What is it like to have an Events Career? How do you get a Job in Events? We speak to this Expert

every job that you have even if it’s not necessarily directly related to your goal of what you want to do in the future it’s still so important all the people that you work with all of the i guess the skills that you’re learning even if it’s just being a bartender like those personal skills um the hospitality skills everything is like layers upon laser from lights to getting you to your next place so you have to value that and value the process hello and welcome to another episode of the ask the professional series by careerok we’re a series that talks to accomplished professionals about their career how they got into their line of work and provide career insights into the industries so that students like myself can follow their footsteps my name is haley boy and it’s nice to have you all tuned into today’s episode today we are joined by laura rowan the head of event strategy at the famous stone and chalk fintech innovative hub in sydney now let’s get to know laura and her journey hi laura thanks for coming in today hi haley thanks so much for inviting me i’m really excited to join you and share some insight into the event world me too so to start off for those who don’t know what is in charge and what is a fintech innovative hub yeah so stone and chalk is a nonprofit organization and our mission is to nurture connect and propel those who are solving the world’s most pressing business issues so what that looks like an innovation hub we’re home to 219 setups i want to say across melbourne sydney and adelaide and yeah it’s a beautiful there’s so much innovation happening in our hubs and not only that but we also have an impact network where there’s corporates mentors uh government and different agencies that are connected into student chalk and we all collaborate together to create success interesting so what does your day-to-day as the head of events are still in charge look like yes so right now i’m actually part-time because i have a little one at home uh yeah yeah so i my job before has been split so i i’m kind of job sharing with a great colleague of mine christina originally i was overseeing we have an events based business and there’s so much to do with that we have event managers and event coordinators that are constantly fueling in inquiries every day with those event spaces in adelaide melbourne and sydney so it’s very very busy we were booked out six months that you know ahead of the year um anyone who’s everyone who wants to run a tech event would come here and and do everything um this is one of our spaces here actually sadly because of covert it’s been really quiet uh but i guess um once that sort of comes back up again hopefully next year we’ll be buzzing like we usually are my main attention is on event curation so i am mapping out a year’s worth of events um different series i’m excited we’re doing one women in tech which is something i’m really passionate about so we’ve got a whole series on supporting women and their tech journey um but yeah i am helping book speakers i’m everything’s online at the moment so there’s also the production side behind it um you know we it’s like today um yeah doing all the technical stuff uh and the other aspect is the business aspect aspect where you’re doing reporting and uh you know research making sure that with emerging technology we are keeping at the forefront and we know what’s around the corner so uh yeah a lot of research um and i guess the people management side of the business as well hiring training and yeah so it’s quite busy um but every day is different and it’s it’s really fun and energetic but you definitely high energy for it yeah considering the busy and kind of fast-paced nature of your job what do you enjoy working in events and what is so enjoyable about it is it the energetic energy that comes with it yeah so i think particularly because i work at a startup i get a lot of autonomy to i guess dream up something and then make it happen so with my specific role i’m in charge of coming up with the event series and you know also with climate change and things like that that are really prevalent at the moment i can gather all of the um industry heads in the food industry and find out what they’re doing to tackle climate change and just things that um you know i just get this incredible opportunity to be able to dream it up and then make it happen and that’s really rewarding for me so that’s that’s probably you know one of the reasons why i really enjoy my job and i have an amazing team as well that we work we work really great together and we just hustle and make it happen but yeah you definitely need high energy and you can burn out if you’re not careful so

it’s really important that you prioritize or mental you know self-care and physical exercise and things like that but yeah there’s a there’s a lot of upsides to doing events and you mentioned creating that plan and making it happen can you give us some examples or tell us the story of some of the best moments that you’ve had working in this industry yeah so i guess one of my most one of the best moments i had would have been i came in as an event coordinator and i was working there i was doing a job for about a year and then i moved up to a management position and then i was probably doing that for a year and then my boss she suddenly left so she was running the department and it was either i step up to the plate and i’d become the head of and take on all the management stuff that i had never done before to be honest um or i um you know step back keep doing what i’m doing and they hire somebody else but i just thought look i’m ready i can do it and uh yeah one of the things is i worked really hard and uh i guess stepping out to the plate over the year i was able to um you know put in place i completely restructured the way we did everything because i was so hands on in you know doing all of the logistics beforehand i knew what worked and what wasn’t working so i could actually then you know use my platform to make changes and we changed all of the event pricing we did a really thorough you know space analysis uh pricing analysis computer analysis what did you call it um and yeah i guess just being able to back yourself and believe in by the um i had to redo all the budgeting and for the next year and by i guess looking back after