What Happened to the 2015 Class of PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties

The 2015 class of PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties showed the meetings industry that youth is definitely not wasted on the young. The program, supported by the PCMA Foundation, the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Austin Convention Center, launched in 2014 to give event professionals under 30 recognition for making an impact on their organizations. Convene reached out to members of the 2015 class to learn about their career paths since the honor. Find those interview below, and read their original 2015 interviews. Related: Meet the Class of 2020   Ashley Akright Ashley Akright, CMP 2019: Director of Operational Excellence + Innovation, Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, in Maryland, USA 2015: Manager of Conference Coordinators, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, in Maryland, USA Have there been any big surprises in the first five years of your career?  Emotional intelligence is by far the biggest driver in a successful career and many leaders lack an understanding of this skill. Technical skills will allow you to become a manager or director, but the success and elevation to greater roles lies in your leadership skills. How did being part of the 20 in Their Twenties class help your career?  The network of fellow leaders was an invaluable addition to my personal leadership toolbox. It also provided a strong tribe to model myself after — because the best way to change yourself is by surrounding yourself with who you respect. If you could travel back through time to give the younger you one piece of advice, what would it be?  Question every hiring decision twice, trust your gut and be quick to part ways with those that don’t fit the culture. You can’t train culture. Read Ashley Akright’s 2015 interview. Magdalina Atanassova Magdalina Atanassova 2019: Marcom & Brand Manager, Kenes Group, in Tel Aviv, Israel 2015: Communication Manager, AIM Group International in Sofia, Bulgaria Have there been any big surprises in the first five years of your career? I would rephrase the question to the lastfive years of my career, as in 2020 I can proudly say that I have 15 years of experience in the industry. With that in mind, I can definitely say that there have been surprises and trends that came suddenly that I did not foresee. For instance, I had commented in my 20 in Their Twenties application that PCOs and DMCs suffer from lack of understanding from the general public and potential clients alike, who often seemed to think that secretaries equal event planners. I believe that there has been a major improvement in this aspect with the help of initiatives as Meetings Mean Business and the Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID). Technology has also advanced a lot and is finally focused on seamless efficiency, rather than simple

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PCMA 20 in Their Twenties alumni

The 2015 class of PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties showed the meetings industry that youth is definitely not wasted on the young. The program, supported by the PCMA Foundation, the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Austin Convention Center, launched in 2014 to give event professionals under 30 recognition for making an impact on their organizations.

Convene reached out to members of the 2015 class to learn about their career paths since the honor. Find those interview below, and read their original 2015 interviews.

Related: Meet the Class of 2020

 


Ashley Akright

Ashley Akright, CMP

2019: Director of Operational Excellence + Innovation, Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, in Maryland, USA

2015: Manager of Conference Coordinators, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, in Maryland, USA

Have there been any big surprises in the first five years of your career? 

Emotional intelligence is by far the biggest driver in a successful career and many leaders lack an understanding of this skill. Technical skills will allow you to become a manager or director, but the success and elevation to greater roles lies in your leadership skills.

How did being part of the 20 in Their Twenties class help your career? 

The network of fellow leaders was an invaluable addition to my personal leadership toolbox. It also provided a strong tribe to model myself after — because the best way to change yourself is by surrounding yourself with who you respect.

If you could travel back through time to give the younger you one piece of advice, what would it be? 

Question every hiring decision twice, trust your gut and be quick to part ways with those that don’t fit the culture. You can’t train culture.

Read Ashley Akright’s 2015 interview.


PCMA 20 in Their Twenties alumni

Magdalina Atanassova

Magdalina Atanassova

2019: Marcom & Brand Manager, Kenes Group, in Tel Aviv, Israel

2015: Communication Manager, AIM Group International in Sofia, Bulgaria

Have there been any big surprises in the first five years of your career?

I would rephrase the question to the lastfive years of my career, as in 2020 I can proudly say that I have 15 years of experience in the industry. With that in mind, I can definitely say that there have been surprises and trends that came suddenly that I did not foresee. For instance, I had commented in my 20 in Their Twenties application that PCOs and DMCs suffer from lack of understanding from the general public and potential clients alike, who often seemed to think that secretaries equal event planners. I believe that there has been a major improvement in this aspect with the help of initiatives as Meetings Mean Business and the Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID).

