My family is from Ethiopia. In a typical Ethiopian household, parents prefer for their kids to have professions such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc. After graduating high school, I attended Virginia Commonwealth University where I decided to major in marketing. My parents weren’t the most excited, but liked the fact there were many avenues I could choose from with such a broad topic — which is how I fell in love with event planning. I ended up transferring to Marymount University my junior year, and made that decision because there were more internship opportunities in the D.C. metropolitan area.
My First Industry Job
I worked at DLA Piper Law Firm as a special events intern — one of the best experiences of my career. I coordinated logistics for all events at DLA Piper law firm that were hosted in the Atlantic/ East Coast region. This was during my senior year in college.
My Previous Three Jobs
In my three previous positions, in a nutshell, I’ve been mostly responsible for researching vendors, venues, destinations; coordinating and monitoring event timelines to ensure deadlines are met; editing and designing promotional materials; managing registrations; and coordinating logistics.
What I Do Now
As the meeting event manager, I oversee all logistics for my organization’s events, whether it’s a 15-person meeting or one of our 1,000-plus attendee conferences, where I oversee securing venues, venue management, negotiating contracts, co-developing event budget, room-block management, audiovisual/production, supervising on-site staff, food & beverage selections, registration, and analyzing event success. I partner with internal clients to encourage innovation, share best practices, and deliver on ROI.
Favorite Thing About My Job
Being able be creative, work with leaders in the philanthropic field, and being an integral part of the organization.
Most Influenced In My Career By
My family, because they give me constant support and drive and always challenge me to be better. I’m a first-generation Ethiopian-American. My parents came to this country in the ’70s and ’80s barely knowing English and had to provide for themselves with no support. They’ve instilled the “go-getter” drive that I have now, and knowing all that they’ve sacrificed to make sure I’m successful is really what keeps me going on a daily basis.
My Next Big Career Goal
To produce and execute a televised red-carpet event.
My Advice For Young Meeting Professionals
The best advice I can give is learn by doing, network fearlessly, and reach out to mentors wherever you find them. There are so many branches of the hospitality industry. Networking and volunteering will get you well-versed in the industry.
Lastly, be open to opportunities, even if they don’t fit your current direction — you never know where a job or committee assignment will lead. Always remember that event planning can feel like a life lesson on a daily basis, but industry organizations are making it easier for young and mid-career professionals like myself to continue to learn and grow. Having a membership with organizations such as PCMA definitely goes a long way!