Spotlight on Women in Business Continuity: Mitzi Harlor

The Women in Business Continuity Management (WBCM) group shines a spotlight on accomplished women across the field of business continuity and related fields.

For the first series in Spotlight on Women in Business Continuity, we have interviewed each of the members of the Women in Business Continuity Management Charter Committee on their experiences in the field. The leaders of WBCM come from a diverse range of industries, and provide unique perspectives based on their experiences in the field.

Photo HarlorMitzi Harlor, CBCP, MBCI
WBCM Charter Committee Role: Outreach Committee
Current Role: Senior Business Continuity Manager, Marriott International (Hospitality)

What business continuity related industries have you worked in?
I currently work in the hospitality industry and have the privilege of belonging to a Risk Management team dedicated to prioritizing the safety of our hotel guests and associates and continuing operations in more than 122 countries worldwide.  My previous experience was in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, and my consulting background exposed me to the insurance and retail industries as well.

Tell us about your overall background and how you got into this field.
I often share that I became a business continuity professional after 9/11, when we lost our Marriott World Trade Center Hotel.  Although I belonged to a business strategy team, our Business Continuity Office was growing, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join it.

The truth, however, is that my experience as a healthcare information systems consultant in 1999 was my first foray into this discipline.  I was a recent college graduate, and, if you asked me then, I would have told you that I worked on “Y2K projects”.  I truly had no idea about the immense scope of disaster recovery at the time.

What do you enjoy about your job?  What aspect of business continuity are you passionate about, and why?
There aren’t too many roles that allow you to work with just about every department and every rung of the corporate ladder.  The business continuity role does exactly that.  And, to me, that is amazing.  Business continuity professionals have such a unique opportunity for overall knowledge capture about critical day-to day information.  As a result, we’re able to connect business and technical dots and shape discussions about what it means to be resilient.

At the end of the day, my goal is to make complying with Marriott’s business continuity policy achievable, so I’m committed to translating our industry’s jargon into concepts that are easy to understand and relatable.  I think it is also essential to meaningfully convey why it is important to have a business continuity program – not just for your industry or specific company, but at an individual level.  Ultimately and ideally, a solid business continuity program doesn’t only protect brand reputation and safeguard stakeholders.  It also protects people and safeguards jobs so we can pay our bills, provide for those who depend on us, and maybe even support a worthy cause or take that fun vacation.

Thank you for volunteering as a member of the WBCM Charter Committee.  What are your hopes for how the WBCM group will impact people or the industry?
One of the key skills in business continuity planning is effective relationship building.  My hope is that WBCM provides a forum for women in our profession to build relationships with each other, so we can empathize and support one another both personally and professionally.  The end goal, for me, would be a community where I’d feel equally comfortable calling a fellow WBCM member to ask about a supply chain question as I would to ask for tips to juggle work life with home life. My vision of success would be a platform where we can feel 100% comfortable having candid conversations about the obstacles we face across our various career stages and, regardless of those challenges, celebrate our achievements – both the big and small wins.