Technology has also advanced a lot and is finally focused on seamless efficiency, rather than simple gimmick during the event. And last but not least — social media has changed incredibly in the last five years, and it has massively influenced planners in our communication with different audiences, as well as how we produce events. Nowadays we must consider each angle and detail because our events are captured by hundreds or even thousands of different mobile phones that snapshot so many viewpoints and experiences. Planning has evolved to answer all those changes, which I would not have been able to predict five years ago.

How did being part of the 20 in Their Twenties class help your career?

When I changed companies, the award certainly aided my application and transition. It happened that I started at Kenes Group together with another 20 in Their Twenties alumni, and a good friend, Rosa Garriga Mora. We stood out as two young professionals that are already well recognised in the industry and the Management at Kenes Group saw the award as yet another confirmation of our strive, professionalism, drive and work ethic.

If you could travel back through time to give the younger you one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t shy away from opportunities that scare you, exercise more to handle stress better, enjoy quality home cooked food (for the same reason), and take time to celebrate your achievements — don’t just move on to the next goal.

Read Magdalina Atanassova’s 2015 interview.


PCMA 20 in Their Twenties alumni

Madeleine Bart

Madeleine Bart

2019: National Director, Creative + Digital Innovation, Freeman AV Canada, in Ontario, Canada

2015: Event Coordinator, Chartered Professional, Accountants of Canada, in Toronto, Canada

Have there been any big surprises in the first five years of your career? 

As a student entering the industry, teachers would emphasize how important it is to network. It’s surprised me how true that fact really became for me — and how my investment in networking (which included volunteering in our industry) really helped propel my career and foster meaningful relationships with people.

How did being part of the 20 in Their Twenties class help your career? 

It gave me great exposure in the industry and opened the door to making new connections. It also opened opportunities for me at my workplace at the time as I gained recognition with people I had yet to meet at my company. I remember when my organization sent a company announcement about my being a 20 in Their Twenties, a VP reached out to me to assist her with a project I wouldn’t have been considered for before.

If you could travel back through time to give the younger you one piece of advice, what would it be? 

There will always be setbacks and things might not go to plan, but rather than stress, embrace them as learning experiences and remember everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.

Read Madeleine Bart’s 2015 interview.


PCMA 20 in Their Twenties

Madeja DaMario

Madeja DaMario, CMP

(formerly Metcalf)

2019: Regional Director of Sales, Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority, Chicago

2015: Meeting Planner, American Institute of Steel Construction, Chicago

Have there been any big surprises in the first five years of your career? 

I have been lucky to experience 3 different sides of our industry in a short time frame. Hotel sales, meeting planner and now Convention and Visitors Bureau.

How did being part of 20 in Their Twenties help your career?

20 in their Twenties not only gave me confidence in myself that I could be successful in this industry, it also opened a larger network of people that I may not have otherwise connected with.

If you could travel back through time to give the younger you one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t sweat the small stuff, everything always works out.

Read Madeja DaMario’s 2015 interview.


PCMA 20 in Their Twenties alumni

Samantha Moore

Samantha Moore, CMP

2019: Senior Director, Meetings & Education at the American Bakers Association in Washington, D.C.

2015: Meetings and Exhibits Manager at The Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America in Alexandria, Virginia

What are you up to now?

I’m also the assistant secretary and the housing, transportation and catering manager for our tri-annual trade show, IBIE, I oversee the committee tasked for curating for the show.

Have there been any big surprises in the five years since the PCMA honor?

I think the biggest was being asked by a past employer to come back as their director of meetings & education in 2016. It has been crazy, busy, rewarding and all upwards since then, and I am very fortunate to have a job that I love and am still excited to do. I started with the ABA as an intern in 2010, and it is crazy to me how much I have grown since then.

How did being part of the 20 in Their Twenties class help your career? 

Since the program is so well known, it constantly pops up in conversation as I meet new folks at industry events. You know folks do their homework on you when the bring it up and really see the value that it has, recognizing those 20 somethings for a job well done. The award has value and really does distinguish you.

If you could travel back through time to give the younger you one piece of advice, what would it be?

Pace yourself. Anyone who knows me knows I am go, go, go. I’m always looking for new challenges and I will admit, I am staring to feel it, but I know in the end it is worth it. But I do wish I had better self-control to say, “This can wait,” or “Put it on the list for the next conversation.”

Read Samantha Moore’s 2015 interview.


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