Vanessa Loney, head of global planning at Blue Ribbon Events, talked to Convene about her biggest career mistake, along with advice for young meeting professionals. “The best advice I received in college was ‘stop doing the things you suck at,’ ” she said.
I went to Temple University in Philadelphia where I received my bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in accounting.
My First Industry Job
During my time at Temple, I had a work-study job as an office coordinator at the Temple Performing Arts Center on campus. I answered incoming inquiries for the event space and gave site visits. Eventually, I was promoted to a supervisor of the event staff, then house manager of the entire space.
My Previous Three Jobs
After I graduated, I used my degree and became an auditor at Ernst & Young, LLP in Philadelphia. I worked there for a little over two years and left because my passion was in events. I then got a job as manager of civic engagement with real estate development firm Goldenberg Group’s philanthropic arm, People Helping People Foundation. In this role, I was responsible for all accounting for operations in Kenya and Philadelphia. I also planned volunteer events for their employees each month; they were as small as cooking for the homeless to as large as renovating homeless shelters and hosting festivals. I decided to start my own event management firm, Blue Ribbon Events, which is where I currently serve as head of global planning, working on corporate events, conferences, festivals, and incentive trips.
My Favorite Thing About My Job
There is never a dull moment when planning events. There is always a new idea or way of doing things and I love that I am never bored. I love being able to travel and meet amazing people, whether through my clients or industry events.
Most Influenced in My Career By
I have two “mentors” that I look up to in this industry and they have no idea — Jennifer Gilbert and Kathy Romero. These two women are trailblazers and have made an enormous impact on the industry. Jennifer is the reason we have preferred vendor lists and Kathy has inspired the structure of my business: a small company doing big things.
What I Learned From My Biggest Professional Mistake
Delegation is key — it really does take a team to be successful. The best advice I received in college was “stop doing the things you suck at.” It’s okay to let someone more skilled or qualified complete a task, especially if it will save time and money.
My Next Big Career Goal
Create a membership program for freelance event planners who want to work remotely from home. I want to create a community where opportunities and best practices are shared, and host annual retreats where we come together and build true relationships.
My Advice for Young Meeting Professionals
Join a professional network (PCMA, SITE, MPI, etc.). I have made so many invaluable connections since joining one that have led to opportunities I never would have been exposed to otherwise. Soak up as much information you can from other industry professionals through networking events and LinkedIn/Facebook groups.