my first year ahead of events and achieving we actually doubled our revenue for that year um it was just really satisfying to think like you know at the time i didn’t didn’t know whether i could do it but if you just back yourself and you work really really hard you actually can um and it’s a team effort you have to lean in on people’s skills and i definitely in on my team and i i think um the coordinators and managers and even the interns i was like look what are you good at let’s let’s use that and um let’s actually you know build an amazing um department and like let’s actually take this event into the next level so um yeah it was really really amazing experience to to i guess go for an event manager to head off and to actually do really well and see how hard work and planning and tears and everything pays off so yeah that’s really inspiring yeah but just to take a step back a little bit was the event coordinator um position your first role in working in the events industry and was it hard or difficult getting that job yeah so it was my first full-time full-time role in events i had so my background was actually a music degree so i started off um as a singer doing a popular popular music um degree at jmc but we did tour management subjects and i love them so i think that’s where the spark for events was ignited and yeah i remember just putting so much effort and detail into that project that we had to run and then i was also straight after that i um did a lot of interning and stage managing um volunteer and then i did a lot of interning as a creative administration so pretty much we ran weekly events um where i had to style everything like music events um you know to help with band up but everything was in the creative like music industry sort of um stream so coming into the tech world was interesting i my first job out of uni was actually um like page ops i did a lot of internships and a lot of volunteer work but my first paid job was at a tech company and i was an ea so i guess events has a lot of transferable skills if you are really good at admin and you’re super organized you know personable talk to anybody if you can uh i guess there’s there’s so many elements but i just had a lot of transferable skills that was able to get me to my job the reason why i was at a tech company was uh the guy that the general manager there he left he was my boss and he referred me to stone and chalk so um the one lesson i learned was i if i had just rocked up with my resume maybe i wouldn’t have been considered but the fact is every job that you have even if it’s not necessarily directly related to your goal of what you want to do in the future it’s still so important all the people that you work with all of the uh i guess the skills that you’re learning um even if it’s just being a bartender like those personal skills um the hospitality skills everything is like layers upon layers of lights to getting you to your next place so

you have to value that and value the process um and yeah i guess i was lucky because i really poured everything into my ea role and my boss um yeah he gave me a raving recommendation and because of my creative skills and being able to do styling and things like that it just i actually had applied for the ea role at stone and chalk and then they had two positions available and after the ceo had met me he was like actually i think he’d be better for the events role and so that’s kind of how it started wow it’s interesting it went from like your whole journey just switched up into two minutes but it’s all there’s so much experience that you learned throughout and with the volunteer and internship what were the skills that you gained that you felt really applied to your job today was it the hospitality or the personality that came with it definitely hospitality skills um you know that’s really prevalent in events even if you’re just wanting to do event production you need to understand end to end like what is happening back you know back of house how much catering you need like it’s just so important because as a manager now i’m pretty hands-off in terms of ordering the catering and things like that but at the same time i’m responsible so you just have to you have to know what is happening in the background and you have to have a plan b and a plan c um if something goes wrong so um yeah like i’m saying everything that i did with my volunteer the stage managing was great um learning you know even about lighting and learning about um positioning things on stage and how to roll up cables like random things it’s just all comes in handy when you’re working in the events business and also i think the main thing was you if you want to be in this industry it doesn’t matter who you are you have to get your hands dirty and that work ethic um you know you can find that in any position that you do but i don’t care what industry you have to i think any industry that you do you have to whether you’re a director or whether you’re an intern you’ve got to get your hands dirty you’ve got to really pour everything in um because those people are the ones that make it and get really far in life i believe definitely and you’ve worked you’ve had to work in a few technical areas of events as well like gathering data and building systems and processes did you learn this in your studies as well or was it largely on the job learning it was actually on the job learning so like i was saying i was working at a tech company that was my first job before i went into stone and chalk and i was an ea but then halfway through i think i was there for maybe a year and a half i can’t remember exactly but halfway through my first year there they had a complete restructure of the company and our um the general manager had left and so i actually was then retrained as a sales support specialist and so what that was was we had a crm so the database for the company um i pretty much had to facilitate all of the like supporting all of the sales team so there was so much um i was flown to the us and i was trained by a team over there to really learn the technical side of how the workflow happens how to um i guess you know adjust and and create the most efficient workflow for for our sales team back in back in australia so what happened was when i ended up going from rebel systems to my old company to stone and chalk stone and chalk didn’t have any um database they literally working off