How did you get started in the meetings and events industry?
I started out in college waitressing and bartending, then got into off-premises catering and decided that I loved it. I just absolutely loved it, though I wanted more of a corporate structure. I started my career in catering and convention services [at the Grand Hyatt Washington], and then moved into the sales aspect.
A lot of your jobs have been on the professional-services side of the industry. What made you decide to move from that direction back to the property side?
First of all, how do you say no to Michael Dominguez [senior vice president of corporate sales for MGM Grand International, Bellagio’s parent company]? That just doesn’t happen. And then secondly, it’s Bellagio. The hotel business is my core. I’ve been very, very, very fortunate to have worked for a CVB, an industry association, and an event-technology organization.
All of that experience has really been able to give me the understanding of what customers need, past needing space and food-and-beverage. I understand their technology needs. I have a better understanding of what they’re looking for when they’re going into a city. But at the core of what I’ve done, it’s hotel business.
What’s the biggest challenge of your job?
I hate to say this, but I think not enough meeting space. [Laughs.] Another challenge is that competition is tough, and I think that’s a good problem to have. It means our business is thriving. I honestly can’t look at any of the challenges that I’m dealing with and say they’re bad, because they’re all good for the industry and they’re good for MGM Resorts and they’re good for Bellagio specifically.
What do you like most about the industry?
I know everyone answers this question “the people.” That would be my go-to, because we are in the industry for the people, but I’m going to give you a slightly different answer. I love the ongoing evolution of this industry. I was [working] in Vegas at the time during the beginning of the recession, where we really became a business and we were supported by data and advocacy for the very first time. I think that is an extremely exciting step in our evolution. And now I love to see how technology is driving this next generation. So for me it is in no way a stagnant business. We are always growing. We’re always learning.
What advice would you give to somebody who is just getting started in the business?
I would tell them to have passion. I think this is really an exciting business, but I also think that people can get caught up in the details, and if they keep their passion alive, they’re more open to learn. And I think they should market themselves as best they can. That’s been my personal driving force in going to a CVB, in going to a technology company, in going to an industry association — I always wanted to be able to learn as much as I can about the industry as a whole, and not just get pigeonholed into, am I just a hotel salesperson right now, or am I just a catering person right now? Whatever I was doing, I wanted a bigger picture. So I would tell the newbies to learn as much as they can in and outside of their immediate position.