Born in St. Thomas and raised in St. Croix, U.S.V.I., Yvette Thomas-Henry was encouraged at an early age to be the best at whatever she put her mind to. Determined to succeed, she traveled to the U.S. to complete her higher education. It was fate that brought her to the hospitality industry after studying speech-language pathology. In 2007, she began her journey with the Four Seasons as the director of rooms in New York. Today, Thomas-Henry has worked her way up to being the general manager of the Atlanta location. As a minority in leadership, she strives for the advancement of women in hospitality.
What inspires you to show up at work every day?
I love what I do and the people I work with. That is fundamentally the inspiration for showing up at work each day. From a very young age my mom instilled the values of hard work and being our best; no matter what you do, be your best at it, she would say. That was her mantra and it resonates with me to this day. Each day, I show up at work trying to be the best GM I can be for my team. It is demanding work, yet with the right team — and I have the best team I could ask for — it can be so much fun. Even when we don’t hit all the high notes we are striving for, it’s fun doing it with the men and women on my team who are some of the best service professionals in the industry. The desire to continually earn the right to lead these individuals pushes me to be my best.
Name your favorite role models for success in two different industries.
There are so many amazing women out there breaking glass ceilings and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. Serena Williams is one of my all-time role models. She plays not to compete, but to win! I love that mindset. It’s not enough to be in the game the goal is to take home the championship. How can you go wrong when you approach your role from that mindset. I also love that there is a vulnerability to her that still allows her to be human. She, for me, is the complete package. I adore our former first lady Michelle Obama, who has shown us how elegant and powerful it can be to exist under a microscope and yet, not lose your way. Instead, she found a way to inspire generations of women across the globe. I can only hope in some small way I am living up to the examples set by these two women.
Name three books that changed how you saw life that you would recommend to others.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This book showed me how women could be victims of men and the circumstances in their lives. It also showed me the power of women who refuse to be beaten down, [and] come out fighting and master the odds. The strength shown by the women in that book really moved me.
Emotional Intelligence by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. This book opened my eyes to the power of understanding your emotional triggers and their impact on how you react to others and how you show up in work and life. Learning to master this area and knowing how to use it is one of the most critical pieces to success at work and in life.
Anything by James Baldwin. I remember the first time as a young girl reading my first books by James Baldwin — The Fire Next Time, Nobody Knows My Name, Giovanni’s Room. It was like receiving a secret and then gaining close access to Black life painted so vividly that I could not put his books down. Anyone who looks to understand the Black experience in America needs only start with his books.
Describe the voice of success that you hear in your head.
The way I define success has changed over the years. At the root of it all, it still goes back to being my best. Other layers have been added over the years: Being a great mom and role model to my sons. Having them be proud of me. Being a great friend to my besties. They allow me to be me and I strive to show up for them no matter what they are facing in their lives. Being someone who mentors and develops others. Being successful has no greater responsibility than to bring others along on the journey. Developing others is essential. Setting personal and professional goals and exceeding them. Giving back to the community — there will always be individuals in the community that are less fortunate. Paying it forward by giving back is incredibly important to me. Blending work and personal life in a way that allows me to be authentically me.