Life at Sonder: the critical role of city operations

For this Life at Sonder, we spoke with Eric Luberto, Operations Manager for Palm Springs. Joining Sonder almost three years ago, Eric started as a hospitality agent after working at a major hospitality chain and quickly realized he wanted to join a startup that was dedicated to rethinking the travel experience. Over his time at Sonder, he has quickly risen through the ranks, and now focuses on building better processes to enhance the effectiveness of his operation team. In this piece, he shares his advice for those starting out in city operations in hospitality and his insights on what both excites and challenges him in his role.

Why did you decide to join Sonder?
I started my career at the front desk with a big box hotel chain and found myself struggling to stay motivated. I wanted a new challenge and was interested in joining an up-and-coming company attempting to push the boundaries of what hospitality can be in the digital age and where I could make an impact. After learning more about the culture and growth opportunities at Sonder during my interview, I was sold. 

What’s life like on the City Operations team and what’s your role?
As the Operations Manager for Palm Springs in California, my responsibilities are wide-ranging and no two days are the same. I work with third-party vendors as well as my Hospitality Agents to ensure a smooth day-to-day operation for the resort and our guests. Some days, I help dispatch incoming traveler requests and interface with our guests, and other days I strategize how to increase our revenue and satisfaction scores. 

Can you share a bit about your journey at Sonder — from the days as a Hospitality Agent and now, in your current role?
I joined Sonder in June 2018 as a Hospitality Agent (HA) in New Orleans and would race around the city changing light bulbs, delivering towels, and more. I loved it! Present-day, most markets have dedicated staff for certain tasks, but when I began, I was expected to wear a ton of different hats. In November of the same year, I was promoted to the Lead Hospitality Agent position to assist with the launch of Sonder’s first hotel property in the city. I became a dispatcher coordinating hundreds of tasks across multiple departments including operations, housekeeping, and maintenance as the city grew by about 250 units. In August of 2020, I was promoted to my current role and moved across the country to lead a team in an effort to launch the first resort-style property for the company. I now focus on building processes that enhance my operations team’s effectiveness and efficiency as we continue to learn how best to operate a Sonder resort. My previous experience as a HA set me up fantastically for my current role, as I’ve done all the tasks and used all the tools I now train my team on. 

My proudest moments are when guests tell me that they received excellent service from my team. Especially in such a difficult and challenging year, I am really proud that my team has continued to focus on brightening someone’s stay and providing exceptional service with a smile and a positive attitude — undoubtedly creating memorable moments and building Sonder’s brand reputation.

Do you have any advice for others just starting out in City Operations around the world?
My best advice is to be curious, never stop learning, and don’t settle! Ask why we are doing things the way we are and how we can better serve our guests. Just because we are doing it a certain way now, doesn’t mean it is the best way. Those in city operations see what frustrates and what brings joy to our guests firsthand. Use those experiences to help enhance the operation. And always bring solutions to the table — it is the fastest way to get noticed. 

What has surprised you most about working at Sonder?
How “close” employees can be who work thousands of miles away from one another. Although there are only a handful of people on my direct team, I’ve been fortunate enough to build relationships with Sonder employees all over the world. 

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned so far?
I’ve learned to value progress over perfection. At a startup, it is inevitable that things will break and problems will arise. What’s important is how you react to limit or eliminate those issues from happening again.

What’s been one of your proudest moments on the job?
My proudest moments are when guests tell me that they received excellent service from my team. Especially in such a difficult and challenging year, I am really proud that my team has continued to focus on brightening someone’s stay and providing exceptional service with a smile and a positive attitude —- undoubtedly creating memorable moments and building Sonder’s brand reputation.

What are some of the challenges you face in your role?
I never know what challenges will arise on any given day given the scope and variety of my role. A constant and ever-evolving challenge is leading multiple teams to effectively communicate with one another (HAs, engineering department, housekeeping team, and ownership group). Keeping everyone aligned and on the same page is a recipe for success.

What excites you most about the initiatives you work on?
I’m most excited knowing that I am reinventing the way that a resort property can be operated. The learnings from my experiences will help us replicate this process in future markets around the world. 

Rapid-fire questions

Leisure or adventure travel?

Adventure travel

Modern highrise or historic townhome?

Historic townhome

What’s the next trip you want to take?

Cape Town, South Africa

What’s the best travel advice you’ve ever received?

Enjoy every place you travel to as though you’ll never return and leave room for spontaneity rather than planning every second.

What do you most look forward to while traveling?

Meeting the locals, tasting the food and realizing that in every corner of the planet, humans are far more alike than they are different.

What’s the next Sonder you want to stay in?

Our recently launched Mexico City location!

Best meal you’ve ever eaten on a trip?

Carbonara in Rome, which the birthplace of carbonara. It was an out-of-body experience.

Interested in learning more about our teams and opportunities? Check out our careers page.

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