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Mentoring Insights – Laura Tavernor and Rika Kelsz

March 14, 2023

Marking International Women’s Day 2023, the Women in Exhibition’s UK chapter and Exhibitions News have teamed up to publish Mentoring Insights: a series of Q&As between women mentees and senior mentors as the pairs share aspirations for their mentorship.

Mentoring is a powerful way to inspire and guide people as they move through their careers. Women in Exhibitions recognises mentoring as an important tool to enable more women to aim for and reach senior leadership roles in the industry. The Women in Exhibition’s mentoring programme connects top industry players with aspiring talent to support the mentee’s growth and career development.

In the first Q&A of the series, Rika Kelso from Easyfairs and Laura Tavernor from dmg events share their early reflections and hopes for the programme as they begin to work together on Rika’s career goals.

 

Mentee Rika Kelso is a marketing executive for the packaging portfolio at multiformat events company, Easyfairs.

 

Why did you seek a mentor?

To receive advice on how to approach workplace relationships, command respect and uphold professionalism; and also to help pursue my career journey under the guidance of a successful, career driven female who works for a different company and has marketing seniority and events experience.

What has surprised you about your mentoring journey so far?

We are in the early stages of our time together and I haven’t had any surprises yet. It is everything I expected it to be. Our mentor meetings have been a supportive, safe space to discuss the challenges I have faced and areas for learning and development. It’s been empowering to also discuss the importance of a work / life balance with another career driven woman. Without sounding like I’m writing a review – Laura has been everything I could have wanted and more.

Describe where you are in your career and how you got to where you are now.

This is my second full time marketing position. My journey into the world of marketing and events began at university where I studied Digital and Social Media in Sydney, Australia. While at university I dabbled in volunteer and intern roles at a radio station and tech start-up, but it wasn’t until I began working as a bartender that my first fulltime position came about.

With a digital marketing degree and hospitality experience in hand, I made the perfect candidate for an internal 10-week internship role which eventually led to my promotion as a marketing coordinator at one of the largest hospitality pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants group across Sydney.

After seven months in the role and suffering from post-COVID lockdown blues I was determined to travel to Europe to explore the world and push myself out of my comfort zone. Easyfairs and the events industry sparked my interest while applying to roles in the UK as it had many similarities with hospitality marketing. Since being offered a position in August 2022, it has been a whirlwind seven months. From travelling to Paris, Birmingham and Monaco to meet and network with exhibitors, through to attending industry relevant events and award ceremonies, becoming a packaging exhibitor promotions specialist and even managing an intern, Easyfairs has welcomed me in and I am proud to work for a company that is dynamic, innovative and in an environment where I am surrounded by intelligent, driven women. A year and half later I am proud to say that I am settled in London and have grown a passion for events!

Why did you choose this industry?

One of things that attracted me to my current role as an exhibition promotion marketeer (exprom) is the B2B nature of the role. As I have previously worked in B2C I thought it would be great to try something different and learn how to generate leads for the sales teams.

What opportunities lie ahead and what challenges have you faced?

My team are very supportive when it comes to continued professional development. I want to own the exprom marketing sphere and become an expert so that my colleagues turn to me when planning their marketing campaigns. I also really want to grow my leadership skills.

In terms of challenges, the hardest I’ve faced would be adjusting to the UK in both my professional and personal life. From little changes through to understanding different cultural workplace relationships and expectations. I have been very fortunate that my team is multiculturally diverse, which has helped my transition, but I would also like to thank my mentor, Laura, for being so understanding, having experienced moving overseas and back to the UK herself.

What do you think the biggest challenge is for someone at your stage of career to overcome?

To not get stagnant and overly comfortable. To keep learning and continually pushing myself each day. Remind myself of my goals and breaking them down into day-by-day steps.

What do you hope you will gain from mentoring?

A career role model, a friendship, industry connections and someone who can provide sound advice for my career progression.

Please can you tell us about your career goals?

I want to work towards a management position by becoming self-sufficient and be more involved in the marketing planning and ideation stages. I want to become a digital guru, to align with my degree and improve on my pay-per-click advertising knowledge and skills. Last but not least, I want to become an approachable leader and mentor to others within my workplace.

