6 female eventprofs reveal the lightbulb career moment that changed everything

Women from isla's Advisory Board share the key moments that helped to shape their career trajectory as eventprofs.

To mark International Women’s Day 2023 we asked some of the members of isla’s Advisory Board, many of whom are eventprofs, to share their most career-defining moment. Read on to dose up on some inspiration, some of which touches on this year’s IWD theme #EmbraceEquity!

Carina Filek, Global Chief Operations Officer, Elevate:


Several years ago, I was going through a career-defining time as I moved into a global COO role. Our business had transformed at scale and speed and I was one a few people at the helm. There was an exceptional amount of pressure, albeit pressure that I put on myself, to lead the business in a way that effected real impact for our people and clients alike. I was privileged to be undertaking some personal development coaching at the time and was introduced to a mindset principle that had a tremendous bearing on me and I remember having a moment of vivid realisation. 

Yes, I was a leader and people looked to me to guide them, but I didn’t need to have all the answers. It was not just OK, but more so it was advantageous to own multiple “I don’t know” moments. I had surrounded myself with incredible people and knew that this allowed me to have curious collaborations that would help us get to collective “we know” moments that were better in the long run. 

Getting comfortable not having all the answers as a leader and embracing the opportunities of varying perspectives, experiences and knowledge through collaboration was a major “ah ha” moment for me that will stay with me for long to come. 

And on this IWD – let’s be mindful about advantages too. Not everyone will be able to provide their best contributions and answers starting from an equal playing field. Some people will need more help than others. We must be mindful that to get the best collaborations we need to consider how equitable our environments are and what adjustments need to be made to better support successful outcomes.

Chloe Jackson, Managing Director, Smart Group Ltd:


Almost 10 years ago, I sat in the audience of the Event Awards 2013 watching Smart Group win award after award following their role as caterer for the London 2012 Olympics. I was determined to play a bigger part of leading them into the future alongside Greg Lawson CEO, and as luck would have it, the following year Greg was a judge for the Rising Star Award which I went on to win at the age of 23 whilst in my previous role as Head of Sales. The rest as they say, is history! Working in a mostly male-dominated industry, I am very proud to be Managing Director for a progressive organisation, who have always placed talent and determination above age and gender.

Amy King, Head of Exhibitions & Events, ASM Global:


I’d say I’ve had many small moments where mentors have encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, seek new challenges and not feel the need to have all the answers, ‘‘stop worrying about being perfect’’.  Much like the events industry sustainability journey, there is no lightbulb solution to reducing our impact as an industry. But by being aware of the small changes we can all make today, we can achieve a much bigger more impactful change so forget about being perfect and just make that one change today.

Specific advice that has stayed with me is that ‘’no one has all the answers, so make sure to put yourself in environments where you are continuously learning and surround yourself with people who are happy to share their experiences.’’ I believe that we should all listen to this advice, if you’re no longer learning from your event audiences are you truly serving them to the best of your ability? It’s the only way we can become a truly inclusive industry by learning, respecting and valuing the input from other people perspectives. In an industry that relies on human interaction, achieving equity is the only way to ensure everyone can interact and experience event communities in a positive and exciting way; #embraceequity.

Saskya Liney, Account Director & Head of Sustainability, emc3:


About two years ago, I sat down to write my personal objectives for a review call. The usual things came to mind, sales targets, client satisfaction, grown the team etc etc. But none of that was really driving me, I loved working on the sustainability aspect of events, teaching the team about the sustainable development goals, and helping clients reduce the impact of their events. This was a small part of my role, not what I was doing day to day as an Account Director. 

Telling the CEO of my company, I don’t want to be an Account Director anymore, I want to work full time in sustainability and this is why, and importantly this is how we are still going to make my role profitable to the company was terrifying.  I was essentially asking him to create a new role for me, replace me on my accounts, still pay me the same, but let me do my own thing and make sustainability the focus. It was a huge risk and could have gone really badly. 

Thankfully, I got the support I needed, and not only have a new role but investment in a new partner company solely focused on sustainability. I could have kept quiet about what I really wanted from my career and had an easy ride for the next few years, but I did something that scared me and here we are! I’m extremely lucky to be a part of such a supportive company who were willing to create so much with me.

Chloé Menhinick, Partner (Association & Legacy Consultancy), GainingEdge


I vividly recall the moment that changed the course of my career.  The day I decided to do something about my fear of public speaking. I had agreed to give a keynote at an industry event in spite of my paralysing fear of speaking in public. I had seven months to prepare! I sought out and received lots of advice from colleagues and friends – find a safe space to practice, join Toastmasters, take cues from experts, seek out opportunities to get up in front of audiences no matter how small or insignificant it may seem… but the most important advice I received was to re-think certain ideas about myself, my capabilities and who I was, and if need be, fake it until one day you become it! And whilst I still think I have a long way to go before I truly feel comfortable up on a stage, because of this shift in thinking to put myself out there, new doors open for me that I would never have seen if I had stayed in my comfort zone. Go get ’em!

Faye Priestley, Executive Project Director, Identity:


Having worked for over 25 years delivering global events across many different industries, I have been incredibly fortunate to work with so many wonderful people. I started out in a small but successful event agency who were passionate about the journey as much as the end result – they taught me to enjoy the process rather than just focus on the final product. I have held on to this philosophy through all subsequent roles both as a team player and a leader. This industry is about the people and the relationships we build – they help to keep perspective when the pressure mounts.  I am forever grateful for being shown a happier, healthier way.

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