Paula Renick, Senior Vice President at Elliot Associates, has spearheaded many assignments over her expansive career for many prestigious retail and hospitality clients, including Prada, Kmart, Harley Davidson, Jo-Ann Stores, Swarovski, Diesel, J Crew, Bloomingdale’s, Lenscrafters, Citi Trends, Le Gourmet Chef, Duane Reade, Universal Studios, Papa Murphy’s, and Boston Market, to name a few.

We spoke to Paula about women in executive leadership roles, technology, and more.

You have placed talent at an incredible list of Fortune 500 Companies. Is there a specific challenge or a particular advantage to completing a search for a larger company? Why?
That’s a great question – actually there are pros and cons when working with both large and small organizations. Generally, larger organizations have greater resources at their disposal which allows for additional stretch on the level of talent the company ultimately selects. On the flip side, larger companies tend to have more team participation in the selection process which can add additional layers as well as lots of time and complexity to the interview process. Smaller organizations tend to be more nimble and not so hierarchical which can create a palpable sense of partnership. At the end of the day, the selection centers on the culture of the organization and that is the “match magic” a great search partner can deliver.

How have women in leadership roles evolved since you started working in the hospitality industry?
Having started quite some time ago, my experience dates back to when women launched their careers in the “Admin” spot. Today, there are so many more entry points afforded women – and that spans every possible career choice from Architecture to Zoology! While women today have overcome barriers to promotion at all levels, what we need to see more of is women ascending the ladder to the C-suite, not only in the hospitality industry, but across all fields of endeavor.

Historically, we have seen many American brands expanding internationally. Lately, we have seen more international brands enter the U.S. market. Do you see these companies having staying power in the American scene?
This is one of the most exciting areas of our industry. International choices afford the American diner the opportunity to experience a foreign country and its heritage without ever traveling abroad. Concepts that plant their flag here need to be amply funded so they have the staying power when the market takes a dip, along with the aid of an American national hospitality pro to help them navigate the myriad of challenges they will face building their brand here. Clearly, the American consumer has a huge appetite for variety, especially the millennials who are readily driving consumption. It is the perfect time for flags.

In your opinion, what is one quality that makes a successful C-Suite executive?
I would suggest three, aside from their intellectual and strategic prowess: humility, compassion and kindness, all having been learned and perfected on the way up the ladder.

There is much discussion in the industry about technology taking over roles previously held by human talent. How is this trend impacting the industry?
Technology has sped up the entire business cycle. Mobile ordering, food preparation, delivery and hotel greeter roles now held by robots, coupled with the ability to pay for a meal with a click of your phone, removes the human element from the transaction. It is a trend that does add a level of excitement as we all wait for the next great techno-wizardry to streamline the process. While this surely makes things go faster, I’m not so sure it makes the world a kinder, gentler place as we move further and further away from the human touch. And, one could ask, isn’t that what hospitality is all about?

Why Elliot?
I was recruited 16 years ago from another executive search firm and the same draw exists today – to be part of a culture and a team that is really smart, where colleagues are genuinely supportive and share pride in the brand, where our unique differences are hailed as strengths and where over time blend into a family.

What we need to see more of is women ascending the ladder to the C-suite.
Paula Renick, Senior Vice President