 

Mentor Laura Tavernor is the group marketing director for energy at dmg events. Laura is also a Women in Exhibitions board member.

 

Why did you want to become a mentor?

I wanted to become a Women in Exhibitions mentor to inspire and encourage a young woman in the events and exhibitions industry, acting as an external confidant and advisor for challenges. Working in our industry can be tough, we run at such a fast pace it can be difficult to stop and take stock of where you are, what you excel in, or need to work on, and consider which direction you see your career taking. There are opportunities in marketing, operations, sales, conference production, data, digital, and more – but it can be difficult to explore these disciplines when we run on cyclical schedules with very little downtime.

Describe where you were in your career at the same stage as your mentee is now. What opportunities laid ahead and what challenges did you face?

I did an internship at Marriott International in the USA as part of my degree, and particularly enjoyed working in the events department of a hotel with 80,000 sq ft of event space. I returned to the UK, did the final year of my degree, and joined a new Marriott hotel in London as part of the opening team as an events coordinator. I then moved on to media production – managing marketing, branding, and event organisation for the World Travel Awards, and producing show dailies and programmes for its sister brand Breaking Travel News.

I was lucky to travel the world in my role; working hard, seeing the world and building a professional network. There is no question that events and exhibitions is not for the faint hearted, it can be long hours and weekends working, it is very fast paced with huge volumes of work, but it is also very rewarding. This experience gave me the foundation needed to manage overseas events at a trade association, managing pavilions and trade missions across the world, client side to a company in the UAE, and then here, to dmg events, initially in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and now in London.

What do you think the biggest challenge is for someone at Rika’s stage of career to overcome? And what are the top skills needed to overcome the challenge?

I think the biggest challenge I faced earlier in my career was the uncertainty of role development and direction, limited progression planning, or no progression unless your manager leaves.

I personally struggled at different points in my career when ready to move to something new, I didn’t take a traditional pure exhibitions marketing path and dmg events is the only exhibition company I have ever worked for. I found it difficult to explain my transferable skills – it’s not all as black and white as it is on a CV, and I found that often recruitment consultants or in house talent acquisition specialists who receive hundreds of CVs didn’t take the time to actually understand complex job roles such as organising trade missions to places like Libya or Venezuela, and how complex that kind of event organisation is.

In this industry, you need to have a certain amount of tenacity to overcome any challenges. The number one skill required to work in events is good communications skills. It is also essential to be able to articulate your experience and have confidence in your own ability.

What do you hope your mentee will gain from mentoring?

I hope Rika will benefit from my experience and knowledge, I advise on pros and cons on an unbiased basis without any former opinions or judgement. Together we are identifying skills gaps, how to work through them, or approach certain scenarios.

It’s only early days but we have already talked about everything from relocating to the other side of the world to how to build knowledge and experience in certain areas of Rika’s role that she enjoys most or least. I hope that our time together empowers Rika to conceptualise, create, and effectively communicate her wants and needs in both personal and professional development.

What are you yourself learning or gaining from being a mentor?

I think being a mentor enables me to gain new perspectives outside of my work environment from someone embarking on a marketing career, and improves my active listening skills. I also find it makes me self-reflect, think about experiences I can share, and what I enjoy about my role. And I feel really good after I have spent time with Rika, as I am sharing my experiences and skills to provide support, encouragement, and feedback!

Tell us about your own mentors; have you been mentored and how did it help you?

I didn’t have an allocated mentor per se. I would have liked a specific marketing mentor when I was younger, to help me with career direction and how to look at skills gaps and transferrable skills; I have definitely had some indecisive moments. However, I have to mention and thank Terry Willis, who I worked alongside for six years at the Energy Industries Council (EIC), we travelled everywhere from Algeria to Kazakhstan together organising events in the energy sector. Terry was instrumental in my decision to move to Dubai, always offered an ear to me, gave me lots of practical advice and knowledge, along with encouragement and motivation.

 

Applications for the mentoring programme, from both potential mentees and mentors, are open to all Women in Exhibitions’ UK Chapter members. Find out more and apply now at www.womeninexhibitions.co.uk/mentoring

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