Career Path

Laura Jelinek, CAE

Associate Vice President of Meetings and Travel, American Osteopathic Association (AOA), Chicago

EDUCATION

Pennsylvania State University, majoring in health policy and administration, minoring in chemistry and marketing.

MY FIRST INDUSTRY JOB

I was president of the Health Policy and Administration student club at Penn State, and was also a student member in a leadership position with the American College of Healthcare Executives. When I was a senior getting close to graduation, my program director showed me a position description and said he was going to recommend me for the job, which was a seminar coordinator at the American College of Healthcare Executives in Chicago. A couple days later I got a call and an interview out in Chicago, and accepted the position, back in 1987. And it just shows you that student involvement can lead to your professional career path.

MY LAST THREE INDUSTRY JOBS

Director of meetings, conference, and travel, Easter Seals Inc.; associate executive director, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons; director/acting vice president of education and meetings, COMMON (an IBM users group).

WHAT I DO

In my current role, I oversee the strategy for [AOA’s] meetings and all the operations for them. Right now I’m in a learning mode, because this is the osteopathic (D.O.) side of medicine and its members are new to me. I’ve worked with the M.D. side of it — the allopathic side of medicine — and the executive side of it. This is exciting for me. I look forward to assessing and raising the bar for our meetings as we grow as an organization.

MOST INFLUENCED IN MY CAREER BY

I’ve had different mentors throughout the years, career wise and also academically, and I have to say that none tops anyone more than my husband, Jim.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM HIM

Jim has been by my side throughout my career. He has been very supportive and understanding, and allowed me to take on more responsibilities professionally. I’ve been able to lead association meetings and events, and be actively involved in PCMA and other industry associations. As a working mom, he helps me keep life in balance as we raise our daughter.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT MY JOB

The safest thing to say is “every day is different,” but you probably hear that from everybody here in the industry. [Laughs.] I have the opportunity to interact with some amazing experts, and we work together on solutions that will meet our strategic objectives. The osteopathic profession is growing, so my favorite portion is probably learning about the profession and what we can do to build upon it.

MY NEXT BIG CAREER GOAL

I want to educate others on Strategic Meetings Management, and then expand my mentorship of those [coming] into the industry. I have been involved in the mentorship program for the PCMA annual meeting, and that’s really grown to be a mentorship throughout the year.

MY ADVICE FOR YOUNG MEETING PROFESSIONALS

Have integrity and passion in all that you do. Be active in a professional organization and take a leadership role. Give back. If you can’t be as involved in your organization or PCMA, look for a community organization that is cause-based that you can give back to and get involved in and will fulfill you in your career goals. Many times you learn more things and get a chance to volunteer for opportunities that you might not get the exposure to in the four walls in your office each day.

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene.