, where Chairman J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr. and chief executive Arne Sorenson were on hand to address the crowd.

“The associates that we honor tonight are responsible for the details that get noticed, and the millions that don’t,” Sorenson said.

Another local honoree, Gregory Scott, is a District resident and guest services engineer at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. After about two decades of homelessness, Scott’s job with Marriott helped him purchase his first car and, eventually, his first home.


1776 co-founder Evan Burfield at the Challenge Festival. (Steven Overly/Steven Overly)

“It’s a beautiful place. I love the organization,” Scott said.

— Sarah Halzack

Shred cred: From paper to digital media

Shredding paper, Marc Wilensky says, is easy.

Destroying digital files and electronic devices? That’s a bit trickier.

The Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union hosted its annual “community shredding event” earlier this month and, for the first time, welcomed digital and electronic media.

“In recent years, thieves and hackers have become extremely sophisticated in how they go about stealing private information,” said Wilensky, vice president of marketing for the Germantown-based credit union.

About 100 people attended the May 10 event at MAFCU’s headquarters, which was open to the public. Participants destroyed (and recycled) 8.5 tons of paper documents, 305 pounds of cardboard and more than 800 pounds of hard drives, phones laptops, desktop printers, cables and DVDs.

— Abha Bhattarai

Cityline Partners view: A stream runs through it

Look out the window from the top floor offices of Cityline Partners and you’ll see what the developer’s focus has been the past four years, since buying the biggest portfolio in Tysons.

Next to the parking lot is a stream valley, Scott’s Run. Given all the roadways and offices plazas that surround, even people who have worked in Tysons for years have probably never noticed it. Yet the stream and the trees and plants surrounding it are the centerpiece of two massive development projects Cityline plans for the area, Scott’s Run North and South.

Cityline’s Donna Shafer touches all parts of Cityline development’s, from the zoning, to the sales, to office leasing and retail deals. She has helped negotiate big apartment deals in recent years for home builders Home Properties, JLB Partners and Hanover Cos. “The residential market just picked up so fast. Nobody was ready for it,” she said in the Cityline conference room last week.

There are millions of square feet of development planned for Tysons, with all the companies jockeying for identity and position, but Shafer points out that she has the best green space. “Nobody has Rock Creek Park running through their development,” she said.

— Jonathan O’Connell

1776 discussion:
In-house innovating

Corporations must find ways to infuse the fast-moving, risk-taking spirit of entrepreneurship into the way they do business if they want to fend off fresh-faced competitors and recognize new market opportunities.

That was the big takeaway from “The Corporate Revolution” panel last week presented as part of 1776’s weeklong Challenge Festival. Since it debuted last February, the District-based start-up hub has sought to partner with large corporate sponsors to more closely align big businesses with fledgling ventures.

“If you’re thirsting for growth, and you need to invest in and acquire new technology and talent in your company to drive that growth, then you want to find that technology and talent at an earlier and earlier stage,” 1776 co-founder Evan Burfield said. “You have to engage with and connect up with start-up communities.”

That’s the approach publishing and education giant Pearson has taken to innovation, said Diana Stepner, the vice president of innovation partnerships and developer relations. The company sponsors 1776, and numerous other start-up incubators and accelerators in order to keep tabs on new ideas bubbling up in the education sector.

At Booz Allen Hamilton, Executive Vice President Karen Dahut gave each of her employees a “Get Out of Jail Free” card as an incentive to try things in a different way. If an idea ultimately fizzles out, an employee just puts the card on her desk and amnesty is granted.

And Mark Smith, director of the MedStar Institute for Innovation, said his division was formed to identify new and more effective ways of improving patient health. Whether those ideas come from inside or outside the regional health care provider doesn’t much matter, he said.

— Steven Overly

Wall of Hope: Urban Country’s cause

Urban Country, a Bethesda home furnishings retailer, recently participated in the Race for Hope, a 5K race that raises money for brain tumors and research. The company’s 150-member team also constructed a 32-foot long Wall of Hope, which featured 300 photos of drawings, stories and poems for friends and loved ones who have or had a brain tumor. The group has raised more than $75,000 since 2006 and typically dedicates the run to Jeffrey Roth, the company founder, who died of brain cancer in 1999. This year, the team also ran in celebration of 13-year-old brain cancer survivor Mikka Harvey.

— Vanessa Small

Welcome to the firm: Hello, I’m ...

Law firm Squire Sanders rolled out the red carpet for the newest additions to its team May 7, welcoming Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, with a cocktails and hors d’oeuvre reception.

Cardenas, founding partner of Miami law firm Tew Cardenas and D.C. consulting and lobby firm Cardenas Partners, recently joined Squire Sanders as a senior partner. Joining with him were principal Emily Zammit and legislative adviser Kevin Farrelly.

The event drew Cliff Stearns of Apco Worldwide, Squire Sanders D.C. Managing Partner John Burlingame and Anne Northrup of Bracewell & Giuliani.

— Catherine Ho

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