< PrevNext > Leeny Oberg Marriott International CFO Share Now an 18-year veteran of Marriott International, Leeny Oberg assumed her role as CFO in 2016, just two months after Marriott announced the largest merger in hotel industry history. Her approach to her career is to continually learn and grow and to take things one year at a time, a mind-set that guided the organization through last year's surprise bidding war for Starwood and now the integration of the two massive companies. She spoke with BTN lodging editor Julie Sickel.BTN: What was your first priority as CFO?With the merger there was an extraordinary amount of work in front of us to get the deal financed, approved, closed and then begin integration. But the first and most important thing was to get together with my team and to start to build the way we would be working together. One of my favorite country songs—I love country music—is a song called "Roll With It," and that was a very apropos motto for the situation. Things were changing every day; [my team] had a new boss, we had this massive merger. It was a great way of saying, "You know what? Things are going to be unusual and unexpected, and we're going to all just roll with it."BTN: Now that the Starwood transaction has closed, what items are on your triage list?One of the biggest ones is integrating the two legacy companies. We want to make sure that we're combining them and making them as efficient as possible, taking best practices from both places and putting them into action. We're working on our loyalty program and trying to make that the best possible for all of our customers, and there's work with our partners there, the credit card partners, etc. There's also growing the business. I work a lot with the development group to make sure that we're doing everything we can to grow our brands.BTN: Your resume includes Goldman Sachs and Chase Manhattan, as well as an MBA from Stanford University. What brought you to Marriott?In 1997, I was working at Sallie Mae and Marriott was looking for somebody to do a spin-off of their management business, Sodexo Marriott, and so they hired me to help them do that spin-off. I was with Sodexo Marriott for a few years, and I came back in 1999 to join Marriott's investor relations team. For lots of people, change is hard or it's worrisome because you don't know exactly what to expect, but I'm a big believer in change." BTN: And you've stayed ever since. Is it hospitality that got you, or Marriott as a company?Marriott for me has been a unique combination of terrific finance work, as well as a culture that particularly fits with my values. It's a business that is always changing, always innovating, and it's very much a people-driven business. Once I got here, I knew that this was where I wanted to be. One of the things I value so much, too, is the company's approach to diversity: diversity of opinions, diversity of leaders. It makes it a richer workplace and a better business.BTN: Who has been your most important mentor?My first and foremost mentor was my mom. Although she didn't have your classic business work experience, she approached her life as an incredibly optimistic, people-centered, energetic, can-do person. It really had a big impact on me as I thought about how I wanted to approach my work, my family, my life. It has been amazing to me how consistently I've felt that impact, no matter what age I am.BTN: If you could go back and give some advice to 20-year-old Leeny, what would you tell her?Don't worry about 20 years from now; worry about finding what it is that you really like to do. You're going to do it better because you enjoy it. I would be remiss not to tell her to work hard. And I would also tell her change is a good thing. For lots of people, change is hard or it's worrisome because you don't know exactly what to expect, but I'm a big believer in change. It helps you grow; it helps you stretch and learn new things and new skills.