spreadsheets on excel and they just paid for this system but no one knew how to use it so what i what i had to do was pretty much trans um all the skills i learned in my previous job i had to try and then build out a student talk and create systems that worked so yeah i guess it was all on the job i didn’t do it at uni um but yeah a lot of a lot of work you do learn in the role especially if you get a great manager who will train you i think any good company offers significant training so as long as you’re willing to put yourself out there and learn and absorb everything you’ll be okay like nobody knows everything before they start their role that’s the whole point of you know getting a job and learning say that and let’s talk a bit about getting a job i guess post coverage how how has kovit affected your your work in 2020 yeah it’s hugely affected our work i was on maternity leave up until july so i had missed the bulk of the lockdown which um for me was probably a good thing i guess but i know it’s it’s impacted our industry terribly it’s been really sad to see people lose jobs and um yeah it’s it’s it’s a really humbling thing to still have a job to be honest

we’re very lucky you know that um covert has you know the government set up different payment schemes for people like us to be able to remain work when when things like our events based businesses shut down so i guess whether there’s work for people i do believe so but i think that you need to upskill in the tech side of things so it’s really really important but even if you want to do events casual work we’re now looking for people who can do production and who can do video editing who can be able to organize these zoom calls um that’s really really valuable not and on top of that you know all the administration and people skills hard worker um but yeah like it’s it’s changed now in the fact that you need to know the technical skills but also other areas you know the social distancing in place um all of our seating plans have changed now um the amount of people you can have at events has changed the way you can run events has changed so we haven’t started doing in-person events yet but i think next year we’ll definitely next year if everything touchwood goes to plan we will start to run them in person in february so we’ll see all the learnings and lessons from that but there definitely is opportunity for people it’s just being open to learning new skills and event seems like a quite like a fast-paced career like i previously mentioned how do you maintain the work-life balance yeah i mean it can be hard at times and especially before um before i was in my role now because i’m part-time it’s a bit easier but when i was full-time you just have to prioritize your mental and your physical health there’s so many event managers out there who are shelves of humans because they just live in that flight and fight mode for so so long and a lot of corporates do as well like it’s start-up world is busy and it’s fast-paced and um but yeah i guess boundaries having boundaries from the beginning if you’re starting a new job you know if there’s a netball team that you’re part of don’t sacrifice training with them on a tuesday night because something at work comes up like from the very beginning if you put little boundaries in place like look no this is really important can that one night i just can’t you know have an event on or like putting little things in place that give you sanity um even if it’s doing a meditation or um prioritizing walk outside or having lunch in the sun those those things make a big difference um because events is yeah like you said it’s very busy you’re multitasking multiple projects at one time there’s a lot of weight in your shoulders and responsibilities so yeah it’s it’s just it’s just very important to do those little things and how would one get a start in events nowadays considering like the post cover world as well yeah great question i think well obviously there’s you know if you’ve just come out of an events degree i would say there are there are roles i have seen a few roles going around um but definitely the online space is a big one so just if there’s short courses that you could do if you haven’t already learned about the virtual like writing events virtually i think i would highly recommend it like general assembly or one of those i don’t know if they’re doing it but look at short courses that you can do to upskill yourself in that area um but it’s also getting your foot in the door a lot of people that have joined my team they actually came on board as an event casual and so you know right now there’s not much casual work but um it will pick up again i believe like once it does um yeah it’s it’s a tricky one because there’s so many people out of work right now and it’s such a hard thing but um i think it’s just being consistent putting yourself out there being a really hard worker um and making your resume also a bit different trying when i hiring i’m looking through so many resumes so if you can make your resume a bit more judged up or i don’t know use handball like try and make it stand out a little bit i think that might hopefully give you a bit of a step forward okay thank you and i know that you’ve previously touched on this briefly what are the most important characteristics and traits that you would expect from someone who is junior or start up as like an events casual yeah um so i wrote it down because i there’s so many things but i guess being a hard worker staying humble um one thing i would say is um okay so if yeah if you’re if you just started a new job i would recommend staying away from office gossip that’s like one that you probably won’t hear very often but if you get involved

