It sounds trite, but Tony Alwora really is living the dream.
Born and raised in Kenya, Alwora, 31, immigrated to the Los Angeles area where his father lives. He got on at the Starwood Hotels and Resorts contact center there, and in six years has worked his way up in the company. Last year, he was named operations manager of Starwood’s new Wichita contact center.
For the past year, Starwood has operated out of temporary space in the old Wichita Mall, 4165 E. Harry, while it hired and built out the permanent space. On Tuesday, the company marked the formal opening of the new center – 52,000 square feet of cheerful, inviting work space, also in the mall.
There are just over 500 employees at the center now, but Alwora said it will be hiring through the end of the year.
Q. You were born and raised in Nairobi. How did you get here?
A. I came to the States and my only connection to Starwood, if you call it that, was a family friend who worked at Starwood, and he said, “If you’re going to be here, you need to start somewhere.” So I said, “Why not?” They hired me on the spot, which surprised me … I just wanted to look around and see what felt right. Hanging out and seeing my dad was definitely a big thing for me.
Q. What was the hardest part of opening the new center?
A. All the moving pieces. You have a lot of different areas that you have to pay attention to. You have the construction; you have to make sure you’re getting the hiring right, getting the training right, and you’re bringing in people from all across the company to help.
Q. So how does Kansas compare to Kenya?
A. In Kenya, it doesn’t get as cold, but it also doesn’t get as hot. It doesn’t get to 100 degrees there. We have 80s and 90s there.
Q. You’ve been swamped with applicants. Do you respond to the ones you don’t hire?
A. We send all applicants a first assessment. If they are unsuccessful, we do send them an e-mail that they were unsuccessful and to try back again in six months. … We are going through a lot of applicants right now, so sometimes it takes a little time for us to get back.
Q. Not that you have any free time these days, but what would you do if you did?
A. I love to play pool. I have a stick in the trunk of my car, and any time I have an opportunity for a game of pool, I’ll play. It’s what I grew up on.