The work culture fascinates him

IUBH alumnus Christoph Heyn is Senior Director for Mobile & Digital Guest Experience at Marriott International


“I have ants in the pants”, says Christoph Heyn. This fuelled Heyn, the son of a teacher from Meckenheim near Bonn, out into the world at an early age. “When I was six years old I wanted to convert my grandmother’s restaurant in Oberhausen into a hotel”, he recalls and laughs.

Start-up founder at 15

Since family vacations were usually in France, the now Senior Director for Mobile & Digital Guest Experience at Marriott International founded an internet travel business when he was only 15 years old. After completing high school, he decided to do a four-year degree programme at the IUBH University of Applied Sciences in Bad Honnef, where he could spend half of the time abroad.

“It’s as if it were made just for me”, says the 33 year old who now lives in the heart of Washington D.C. with his family.  “A half year internship in Los Angeles, one year studying in Arizona and then a six-month internship  in Washington D.C. landed me a job offer from my last employer before I even graduated from university.”

In the USA, Heyn appreciates the open work culture. “One does not care as much about age or formal career paths. Anyone who does a good job can move up relatively fast and easily.” Within nine year, he himself moved up from intern to Senior Director, something he thinks would be very difficult to accomplish in Germany.

In the USA he learned to communicate openly about his suggestions for improvement. The best idea wins, even if it comes from an intern. Heyn appreciates the internationality of Washington where he quickly found an interesting circle of friends. Although Washington is a huge city, life takes place in a small space. “On my way to work on a Vespa I have already had to wait to let the Pope pass, and one time for the US President to pass with his motorcade,” says Heyn. He advises young colleagues to go abroad as quickly as possible.

Living abroad with the family

“There is hardly an industry that is more international than the hotel industry, so it helps if you get a global perspective early on.” Young adults are also usually more flexible than those who have a family.

Heyn is in Washington D.C. with his family. “It is fabulous to live abroad, but with children I do not want to move every two years”, says the father of two toddlers. It is a stroke of good fortune for him that his relationship to his teenage sweetheart and current wife endured a seven-year long-distance relationship.

Basically, there are no hurdles for Germans who want to work in the USA. The hotel group Marriot helps generally with the work permit and work visa, but one has to comply with local visa requirements. Moving to the USA to work for Marriott is relatively easy if you have already worked for the company overseas. The visa process is a bit more difficult for external applicants.

Traveling is still the favourite hobby of the dedicated marathon runner. He is currently doing the rounds of the US states and has already visited 38 of them. In order to feel really at home in the USA he started a US-based “1 FC Köln” football fan club. “And I import Nutella from Germany and go out of my way to buy decent bread in the city”, says Christoph Heyn.


This article was published in AHGZ – Allgemeine Hotel- und Gastronomie-Zeitung, the only weekly newspaper for hotel and restaurant business in Germany.

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