in anything toxic at work it’ll bring you down and it’ll stop you from so many opportunities so you know keeping up keep yourself in a positive state of mind um but yeah things like coming with a like a solution not a problem uh if you know if i had an intern or an event coordinator that came to me like look this is broken but i’ve been doing some research and this is how i think i can fix it it’s so much better i’d be like this person is awesome then if they just came and was like i don’t know how to do this how do i do that just taking that first initial step to learn and see if you can you know whether it’s reading the manual or um yeah just being proactive as a person um but yeah another thing is getting your hands dirty if you’re not willing to pick up plates after an event or take the bins out or do the dishes you know um putting putters together serving people like events is all about servanthood and serving people and being okay with that um it doesn’t matter like even in my role now i still will walk around at the end of an event and pick up plates and make sure that things look nice and clean like um it’s it’s really important and that’s a massive quality that you have to have and be okay with if you want to if you want to pursue a career there i guess the only other thing is having a creative eye and an eye for detail so if you go into a room and you notice something’s off fix it like um making sure that everything looks perfect um yeah or just being out to you know put some plants and furniture together and make things look stylish i guess it depends on what industry you’re in but um yeah like those little things will bring you a long way thanks so much for the honest dancer yeah so you must be an expert at networking now that’s seeing it all the time in your role is networking for someone working in events and what are some tips that you can give for those looking to build their network yeah i guess one tip is simple is just go like put yourself out of your comfort zone and just show up once you’re there it’s easy it’s easier than you think it would be um find someone that you know if you just find one person or two people in the room that you could connect with and have a conversation with they’re probably feeling as equally nervous and awkward so don’t feel like you’re the only one um but yeah i guess the main thing i’ve learned is just yeah attend events go try and get out there and and meet people because in that you also not only have a great time and and and you know get have a good experience but you you also you could potentially meet speakers for your future events you could get ideas of what other people are doing you could be offered new venues or meet new caterers that could you know facilitate the next event i’ve learned so much from watching what other people are doing and i get really inspired and it just shakes you out of your comfort zone because sometimes you just do the same thing over and over again but yeah that’s i guess yeah just just go even if you feel scared bring a friend if you have to um but just go and just try and talk to a couple of people um i guess one networking thing is rather than going and trying to get something out of somebody maybe go and see what you can give others as well um you know maybe you can offer something or find out what they need and what they’re struggling with people don’t always you know it’s better to be a good listener than just to talk about yourself the whole time i totally agree um what is some advice also that you can give those who freshly graduated from university and wants to embark on their own startup journey yeah so if if you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve just started and maybe you have i guess it depends if you’ve got a product or if you um yeah to say you’ve got a product and you’re really excited about launching something there i was mentioning before there are accelerator programs out there that you could potentially join so maybe you don’t have funds to be able to i don’t know produce 100 products but if you join the accelerator they and we don’t have an accelerator talk so i’m not advertising what we do at all but there are i know plenty of great ones and they’re existing in sydney and all over australia but they take a bit of equity from your business um but they give you all the skills you need mentorship another thing i would suggest is if you’re a small business um you know we’re you know we’re an innovation hub there’s so many places like us where you can come and you can join in um just putting yourself in a community of other startups is going to put you forward so much further than trying to do maybe a small business owner or be a startup or not on your own um you need people to bounce ideas off to connect you with the right people mentor mentors that can guide you investors um certain talk we have investor programs we have mentorship programs um there’s a lot of community gatherings where you can meet other people um even just you know you might be a marketing person in um a startup but you can meet another another marketing person you can brainstorm or

ideas of how what they’re doing um so yeah that’s my role is just join a community whether it’s a co-working space an innovation hub or if you really need support to build your business join an accelerator program um but yeah that’s probably the three things i think it really links back to what you said about networking as well and the importance of that now let’s talk about women in leadership i know that you spoke of women in tech which is a program that you’re very excited about do you want to give us some insights into that uh yeah so i’m it’s called empowered to lead we’ll be launching february actually and the first event i’m running is thriving in a male dominated industry so i haven’t blocked in the speakers yet but um we’re planning to write a panel where we get a ton of women maybe women in stem i’ve even got a rocket scientist in our network i might see if i can get her she’s amazing in adelaide uh you know there’s engineers there’s so many amazing roles um that women are doing and i feel like people don’t really know about it so the whole point of the event is kind of like an ask me anything how did you get where you are and just to inspire women to pursue careers like that because yeah there’s so many opportunities out there and i don’t think it’s right to box women into certain roles and positions just because of their gender like you know all power women um yeah so that’s yeah that’s it really i think that sounds perfect i will definitely tune into that yeah so our listeners as well make sure that you tune in in february and we will also link up any information that we’ve gotten posted on our group as well happy thank you not only do you work in events but i know that you are also a female leader how important is it for corporations to have women in leadership i think it’s really important i mean women are half population so it’s just it makes sense that you know that we have a platform as well and i think women supporting women um