This year, PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties program honors its 10th class of exceptional young leaders in the business events industry. Class member Mara Rodas, sales coordinator for Global Sales & Services at Destination Toronto, shares the personal passion that led her to the industry and what continues to motivate her.
What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from someone in the industry?
“Follow your passion but do not sacrifice the relationships you make just to achieve success.” This quote, from one of my college professors, has stuck with me. I have realized over time how important it is to nurture the relation- ships we make. As big as the industry is and the millions of bright and kind people it represents, it still is a small world and you have no idea what kind of impact you’ll have on the people you meet. The impression we leave behind on each person has a profound effect on both our present and future. Integrity is currency and being ethical is very important to me, which is why I think that though we each work on our own selves to succeed, we need to treasure the relationships we make along the way. This industry has given me forever friends that I know I can count on for the rest of my life (and vice versa) and for me, that fact alone is success beyond measure.
As in-person meetings have resumed, what — if anything — do you think has changed about gathering face to face compared to pre-pandemic events?
People recognized the significance and warmth of meeting face to face. People were so eager to come back and they were excited to reconnect with their old friends, industry colleagues, and also meet new ones. People also realized the advantage of in-person meetings — you can truly immerse yourself in discussions with fewer distractions. All in all, there’s an added personal touch and people are more energetic and inspired to participate. In-person meetings pull attendees’ attention more; the flow is better, the communication is paced better, relationships are formed as it is easier to connect in-person, and participants are more engaged overall. So it truly is exciting to have in-person meetings back since the heart of our industry — our people — are able to showcase what we do best.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Growing up, I envisioned myself working in humanitarian aid. Being at Destination Toronto where I can contribute to the success of our business events initiatives allows me to network through conferences while participating in educational sessions. And it is through these experiences I’ve discovered that it’s not impossible to combine a career in business events with humanitarian work.
When the pandemic hit, I realized how significant our work is for the community. Our industry holds a lot of influence in developing opportunities to build quality of life for every person in each community. I hope to be involved in curating and executing sustainable and impactful programs that will benefit Toronto by identifying which areas in my community need more support, incorporating a more thoughtful and meaningful community-shared-value project, and inspire others to support it. I don’t have a job title in mind as but I’ve already identified a purpose: Be of service to a broader community, which will start in Toronto where I live.
What do you like most about your job?
The general rule of sales is that you have to believe in the product. At Destination Toronto, we do not sell products, rather we invite others to experience our incredible city. Being a resident of Toronto and a member of the Destination Toronto team, I get to genuinely showcase and share what Toronto can offer to the rest of the world. I also like the incredible perks — the experiences and opportunities that come with working in this industry, and the people I get to meet, collaborate with, and learn from.
What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing careers in the events industry?
Boost your confidence, reach out and ask mentors and professors what resources (scholarships, internships, free education/webinars/sessions, and personal advice) are available and do not miss out. I encourage anyone who wants to pursue a career in the events industry to participate in many opportunities that are available — from volunteering to working various industry related jobs — until they find their calling.