SHA grad thrives where tech meets hospitality

June 22, 2016

By Charles McKenzie

Peter Thurston Carrera ’16 has always been an early planner. In just the second grade, the young entrepreneur got an official peddler’s license for his drink stand, and just four years after that, he decided that it was time to get serious about preparing for college.

Carrera seized every experience he could during his four years here. In addition to majoring in hotel administration, he completed an impressive tech-centered internship, yearly externships with Starwood Hotels and Resorts, three minors in the humanities, and four very successful years in the Hotel Leadership Development Program (HLDP), the last of them as student general manager of the Statler Hotel.

As a final measure of his many achievements, Carrera won the Joseph Drown Special Prize, which is awarded to one graduating senior each year for “academic excellence, extracurricular leadership, entrepreneurial spirit, social responsibility, and well-conceived career goals and aspirations.” That description could have been written just for Carrera.

Carrera’s plan to get to Cornell began to take shape in the sixth grade, when he tagged along on his older brother’s campus visit and fell in love with West Campus. The next phase in his plan was to attend Reneta ’84, MPS ’01 and Mark ’86, MMH ’98 McCarthy’s popular Summer College course for high-school students, in hospitality operations management. That’s when he fell hard for hospitality and Cornell.

Peter Carrera '16 during his internship at Sabre Hospitality Solutions near Dallas, Texas

Peter Carrera ’16 during his internship at Sabre Hospitality Solutions near Dallas, Texas

The next summer, Carrera juggled two prestigious internships, one in guest services and sales at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C. and the other in the Information Science and Technology Directorate at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Four summers later, he was able to merge the two interests he had pursued since high school into one prize internship with Sabre Hospitality Solutions (SHS), a leading hospitality technology company founded by Hotelie Felix Laboy ’86. There Carrera helped migrate 2,500 new client hotels from another company’s software platform to SynXis, Sabre’s central reservations software, and analyzed their experience with the move.

Carrera’s interest in Sabre was piqued during his sophomore year at Cornell when Brant Deranger, SHS’s vice president of service delivery, visited one of his classes as a guest lecturer. Carrera approached Deranger after class, and their conversation led to a phone interview for an internship opportunity a year later.

Peter Carrera '16 as a baby with his father's Wall Street Journal

Peter Carrera ’16, as a baby, with his father’s Wall Street Journal

For its first-ever class of interns, SHS chose Hotelies for three of four coveted slots. Carrera worked in service delivery. Classmates Raul Muñoz and Katherine Chen worked in sales and in digital marketing, respectively.

Carrera chose Sabre over a very attractive rotational hotel internship because he saw that the opportunity to create and deliver technology to hoteliers would give him a new perspective on hospitality. He also loved the company’s stellar reputation, and its laser-like focus on new technology mirrored his own.

At SHA, Carrera’s leadership and drive for service combined with his focus on the uses of technology to earn him TA positions in Business Computing, Advanced Business Modeling, and Introduction to Hotel Operations.

Just when you think you have Carrera typecast as a tech-driven Hotelie, however, he describes his creative writing minor, a treasured outlet for yet another one of his passions. He also minored in English and medieval studies. The diversity of his transcript shines in course credits in education, nutritional science, philosophy, and even plant pathology, his mother’s field.

Peter Carrera '16 with Rick Adie '75

Peter Carrera ’16 speaks with Rick Adie ’75, general manager of the Statler Hotel. For his senior year, Carrera was the Statler’s student general manager, the culmination of his four years in the Hotel Leadership Development Program (HLDP).

“One of the biggest pieces of advice I give to new students is to get out there and meet the incredible people on campus,” he said. “We are spoiled in having the best hospitality program and faculty in the world. This doesn’t mean we should spend every hour of our lives in Statler Hall.”

Carrera’s planning continues. His five-year goals include entering an internationally focused MBA/MA dual-degree program offered by Wharton and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

For now though, he has landed a position in a highly selective leadership development program run by FRHI Hotels and Resorts, which owns the Fairmont, Raffles, and Swissôtel brands. He will soon start as assistant rooms manager at the Forbes triple-five-star-rated Fairmont Grand Del Mar in San Diego. TripAdvisor ranked the 249-room resort as the number-one hotel in the United States in 2014.

As he looked ahead to leaving campus this summer, Carrera said he would reflect on how his extraordinary years at Cornell have enriched his life, adding, “The pride of knowing I represent Cornell and SHA makes me smile wherever I go.”

“The pride of knowing I represent Cornell and SHA makes me smile wherever I go.” – Peter Carrera ’16

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