if we’re not represented then how can we build a fair industry of equality and um even things i guess women have different bringing a fresh insight and um yeah i 100 agree that it’s really important that they are in big shipping and how would you say are some of what would you say are some of the barriers or challenges for female leaders out there in the workforce and what would you think would overcome them yeah well one thing that i have learned i guess is that well there’s a few different areas so if it’s event related when you are working with suppliers this is just personal but there are lots of supplies that are in you know for instance if i was to put an event for the melbourne cup and you have all these different vendors that are generators and toilets and all these um you know all these different um you know the marquis they’re all male dominated like they’re more male-run companies and if you don’t know what you’re talking about then it’s really hard to be able to get a good deal and get get um what you need and also understand if something breaks like you won’t know how it works so as a woman i feel like it’s even more important um to be to be taken seriously and to understand and educate yourself education is so so important for any industry that you work in um if you wanna you know women sometimes don’t get taken seriously especially if you’re younger so it’s really important that you go that extra mile to know how things work whether it’s how many powerpoints are on a generator or um you know the requirements that you need um like if it’s more tech like the technical requirements that you need when you’re setting up an event um those things will bring you forward and um yeah i for me also with the role i went in now because i’ve helped my sister who runs um things like run australia which is a a national um cotton they do like a national fundraiser for a year um but i didn’t mention that before but with my current job um now i’m i need to with emerging technology that also is a male dominant industry and so i have to be able to do all the research i need to be able to walk the walk and walk you know walk the talk and so yeah i just say education education never stop learning doesn’t matter how long you’ve been the job for keep keep doing short courses keep staying up on top of things because that will push you forward and help you to be taken seriously and to get the most out of your career definitely and just to subvert that i guess going through that extra mile is an important skill to develop to become a good leader of a role as well right yeah and i think another thing is just women supported women like

we are not each other’s competitors um sometimes if you’re in a room full of men um in a board meeting and there’s one other girl like some women see you as your as a competitor and so that shouldn’t be the case like there’s space there’s space for everybody and you just have to be in your own lane and to swim in your own lane um and support other people um knowledge sharing and mentoring and building people up so that they can achieve what they’re meant to achieve um yeah i think women more women hopefully should just support other women rather than compete against each other that’s that’s probably another thing that’s really important if you’re a woman out there to um yeah there’s there’s enough space for everybody to to succeed i completely agree so in terms of mentorship do you think having a mentor um for your career is important and why i 100 have agreed having a mentor is important um i’ve had several different unofficial mentors over my career um especially since being a student chalk um i guess different times in my life when i had to you know negotiate my salary i had a great mentor to teach me different skills of how to say what to say and how to be assertive i’ve had another mentor that has walked me through and i became ahead of events um just even connecting with speakers and the right people and um being an ear to listen when i needed advice everybody you know you can’t know everything and yeah i think it’s important that you surround yourself with intelligent people who are going to be positive and push you forward so yeah if you can get a mentor 100 go and do it um especially if they are in your industry because that is going to push you so much further um and there’s plenty of people who are so approachable you wouldn’t realize they will give you their time so don’t be afraid if you if you know somebody just tap them on the shoulder and ask them i’m sure they’ll be flattered to do it and finally our last question what would you tell your trinity old self knowing what you know now yeah i think i’d probably tell myself to just relax i think i was so worried that i didn’t know what i wanted to be and yeah like as you saw my journey was i had so many you know i did so many different things it wasn’t a linear path to getting where i am and i think i would have just told myself um you know even if you’re bartending and you’re not in the job that you want just put 100 into everything you do um be kind to everybody because that is underrated like the people that you meet in your life um you never know who’s going to offer you the next thing or help you in the next way so just be a giver in your life and things will come back and you you know the more that you give the more that you will receive um yeah that’s probably the main thing um work hard um stay humble um kindness is everything um being polite being humble doesn’t matter what you achieve if you can you know it’s it’s just you see a lot of people that climb up in the career and then like climb up behind the three ladder and they don’t um they forget that you know they were that junior intern um back 20 years ago or whatever it is so i know i just think it’s really important that yeah you remember who you were before you got to that high place so anyway that sort of i just remind myself to stay kind and um and to relax and it’s all gonna be okay and yeah go on the journey thank you laura thank you so much for spending time with me today i really resonated with what you just said as well um also thank you to everyone who’s listening in remember to join our group so that you can speak to accomplished professionals who can answer any questions that you might have in your ministry the link is above and see you next time thank you again laura see you thank you so much