Black History – Women’s History – My History

Here we are. We celebrated Black History Month in February and Women’s History is March. And recently I was blessed to celebrate my 56th year of life! The fullness of these occasions this year has given me pause to ponder my life, but my career more specifically.

I started my career in 1988. I still find it hard to comprehend, given it is currently 2023. Thirty-five years in one of the most dynamic career fields which exists – event management. The foundation of high standards held by the association which launched my career complimented my innate desire for excellence. With them, good enough was not good enough when we had the ability and opportunity to do better. I loved the challenges the association provided me. After our most successful show during my time with them, I recall hearing our president say, “We cannot rest on our laurels.” Up to that moment, his statement was the most profound one I had heard in the workplace. However, it fit well with the work ethic engrafted into my DNA by my parents; both of whom were excellent examples of dedication to every work assignment they had.

The association introduced me to a career field I was previously unaware existed. I interviewed with them through an employment agency after college. During the interview my soon-to-be boss informed me that travel to tradeshows was part of the job description. I honestly did not know what a tradeshow was but when he said travel, my next words were, “Sign me up!” And, in the four and a half years I was with them, I did travel.

With the association I provided on-site support at events in Los Angeles, Chicago, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Orlando, and New York City. The largest show we produced while I was employed there was a million square feet. In the late ‘80’s that was substantial. Today, there are several facilities around the country which can accommodate a show that size. There were few then.

My title was secretary, but I did so much more, especially on-site at the events. Some of the functions I assisted with were booth space sales for the next show, helping to resolve registration issues and exhibitor concerns, to name a few.

In 1993 I had an opportunity to relocate to another state. Shortly thereafter, I was hired on with a beautiful convention facility in 1994. On my first day, my supervisor took me into the 200,000 square foot exhibit hall. As we stood there, she looked around and said, “Isn’t this huge.” My reality had been one exhibitor occupying a 200,000 square foot booth in one of our tradeshows. That was the day I realized some words are relative to our experiences. I was gracious and, to her statement I replied, “It sure is.”

Since 1994, I have held five different positions within the facility. Early on, I developed a love and passion for our city, center, clients, guests, and staff which persuaded me to look for ways I could help us be the absolute best we could be. That has always been, and continues to be, my driving force. Some say my generation, Gen X, is the last of those who stay 20+ years at one place of employment. That may be true. While opportunities to move on were presented to me through the years, I have always had a sense of pride in our facility which never let me seriously consider any of them.

In the time I’ve been with the facility, I have managed events ranging in size of three to thirty thousand people. It is almost unfair to list any by name because I can’t list twenty-plus years of events. However, here are a few which may be familiar: Amway, Nike, Bishop TD Jakes, National Baptist Convention, Creflo Dollar Ministries, Church of God in Christ, Shriners, NCAA Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Alpha Phi Alpha; and conventions from more associations than I am able to name. We’ve had horses in the building, camels outside, lose snakes and birds in the exhibit hall, helicopters landing on our loading dock, autopsies as part of convention activity, weddings, funerals for fallen police officers, gubernatorial balls, Oprah, Dr. Phil, at least one sitting president, vice presidents, etc. We were in the middle of an event on 9/11. The day is etched in my mind as I know it is for so many others. We have survived three rounds of construction through the years, hurricanes, and COVID.

Through every event and crisis, lessons were learned, and experience gained. Clients have become friends who feel more like family. In fact, some events have a family reunion feeling instead of an event we must work.

Black History – Women’s History – My History. My career is history-making as I am the only African American female event manager in the 32 ½ year history of our facility. When I think of all my career has entailed, I see the magnitude of it; and I am giving myself permission to be proud of what I have accomplished.

  • Successful execution of at least 700 events in one facility.
  • Earned and maintain industry designation of CMP (Certified Meeting Professional).
  • Worked the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta as a Sector Coordinator in the Georgia Dome.
  • Speaker at national and local industry conferences.
  • Have written industry related articles.
  • Contributed content for sessions at a national industry conference.
  • Served as a board member for an industry association.
  • Received international award for Convention Services Manager of the Year.
  • Worked under (5) mayoral administrations.
  • Formed relationships with clients which have lasted 20+ years.
  • Maintain mutually respectful relationships with co-workers, service partners, and community partners.
  • During COVID, a Super Bowl, and various hurricanes, assisted in managing the Citizen Information Call Center established by our municipality to provide information, resources, and financial help for residents and business owners.
  • Through dedicated service, transformed skeptical clients into industry comrades.
  • Developed standards for our department years ago which are still in effect today.
  • With a request to a previous Mayor, benefits were changed to allow employees to use sick time when adopting a child.

I am straight-forward, determined, focused, detailed, and have a great work ethic. A client I have worked with for twenty-three years recently described me as fair and firm. She understands me!

I always have my client’s best interest at heart. Coming from the show management side of the industry as my starting point, I know how important it is for a client to have an event manager they can trust and rely on to work on their behalf. They know I will go to bat for them when it’s justified.

This year is beginning to feel very land mark’ish. And, as I end this writing, I understand why. Thirty-five years is historical! I give myself permission to be proud of that. More than half of my life has been dedicated to ensuring the success of events, and I have. So now it’s time to celebrate!

Please take a moment to celebrate your accomplishments as well; six months, one year, five years, fifty years, whatever your scenario is, be proud of it and give yourself permission to celebrate!

Read Shawn-Ta’s bestselling book, Survival by Faith!

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