Published on October 31, 2019
Sharing experience and insight
Have you ever wanted to know more about Nina Kressler and the experience she brings to her role as President and CEO of Shaw Centre? We’ve asked Nina to discuss her background and the skills she has been drawing upon for the past four and a half years to lead our dynamic organization to new heights. We’re sure you’ll agree that she has many valuable insights to share.
What led you to this career?
It’s no stretch to say that hospitality is ingrained in my DNA. Growing up in Nova Scotia, my childhood home was often filled with visitors; many were European relatives who marveled at what to me was just typical Maritime hospitality. Like our neighbours, our door was always open, and anyone was welcome in our home and at our table, even strangers. I fondly remember how much I enjoyed helping my mother make our guests comfortable – little did I know then that it would become my life’s work!
While I hadn’t initially planned to work in hospitality, when I graduated from University, jobs were scarce, so I gladly accepted a secretarial position at the Halifax Sheraton Hotel. I very quickly progressed through the ranks there and assumed various leadership positions, thanks to a willingness to learn and a strong work ethic. In just seven years, I was appointed as the hotel’s Director of Sales and Marketing, and moved on to senior sales and marketing and operations roles with Casino Nova Scotia and Hotel, Trade Centre Limited and the World Trade and Convention Centre Halifax where I served as Vice President, Sales and Marketing. I am proud of my accomplishments in successfully promoting my hometown as a premier destination to host national and international conferences and events.
My next career move saw me become Vice President, Business Development for the Toronto Congress Centre. My success in that role, including significantly increasing business volumes, drew the attention of Aramark Sports and Entertainment, who hired me as the General Manager of Shaw Centre’s Food and Facilities operation in October of 2013. While this position was outside my comfort zone, I felt that I could successfully leverage my sales/marketing background and learn from the strong operations team in place. During my time as General Manager, improvements I implemented helped the operation exceed key performance indicators for food quality, customer service and facility performance, all while increasing revenue.
When I was appointed as President and CEO of Shaw Centre on June 1, 2015, it felt like all my years of hard work had finally led me to my dream job, one which I continue to feel privileged to enjoy every day.
What’s a work-related accomplishment that you’re really proud of?
Early in my career, because German is my second language, I was invited to interview for a position with a group of German investors who were looking to open a five-star resort on Nova’s Scotia’s rugged shores. The facility was to offer natural saltwater therapy treatments and would include 132 ocean-view rooms. I was offered an incredible position to travel the world as the resort’s only salesperson so I reluctantly went to my boss at the Halifax Sheraton who, despite wondering if this spa would truly ever get off the ground, was supportive about me pursuing this new opportunity. I loved the job and worked tirelessly to secure a huge amount of bookings long before the resort was due to open. Much to my dismay, the developers lost their investors’ backing and the facility was never completed. To my great relief, the Sheraton was thrilled to have me back. I was grateful for the chance to try something really different, yet it was so comforting to be welcomed back to work with a great team in a place where I had proven myself. The whole experience helped me learn at a relatively young age who I am, which is that I am dependable, I’m a risk taker, and I like to try things so I can push the limit. I think that’s why the Sheraton held the door open for me to return and these are characteristics which continue to serve me well.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
My background is German; I’m a first generation Canadian who grew up in an extremely small rural town called Hubbards in Nova Scotia. At the time, the population was only about 600 people, with my kindergarten to grade 9 school having about 80 students. We were fortunate to live abroad for a few years because of my father’s work, and those experiences plus my mother’s work ethic helped me learn that coming from a small community shouldn’t hold you back.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?
My mom is the most inspiring person I have ever known, and she offered advice daily in that she led by example. When my father left our family and did not provide any support, she went back to school despite having no previous formal education as her schooling had been interrupted growing up in Germany during the war. She completed her grade 12 GED in her second language at the age of 53 as a single parent with three kids. I was only young at the time, but it became my job to make sure my siblings got fed and went to school on time. I watched her working so hard, yet she also experienced a tremendous amount of discrimination being a German immigrant. All she wanted to do was be a personal care worker in a nursing home, which she eventually did. Her tenacity showed me that nothing is unachievable if you try hard enough for it. She also taught me the principles of hard work and, as a woman, the importance of being independent and assertive. She continues to be my biggest inspiration.
What’s your favorite way to unwind after a busy day?
I love cooking! While I am not a baker, when I get home after a long day, I enjoy making myself a good meal, which I occasionally enjoy with a glass of wine. I find being in the kitchen is a great way to unwind and keeps me busy during the week while my husband is working in Montreal. Our daughter is away now at Trent University so the nights I am home alone I find cooking is not just about taking care of myself, but also keeping me in the rhythm of a normal routine.
Where’s the next top destination on your travel bucket list?
The Greek islands! I don’t know which ones yet, but it’s a trip I am really looking forward to enjoying with my daughter when she graduates in 2 years.
What’s your favorite TV show—the one you’re always watching on repeat?
I have this obsession with shows like Law and Order – I think it’s because through watching them I learn a lot about society because they show how people that are less fortunate can fall in bad ways. I just find the drama around these kinds of shows refreshing and while it’s always said they are completely fictional and not based on anything, I can almost always match an episode with something that has actually happened in the news somewhere. So, I really enjoy these shows, and probably because they have some pretty strong female kick ass characters too.
What’s one thing you’re learning now, and why is it important?
Well, I am in the process of completing the Directors Education Program. I sit on three boards, but I also report to a board of directors and I’ve noticed that our new chair, who has also completed the program, runs great board meetings which are very strategic, very timely and very orderly. I want to follow her example and give back to the boards that I sit on, making sure that I give them the most of my time and knowledge. I think this Directors Education Program has definitely helped me learn how to become a better director.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
I think it’s the fact that doors have always been left open for me when I have left positions. It’s a huge compliment when somebody lets you move on but also has your back. I think it has been a great testament to my employers’ belief in the contributions I have made and might continue to make, should I ever choose to return.